UPDATE: See below for response from the resident whose comments are quoted in this post.
A Thursday night meeting for residents of Riverside’s University neighborhood was like most other such gatherings – rows of chairs set up in a church, trays of cookies and a sign-in sheet by the door – except for the suggestion that people take the law into their own hands.
Homeowners near UC Riverside have been storming the proverbial Bastille of City Hall since June, demanding the city address concerns with single-family homes turned into rentals that often house students.
Neighbors tell of trash in their yards, late-night parties, drunk driving and other inconsiderate and even dangerous behavior. One man said he shot video of kids throwing grapefruit at cars, and another said cars had crashed into four houses on his street.
Homeowners are frustrated to the breaking point, but no one has expressed their anger quite like one man did at Thursday’s meeting with police and city officials.
“We need to start forming vigilante groups. The police don’t care. And I’m talking about armed vigilante groups,” Mark Michaels told the group at Crest Community Church.
Michaels said police officers have told him university and city officials care more about making students feel comfortable here than they care about homeowners’ complaints. (Riverside police Lt. Andy Flores disputed that and told Michaels not to speak for the police.)
A murmur went through the crowd that sounded like disapproval. But Gurumantra Khalsa, who ran the meeting and represents the area on the Riverside Neighborhood Partnership board, said Friday that some people probably sympathize with Michaels’ comments, though he doesn’t think anyone would act on them.
Khalsa said he didn’t realize Michaels was that angry and he hasn’t heard that sort of talk before at their meetings, but “that was an example of how raw the nerves are out here.”
Homeowners, some of whom have lived in the neighborhood since the late 1950s, are trapped in a set of circumstances they have little ability to control.
- The number of students and employees at UCR continues to grow and has always far exceeded on-campus housing.
- The recession and foreclosure crisis led to turnover in the housing market, and homeowners say investors are buying most homes that become available.
- The city continues to grant permits to create extra bedrooms, even in cases where renting those rooms potentially violates the four-renter limit in single family zones.
Things may be starting to get better. Homeowners have gotten the city’s attention, and officials are promising “zero tolerance” for code violations, noisy parties and other problems they already can regulate.
But Khalsa said they want new rules to address the extra bedroom/too many renters problem, and they’re going to keep fighting for that.
“They’re seeing (that) they’re making an impact, and they’re not willing to give it up,” he said.
However, no one is advocating armed neighborhood patrols or violence, he said, even if some may secretly think it could help.
“You don’t want to wind up like George Zimmerman on neighborhood watch in your city,” Khalsa said. “It can so easily get out of hand.”
Zimmerman claimed his February 2012 fatal shooting of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin was self-defense, after he confronted the teen walking through his Sanford, Florida, neighborhood. He was charged with second-degree murder and his case was given to the jury Friday.
UPDATE: Michaels posted this response on the Press-Enterprise’s Facebook page. I have included it complete and unedited.
This is Mark Michaels responding to the Pe Article.
RE: “We need to start forming vigilante groups. The police don’t care. And I’m talking about armed vigilante groups,” Mark Michaels told the group at Crest Community Church.
This was said in “sarcasm” I went on to say are we turning into neighborhoods like South Central LA where Gangs form to protect them self’s because the police will not. I would NEVER wish anyone to do something outside the Law or harm anyone.
RE: Khalsa said he didn’t realize Michaels was that angry and he hasn’t heard that sort of talk before at their meetings, but “that was an example of how raw the nerves are out here.”.
YES — I am NOT that angry, I wish harm to NO ONE again people must act with in the law,
(And below is a comment Michaels added to that post)
Sorry about the double post, I brought this up because a neighbor of mine was so upset about this matter she was talking about taking action outside the law herself. I reminded her that doing so was wrong. Truth, Because of police inaction people are starting to talk like what I said at the meeting. But as I said to my neighbor “Taking the law into one’s own hands is WRONG”
The City needs to know people are getting very angry over this matter because of its inaction and siding with the UCR students. Something needs to be done before it gets out of hand. I pray for peace and hope no one gets hurt!