By Camryn Pak
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, construction of the Escondido Village Graduate Residences (EVGR) will be halted Friday, according to Residential and Dining Enterprises (R&DE) representatives present at Wednesday evening’s Graduate Student Council meeting.
“The EVGR construction project has been put on hold because of county shelter-in-place protocols,” R&DE executive director of student housing operations Imogen Hinds said, who also said that she did not anticipate graduate students would be allowed to sublet their apartments, moving into the summer, due to COVID-19 concerns.
With the county’s shelter-in-place order, in effect beginning March 17, workers were allowed to continue with EVGR construction, according to Hinds. EVGR and another project, installing chillers, were permitted to continue as they were“considered ‘Essential Infrastructure’ under the order because they support critical housing and infrastructure for the campus community,” Provost Persis Drell announced on March 20, saying Stanford had consulted the county.
But on March 31, Santa Clara County extended its shelter-in-place order to May 3 and further limited the types of construction that can occur. Construction of housing is no longer considered essential infrastructure, and residential construction, except for affordable housing, is forbidden.
The EVGR project’s postponement was revealed to R&DE late on Tuesday, according to R&DE director of student housing assignments Justin Akers. However, R&DE representatives did not indicate whether the halt was due to the University’s decisions or requirements under the shelter-in-place order.
“We don’t really have much more information,” Hinds said. “As we get updates, we will certainly share those.”
Fourth-year immunology Ph.D. student Lawrence Bai raised concerns about whether the residences, which are designed to accommodate 2,431 graduate students, will be ready to open on time. However, R&DE representatives stated that they have not yet made any definite decisions.
“It’s important to note that we learned of the shutdown very late yesterday,” R&DE director of student housing assignments Justin Akers said. “We’re really in the process of exploring what exactly this means going forward.”
Akers also reminded councilors that the housing lottery will begin accepting applications on April 27 and will be open until May 26 and stated that after submitting their application, students can make changes until the deadline.
Fourth-year law and international policy student Julia Neusner raised R&DE’s decision to not accept subletting requests through the current quarter and asked whether this would continue through the summer.
“We have concerns about bringing other folks into the residences due to COVID-19, so at this point, we do not see that we will allow graduate students to sublet their apartments,” Hinds said.
But students are allowed to terminate their housing contracts and leave their belongings behind for the current spring quarter, according to Akers. He added that R&DE will allow students to terminate the summer portion of their housing contracts and leave their belongings behind, as long as those belongings are packed.
“We ask these students to pack up their things just in case we need to use the space in an emergency,” Akers said.
R&DE is also having discussions about reuniting graduate and undergraduate students back with their belongings.
“It’s going to take a lot of logistical planning and a lot of thought,” Akers said. “Hopefully, we will have some information for you in the future.”