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Escondido South residents concerned about relocation plans

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Graduate students living in the Escondido South area of Escondido Village are concerned about R&DE’s plans to move them out of their residences in spring quarter plans that students say were given on short notice and, in some cases, may require a permanent move.

Residents of Escondido South will be relocated to Studio 2, another building within Escondido Village, during renovations intended to address a shortage of graduate housing. According to Rodger Whitney, executive director of R&DE Student Housing/CHO, the renovations are part of a project to build 2,400 new graduate residences in Escondido Village, for a net gain of 2,000 residences.

The project was approved by the Board of Trustees in late 2015. Last November, R&DE held a town hall to discuss the planned renovation. However, residents of Escondido South were not informed of their relocation until a community meeting on Feb. 10.

The Escondido South relocation will be completed in two phases. Residents assigned to phase one will be moved out of their residences and into Studio 2 on Apr. 1. They are guaranteed to return to Escondido South by June 19.

“If you lived in some place for over a year and you are on a month-to-month lease then you are guaranteed sixty days notice,” said Debra Hausladen, a Ph.D. student living in Escondido South who will be relocated in phase two of the project. “[Phase one residents] have less time than that to move out.”

According to Hausladen, because Stanford Housing uses a license agreement in lieu of a lease, students in Stanford Housing do not have all of the rights protected by landlord-tenet laws.

She compared the sudden move-out to a lease termination.

Although residents assigned to phase two will be moved out of their residences much later, on June 24, they are not guaranteed a return to Escondido South after the renovation. Families who want to live in Escondido South will be prioritized over phase two residents who are single. Because of this, the residents may have to find other living arrangements.

It remains unclear whether there will be other permanent housing available on campus for these students.

“Housing Assignment will notify residents who will need to be re-assigned permanently by mid-May,” wrote Michael VanFossen, senior associate director of student housing for Graduate Housing Operations and director of Capital Planning and Project Management, in an email sent to Escondido South residents on Feb. 19.

“The intention is to keep all residents reassigned out of Escondido South into renewable on campus housing,” VanFossen stated.

In an email to the Daily, Whitney emphasized the willingness and dedication of R&DE to help students find housing in the case of permanent relocation.

“In the event a student prefers not, or is unable, to return to Escondido South, we will work with that student to identify a new housing assignment that meets his or her preferences, including price range,” Whitney said.

While some students in phase two are confident that R&DE will reassign them to permanent on-campus housing, others are not so optimistic.

“I am still skeptical, and maybe this is unjustified, but I feel that given their consideration for us so far, their hedging of their words might suggest that there is not a guarantee that we will end up back on campus,” said Guillaume Riesen, a Ph.D. student living in Escondido South.

“There is already a housing shortage,” Riesen continued. “That is why they are building this, understandably… So I am not totally convinced that everyone who gets moved will end up somewhere on campus that they can afford.”

In the shorter term, some Escondido South residents are worried about the more immediate issue of temporary housing.

“The problem is that there aren’t any equivalent units,” Hausladen said. “Some people are really worried about not being placed with their roommates, and [for] other people it is very much their home and they have this courtyard and a two story unit. So, maybe you can get into an alternative unit but then maybe you have no windows in your common space and you’ll be paying more.”

Many rooms in Escondido South are triples, meaning that many residents have two roommates. Studio 2 does not have triples. Moreover, housing in Studio 2 is typically more expensive than in Escondido South.

R&DE recognizes these concerns and is working to address them.

“Current roommates will be moved and assigned together in Studio 2, not in the same room but close by… [and] they will continue to pay the same housing rates they currently pay while staying in the studio apartments,” Whitney said.

Some residents of Escondido South are also concerned about the physical changes planned for their living area. They fear that renovations, specifically to the outdoor spaces, will isolate single graduate students by taking away a key shared space.  

The courtyard adjacent to Escondido South will be separated from Studio 1 by shrubbery. R&DE also plans to build a playground in the courtyard.

At the Feb. 10  community meeting, VanFossen and Whitney showed residents a plan for the renovations. According to Hausladen, residents were told not to take pictures, although some of them took pictures of the plans on their phones. Students say that R&DE has ignored their requests for the plans.

“The big community breaker for me is that they put in this psychological barrier between Studio 1 and this courtyard,” said Ph.D. student Ryan McCarty M.A. ’15, who lives in Escondido South.

Currently, McCarty said, the courtyard is shared by many people and includes a lounge, a barbecue and a volleyball court.

“So it is a very friendly and all-inclusive space for a lot of people,” McCarty said.

However, R&DE disagrees with residents’ concerns regarding the courtyard.

“The outdoor community areas will be enhanced, not eliminated,” Whitney wrote. “The proposed playground would only take up a portion of the large lawn area.”

Concerns have also surfaced about the effect of the planned relocation on the mental health of Escondido South residents, especially those assigned to phase two. Community Associates for Escondido South sent out a survey to gauge residents’ feelings following the renovation announcement.

77.8 percent of the survey’s 51 respondents reported feeling stressed as a result of the relocation. 66.7 percent reported feeling anxious. In their anonymous written responses, residents repeatedly said that their stress and anxiety largely stemmed from the short notice, as well as, for those in phase two, the uncertainty of their future living situation.

Roughly 20 percent of respondents said that they experienced or expected to experience 25 or more hours of “increased anxiety, stress or loss of sleep” related to the relocation.

R&DE has acknowledged in both an email to residents and an email to The Daily that students were given shorter notice than is typical, and emphasized that R&DE is trying to minimize inconveniences.

Hausladen, who met with a lawyer to discuss the short notice of her relocation, believes that R&DE’s housing contracts should better ensure the rights of residents in the future.

“They have so much about what we have to do when we terminate our contract early, like the fees we have to pay, how we have to notify them, what happens to us,” she said. “But there is nothing in there telling us how they need to notify [us], how much in advance.”

“[That] would help [students] not feel like they are being displaced in a really stressful time of their career here,” Hausladen said.

 

Contact Blanca Andrei at bandrei ‘at’ stanford.edu.

 

An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that a November town hall was hosted by the Graduate Student Council Housing Committee, a body that does not exist. The town hall was organized by R&DE.