A simmering dispute between homeowners who live near Loyola Marymount University and students of the university who host and attend parties in nearby residential neighborhoods has reached a boiling point for some frustrated neighbors.
“The number of students who are coming to parties in our neighborhoods has increased tremendously over the last five years,” Jess Echeverry, a Westchester homeowner who lives on Fordham Road, a few blocks from LMU’s southern entrance, told The Argonaut.
While there have been numerous complaints over the years about the frequency of residential parties in the surrounding neighborhoods west of the college campus, Echeverry and many of her neighbors say the level of boorish and inappropriate behavior, along with the number of partygoers, has escalated in recent years.
“We used to have two party houses on our block, with maybe 20 to 30 students at a time,” said Echeverry. “Now it seems like there’s ten times as many students on our streets.”
Several of Echeverry’s neighbors gathered in front of her home on September 4th for a television interview to express their frustration regarding what many now believe to be more than just a nuisance or minor irritant.
Ron Marks, who lives on Altavan Avenue, believes that the university should use funding that it receives for its upcoming master plan initiative to devise a plan to address the problem of parties and reckless behavior by intoxicated students.
Asked what suggestions he would offer the university, Marks replied, “I think that the perpetrators [LMU] should be the ones who should be responsible for coming up with a solution.”
The advent of advanced technology has played a large role in allowing partygoers to locate gatherings quicker and disseminate the location of parties in a large geographical area to dozens — some say hundreds — of people with the touch of a few buttons.
Some residents suggest that this is one reason they have seen an increase in student parties and young adults flock to their streets in large numbers, and in recent times, homeowners allege that they have become increasingly belligerent and often engage in acts such as littering, under-age drinking and public urination.
LMU officials deny that they are turning a blind eye to the activities that some students are allegedly engaging in on neighboring streets and insist that they also feel that the chasm that has developed between homeowners and LMU has grown.
“It’s very complicated,” said Kathleen Flanagan, LMU’s vice president of governmental relations. “Our public safety force does not have jurisdiction off-campus, and they cannot break up parties or issue citations.”
That may soon be changing. After discussions with LMU president Robert Lawton, the university’s new public safety chief, Hampton Cantrell, representatives from Los Angeles City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo’s office and City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, plans are under way to consider granting the university’s public safety officers limited enforcement powers off-campus.
“We’re considering the idea of creating a memorandum of agreement with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), which has jurisdiction in the residential neighborhoods, to allow us to have limited enforcement powers within a certain radius of the campus,” said Cantrell, who joined LMU this summer after retiring from the Inglewood Police Department as a captain. “We’ll also be looking at establishing off-campus patrols on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.”
Rosendahl, who represents Westchester, told The Argonaut that he was working on creating a task force that would be comprised of students, LMU representatives, property owners and his office, along with LAPD and LMU’s public safety team, to seek new strategies to address off campus drinking and indecorous behavior, which all parties agree has become more and more a problem.
“I’ve talked with LMU about having parties on campus with no alcohol, because so many of these students are under the legal drinking age,” Rosendahl pointed out. “That would give them an opportunity to grow up and have some fun at the same time.”
Echeverry liked the idea of setting up a task force to look for a solution to what many of her friends and neighbors feel is an annoyance that is quickly spinning out of control.
“Our car has been egged, and some of my neighbors have had some of their property damaged,” she said. “So having a community panel to figure out what to do about these parties and the party houses is something that I think is a good idea.”
“It’s been a nightmare,” added Jackie Wrinkle, who lives on Altavan Avenue. “It’s out of control, and it’s not going to stop until someone gets seriously hurt or killed.”
Rosendahl said that Delgadillo’s office will also be considering the possibility of inserting a clause into the rental contracts of homeowners who rent to LMU students that would address certain aspects of behavior when a party is being held at their home.
Some longtime Westchester homeowners say they have had experience living close to a college or a university and not encountered the number of student parties that are now occurring on their streets.
“We bought our house 11 years ago and were pleased that a university was so close to us,” Lee Rittenour wrote in a letter last year.
Rittenour, who lived near Lewis and Clark College in Portland, Oregon, says parking troubles created by students from LMU, along with the parties, are not the same as when she lived in Portland.
“We were unaware that the college [in Oregon] was there most of the time,” she recalled. “However, this is not the case here.”
Flanagan agrees that the university does have some responsibility to try to ensure that when its students venture into the adjacent neighborhoods, they are on their best behavior.
“We want them to be good neighbors and good citizens,” she said.
The university has seminars every year for incoming freshman regarding off-campus conduct and the student code of conduct also addresses how members of the student body must behave, Flanagan added.
Cantrell, who has visited with many of the property owners who live close to LMU, believes that the best way to begin to resolve the anger that exists between homeowners and students is for them to meet face to face and begin a conversation that focuses on what both parties can do to ease the current tensions.
“As a police officer, I’ve always believed in community-based approaches,” said LMU’s pubic safety chief.
Echeverry would also like to see relations improve.
“I don’t want to be angry with anyone,” she asserted. “If we’re all living in the same area, then we all have to take the responsibility to work together.”