BY ALICIA ROBINSON STAFF WRITER
July 08, 2013; 05:40 PM
It’s late on a weekend night and the neighbors are throwing a noisy beer bash, so someone calls the police. What happens next?
Typically nothing, say some homeowners in Riverside’s University neighborhood who want the city to crack down on problems with home rentals near UC Riverside.
Homeowners complain that because police either don’t show up or do little or nothing to penalize loud partiers when they get there, bad renters are making their neighborhood unlivable.
Police say they have to take higher-priority calls before noise complaints, and sometimes crowded parties and uncooperative guests can make it hard to give out citations.
But Riverside police east area commander Lt. Andy Flores has promised officers will be more proactive when
students return to campus this fall.
SPREAD OF ‘MINI DORMS’
Neighbors complaining about loud parties, especially near college campuses, is nothing new, but it got the attention of Riverside officials after a group of homeowners began showing up at City Council meetings a few weeks ago.
Homeowners said they’re subjected to noise, trash, people vomiting and urinating in their yards, drunken driving and more — and the root of the problem is single-family houses rented to multiple people, sometimes five or more.
These “mini dorms,” homeowners say, have become more widespread as UCR’s population has grown and investors have bought properties to rent them out.
Some property owners say they’d prefer to rent to families but few are interested. Others market to students through online ads.
Whoever is renting the houses, some generate numerous calls to police, mostly about noise and parties. From Jan. 1 to June 11, police received 153 such complaints, according to a list Flores provided.
Out of 50 addresses that were the focus of multiple complaints, 19 were noted to be apartment complexes.
In all but three of the police responses, no report was written, which Flores said means no one was cited.
The rarity of citations is one reason homeowners like Pete Staylor are frustrated.
“That is the biggest thing. They are not doing enough,” Staylor said.
His worst neighbors are gone, so it’s been a few years since he’s called in a complaint. But Staylor said when he called in the past, police didn’t always show up.
“When they did come out, the students would quiet down, but as soon as (police) would leave they’d start right back up again,” he said.
Some homeowners, fearing retaliation, are reluctant to call police or be on record as the complaining party. Staylor said those concerns may be justified.
Once, Staylor called twice and the same officer came both times to quiet the neighbors. The second visit did the trick, but, “my house got egged the next day,” Staylor said.
Lt. Flores said residents not wanting to make formal complaints is just one problem officers encounter, though it shouldn’t prevent them from writing citations.
When officers arrive at a crowded party, Flores said, sometimes guests tell them “I don’t live here,” and when police ask who’s renting the house, they’re told that person isn’t at home.
“You have to establish who has standing to do anything in the home,” Flores said.
The biggest problem may be limited resources. Flores said there may be only two officers patrolling a 17-square-mile area, and they must put a higher priority on calls such as burglaries and assaults.
But, Flores said, he understands neighbors’ frustration and he’s creating a strategy to better address the problems with the resources he has.
Officers have already begun training with the city attorney on party response, and they likely will be writing more citations in the future, Flores said. When resources allow it, a special “party patrol” will be deployed.
Flores is working with his department and city code enforcement on a spreadsheet of addresses with a history of problems and complaints. He’ll be alerted whenever police are called to those houses, and officials will contact UCR and landlords or property owners when appropriate.
Flores said he’s paying close attention to homeowners’ concerns, but he doesn’t want to exaggerate them.
“I have a much different point of view now as a homeowner than I did as a college student,” he said, but “We’re making it sound like UCR is this huge ‘Animal House’ party every weekend, and it’s not.”
With that said, Flores’ plan is to be proactive about problems with rental houses. He plans to have everyone working together before next school year, so officers can visit students and educate them before parties start.
“Instead of waiting for something to happen, I’d rather get out and strike,” he said. “That way, there’re no surprises later.”
Homeowners likely will be pleased with new efforts by police, but they’re also calling on university officials and the city — which forbids renting to more than four people but gives out permits to add more than four bedrooms — to address the problems.
Riverside neighbors Hilary Barnett, left, and Patricia
Verwiel stand in front of a house near UC Riverside that
they say was converted into a multi-family dwelling for
students. They’re among the residents who complain
of noise, trash and disrespect.