By JEFF CLEMETSON
Parties in the College Area have always been a nuisance for the permanent residents who live there, but recently, many say, the issue has gotten worse. The reasons given by residents are varied: lack of enforcement and resources; increase of students occupying neighborhood homes converted into “mini-dorms;” and even social media broadcasting party locations to non-SDSU student populations.
In an email chain compiled by College View Estates resident Jean Hoeger, residents shared how the party problem seemed to escalate throughout the month of October.
“My wife chased many male students out of our yard for trying to urinate on it. I’ve even had female students urinate in our yard on other days where there were large parties as well, not to mention the countless males who have,” wrote one resident about a problem party on Campanile Drive.
Another resident shared that “there were a few problems on Saturday night [Oct. 23], this time in the neighborhoods west of College. This included a 911 call at 3:30 a.m. for an easy chair set on fire in the street at 5556 of May Lane, as well as large parties on 54 and Prosperity Lane that more than likely were the cause of large groups of roaming kids, cars racing and fireworks being set off along that area. We also heard of a house and ADU with 8-11 guys that was burglarized while all of them were gone. The thieves took everything (electronics, wallets, etc.) they could get their hands on. More than likely this is not random, as it is well known that non-SDSU [people] get into these parties by bringing alcohol and drugs and then case it for later.”
Out-of-control parties on Rockford Drive, Oct. 9 and Oct. 16. were described by one resident this way: “Rockford Drive became the SDSU nature lovers’ outdoor porta-potty and vomit receptacle. There were cars racing up and down the street and at one point there was literal gridlock. I watched students sit in front of my house in a car and do blow for a half an hour before being able to gather themselves and get out of the car. There were open containers of alcohol, open bottles of alcohol being thrown and open containers getting into cars. Again, I can pretty safely assure you these were not all legal adults. The screaming and fighting up and down the street was intense and three boys stood directly in front of my home with one saying ‘I can go get my gun.’”
In addition to listing the many problem students in the neighborhoods, the residents also lamented on the poor response from SDPD, SDSU and the city. Residents complained about being on hold with police dispatch for sometimes over an hour, as well as dwindling or inadequate numbers of patrol units in the area.
“The reason for officers responding to noise complaints at a delayed rate is due to the high volume of calls for service and the limited staffing numbers that Eastern Division has,” said Eastern Division Community Relations Officer John Steffen. “The high priority calls, such as burglaries, robberies, domestic violence and other violence related calls have to be handled first before a lower priority noise complaint can be addressed.”
Although frustrated with police response to the parties, most of the residents in the email chain placed more blame on an inadequate budget for policing College Area, rather than on the officers sent to patrol the area.
Hoeger, a former chair of the College Area Public Safety subcommittee of the College Area Community Council, said that policing in the area started going downhill when the city stopped funding for the “C-Squad” — a unit with dedicated officers who patrolled College Area Thursday through Sunday.
“They went from party to party to party shutting these parties down and it was very effective because they got to more parties and the more parties you get to in time, the more first response notices you can issue,” she said, adding that timing is important because if a house gets two notices from police within 30 days, it banned from having parties for a year under the city’s Community Assisted Party Program (CAPP). “But now because the officers don’t respond in time to hear the noise, they don’t issue any first response notices and the kids don’t even know the police were called a lot of times.”
After the C-Squad went away because of budgeting issues, Hoeger and other residents have pushed to refund it by contacting the District 9 City Council office, the police and the mayor’s office but it was still left out of the most recent budget.
Another issue raised by residents is a lack of support from SDSU. Hoeger said that there was a time when SDSU officers had the authority to stop parties and would help police in breaking them up.
“And then it became, ‘You need to call the SDPD first.’ SDSUPD now isn’t much help,” she added.
Officer Steffen disagrees.
“SDSU has been tremendously supportive in efforts to approach the issue from their end,” he said. “They have been working on education programs through the school, on campus events, as well as getting their Judicial Committee involved with those found to be violating the Code of Conduct off campus.
“SDSUPD has a very limited staffing that cover a large amount of property. They have offered to assist SDPD when asked to do so based upon their availability, but the primary responsibility falls upon SDPD.”
