UC Riverside mechanical engineering student Alex Barker wants to let his neighbors and especially his friends know that the party’s over.
And by “the party,” he means the nearly nonstop gatherings at his place on Broadbent Drive, where an Aug. 2 event drew 200 people and got so raucous, Riverside police sent six officers, two sergeants and a helicopter to break it up.
“That was an eye opener, having a helicopter called out to your house,” said Barker, who wasn’t at that party because he was working a summer job back home in the Bay Area. “Obviously something’s going wrong here and we’ve got to change, because we can’t keep going down this path.”
Homeowners around UCR have been lobbying the city and the university to clamp down on rental houses where they say tenants, who are often students, throw noisy parties, monopolize street parking, drive drunk, leave trash around and urinate in neighbors’ yards.
Reading news stories about the issue, Barker, 22, recognized himself and his friends in descriptions of problem behavior. The “Surf house,” where Barker lives with three other students, was known on campus as a hangout where people were welcome to drop by whenever and parties were often held.
Riverside police Lt. Andy Flores said police responded there about 25 times over the past two years, and Barker acknowledged they got warnings and a citation for a noise complaint. UCR spokesman James Grant said students from the Broadbent house are involved in the school’s discipline process, though he would not give details for privacy reasons.
Barker said he now understands how frustrated homeowners are, and he’s determined to be a better neighbor.
“I don’t want to be a burden on the community,” he said. “We did wrong, but we want to come out publicly and say we’re sorry.”
To back that up, Barker said, he volunteered his house for a September “meet your neighbors” event held by the university Neighborhood Association, and he’s writing an apology letter he plans to distribute personally.
He also said it’s the end of big parties at his house, and he’s telling people not to come by unless they’re invited.
The promise of better behavior is good news to area homeowners, though they’re reserving judgment till they see some results.
“This is a very welcome development, as is having some of the students involved in these conversations (with UCR and city officials),” said Gurumantra Khalsa, who heads the University Neighborhood Association. “I hope it’s sincere. I hope it’s contagious.”
Khalsa said people are happy to have students in the neighborhood and they don’t even mind a few parties, “as long as they’re not out of control.”
Patricia Verwiel said she’s skeptical. Her neighbors last year on Glenhill Drive were fraternity members who held frequent parties.
“I don’t believe in overnight conversions, because I don’t think they happen,” she said.
But Verwiel does have hopes that the “meet your neighbors” night will improve relations between students and homeowners.
“If everybody knows everybody and the lines of communication are open, even the students that want to act out are going to be a little more considerate,” she said.
Some students and their defenders have written in online comments that homeowners shouldn’t live near a college if they don’t like students or parties, and others have said they feel they’re being unfairly blamed for the bad behavior of a handful of young people.
Barker said he’s not trying to get involved in a political dispute. He and his roommates are just trying to fix what they can, and “We want to make sure we’re not, like, hated in the community.”
See the list of growing comments on PE.com.