This could be filed under good intentions, but if we’ve learned anything from past good intentions, it pays to look beyond the immediate problem and examine the impacts of both action and inaction before we proceed. Some words to the wise courtesy of Letitia Pepper:
“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies.” Groucho Marx
“Riverside City politics is the art of having a hidden agenda and using an allegedly GOOD public reason to accomplish it, instead of actually fixing anything.” Letitia Pepper
Remember how the City was going to “fix” Islander Park for us — when what it was REALLY trying to do was to help UCR do its flood control work OFF-CAMPUS? That so-called park improvement project was really all the City and UCR’s hidden agenda to create flood detention basins in OUR PARK, and to shift the resulting dirt, mess, and months of traffic congestion onto Watkins Drive — and off campus streets.
Well, once again the City is going to “fix” our student problems with a proposed new ordinance. Its hidden agenda, however, is to create another revenue source — a new tax on renters and property owners — and to reduce UCR’s housing competition. (Do you know why UCR students don’t want to live in campus-owned housing? Go on line and see how much it costs students to live in student housing and you’ll see why . . . and while some students want to live off campus so they can party, others want to live off campus to save money and study. Really.)
The student problem this “fix” is allegedly going to fix, as usual with these fake fixes, won’t fix the problem. In fact, it will actually lead to the further deterioration of our residential neighborhood. (The facts that the City isn’t telling you that show why this is going to make things worse are below.)
Our student problems are caused not by all students — but by specific students who throw noisy parties, who do rude things in public, and who park illegally. What do all these annoying things have in common? They are all activities for which the guilty party can be cited and fined.
But does Code Enforcement respond to our complaints? Sometimes — but not regularly. Is that a problem the City can fix? Yes, of course; Code Enforcement employees get job reviews, too. So why doesn’t the City do that? Because if Code Enforcement was handling these calls, then the City wouldn’t have unhappy residents calling for another solution, any solution, just do something! And then the City can use those complaints to justify doing what it wants: creating a new revenue source and a new tax on renters and property owners.
Okay, but how could a permit requirement on people who rent rooms possibly make things deteriorate more? Well,. this is where those facts that the City doesn’t want to talk about come in.
Did you know that the City of Riverside is voluntarily allowing out-of-town investors
to buy single family homes near UCR and turn them into “mini dorms”? Which the investors
are then renting out by the room?
Yes, the City is doing this. The City is giving people construction permits to close up fireplaces and convert living rooms into two or so bedrooms and maybe another bath! And when some of us complained to the Planning Commission and our council members, they said they’d “look into it,” or “hold a workshop.” They certainly didn’t take any proactive steps, like saying, “We need a moratorium on these permits BEFORE we study this and before we issue any more! We need to stop this before the residential character of the area is seriously impaired!” Did anyone say this? No, of course not.
Think about it. Once the City creates a permit program and requires landlords to pay for a permit for each bedroom the investor rents out, the City will have more financial incentive to continue to let investors convert single family homes into mini dorms and rent out rooms to a LOT more students than could have lived in a normal, single family home.
If you didn’t know about the ongoing conversion of single family homes to mini dorms, this permit idea might have sounded okay. But once you know the whole story, the City’s planned “fix” appears as what it really is: part of a hidden agenda to benefit the City and others, but not our neighborhood. It’s the old Islander Park “fix,” the old hidden agenda all over again.
Please come to the University Neighborhood Association meeting this Thursday, June 13, 6:30 p.m., 3431 Mt. Vernon Avenue, to discuss this and other systemic problems in our area.