That reality is not lost on Hoeger and the other residents who are pushing for reinstating the dedicated C-Squad. “Because there is nothing that is going to solve this college party problem other than police presence,” she said.
Officer Steffen said that SDPD is currently unable to staff a full time C-Squad at Eastern Division, but that there are efforts to step up patrol units in College Area.
“The request has been made through the proper channels to get more officers here at Eastern Division to fill those roles,” he said. “In the mean time we will be hiring back officers on over time in order to work in the College Area on weekends that we anticipate will be busy.”
Changes in housing and population
According to SDSU’s enrollment, SDPD may need to anticipate that every weekend will potentially be busy. Over the last decade, the college has added around 11,000 students to reach a student population of around 35,000. With construction already underway to expand SDSU’s campus into Mission Valley, that number could grow to as much as 50,000.
“The SDSU student population has skyrocketed in the past few years, as well as the number of students living in this neighborhood. This is a different generation, with a different sense of norms and behaviors. I think we need to address these changes and maybe make some plans to act on these changes, which include the massive student population growth in the area. Since C-squad was taken away in 2019, mini-dorms have increased to over 1,000, and ADUs by 300. There have been two massive new dorms built. This is an incredible increase in not only population, but perhaps a less than optimum population to be dumped into a neighborhood with no policing, or let’s face it, parenting,” stated one resident in the email chain shared by Hoeger.
That residents turn to Hoeger for help in organizing to find relief form college parties is no coincidence. As a College Area Community Council member, she served as chair on the CARPuS – College Area Public Safety subcommittee started by SDPD so that the Community Resource Officer could maintain contact with the community on a regular basis. It was a position she volunteered for after her experience 15 years ago living next to the sorority girl “house from hell.” That problem was solved when the owner was taken to court over a variety of code violations and was eventually fined $75,000 and had to sell the home.
Since then, she said, the city has changed its code enforcement rules regarding high occupancy homes.
“They’re gone now because there’s a group now called College Area Student Tenant Landlord Association. It’s kind of run by the mini-dorm owners and they’re very organized and have taken the city to court several time over these rules and the gist of their argument is the rules are discriminatory because they only apply to students, which is not true because they actually applied to anybody,” she added.
Hoeger said the absence of code enforcement almost immediately changed life in the neighborhoods because previously mini-dorms were hampered by rules like no parking on lawns, which used to be a code violation that resulted in $250 dollar fines. Now it is an administrative matter where most only result in a letter to the property owner.
“You should see the parking here. You’ll see three cars on a lawn,” she said.
What can be done?
In the absence of strong code enforcement and a dedicated C-Squad, residents dealing with parties are left with few options. Hoeger recommends that in addition to calling SDPD, residents should make a follow-up incident report with SDSU using the Student Organization Incident Report Form, found at bit.ly/3C4ZarZ.
She also recommends sending an email about any incidents to the District 9 Council office representative Maia Rosas (RosasM@sandiego.gov) and notifying SDSU officials at email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hoeger also asks for residents to call the SDSU Restorative Justice team at 619-594-9393.
Officer Steffen also recommends the following:
“Residents should call in complaints as soon as it becomes an issue and not wait until late in the evening. As the night gets later the volume of Calls For Service increases and may result in delays for officers responding to lower priority calls. If officers are unable to respond to a call within two hours please call in again to the non-emergency line so the call is not canceled after three hours.”
For one resident, the battle to keep his neighborhood peaceful and party-free has led him and his family to a different solution: moving away.
“This neighborhood has been out of control for many years and it’s only getting worse,” he wrote. “When we do finally get to speak with people, either who work for SDSU or the City of San Diego, they tell us what we want to hear, but absolutely no action that works has ever taken place, let alone any action at all in most cases.
“After the 16 year old boy was partially shot in the face a couple of months ago, near Campanile Drive, SDPD finally assigned a couple of officers to the area on certain days, but just weeks later, they were taken away from us.
“My wife and I have sold our house and are moving, due to the ineptness of SDSU and SDPD in this area to cull the large parties, which turn into violence.”
— Reach editor Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.