Thursday, April 29, 2004

I'm reading the City of Kalamazoo's 2001 Student Housing Task Force report. It was formed to look at a zoning ordinance that pretty much restricted students from single-family housing (Zone 8) areas, with the exception of 170 houses that were "grandfathered" in. Well-intentioned, the Task Force doesn't seem to have achieved anything: the upshot is that the committee "agreed to disagree." The Task Force met 7 times over the 2000-2001 academic year.
Chief recommendations:

1. Existing ordinances should be consistently and aggressively enforced by the municipalities and there should be zero-tolerance policy for nuisance violations and underage drinking, and tickets should be issued to violators.

2. Ongoing Dialogue should continue between the City of Kalamazoo, Kalamazoo Charter Township, Oshtemo Charter Township, WMU, Kalamazoo college, neighbors, students and others. A group should meet two or three times each academic year to discuss community/student issues and to follow up and monitor the recommendations of this task force.

3. A brief pamphlet should be developed which describes the rights of tenants and landlords, and which also contains information on local regulations and contact telephone numbers and web sites for more information. Landlords should be required to give this pamphlet to every tenant upon signing of a lease. Each tenant should be required to sign a statement which states that they have received and read the pamphlet.

4. WMU police should assist the City of Kalamazoo and Kalamazoo Township by responding to off-campus nuisance complaints (e.g. noise, trash, etc.).

5. The City should adjust its trash pick up schedule and add more "big trash" pick up days in student neighborhoods round move-in and move-out times. Free public dumpsters should be placed in student housing areas during move-in and move-out times.

Let me tell you in no uncertain terms -- this is some pretty mealy-mouthed crap.

1. That's decent, but does it really need to be said? "DPS, do your jobs." I also take issue with the recommendation that noise ordinances should be aggressively enforced in student neighborhoods. The standard should be different for student neighborhoods.

2. Ongoing dialogue -- whoop-de-do. Monitoring these wimpy recommendations? That'll effect some change.

3. The pamphlet idea is a start. However, it is JUST a start in reality, but it is the most concrete recommendation offered here.

4. That's a pretty decent idea: having WMU essentially share the cost of the student problem.

5. Trash pickup during move-in/out is fine, but is that really a solution to the problem? It's a superficial fix.

Two statistics from studies quoted in the report are interesting: in the fall of 2000, there was only 2% vacancy in student housing in Kalamazoo. 5-7% was quoted as normal, meaning there was a big supply and demand problem (this was before Jefferson Commons, University Club, The Arboretum, and Sterling University). I think it's still a problem in another fashion. Those developments only put stress on the poorly developed W. Michigan Avenue and West Gateway to the university. Limited housing options near campus breed problems with traffic and parking and campus planning, already in deplorable condition. The university and city should be developing affordable housing near campus (preferably east of campus) and should be making the city/campus more walkable and bikeable.

The second statistic was quoted by Bob Miller: about 90% of freshmen have cars on campus. This is mind-boggling to me; I had thought it was much lower, like 50%. The wealth of this nation is incredible. I don't think I am ever going to listen to another complaint about tuition or fees. 90%. That is ridiculous. They should be outlawed. The automobile, while necessary to the early years of Western State Normal School, has become one of the chief obstacles to the development of a pleasant campus and robust student culture here. The university, stuck in a 1950s and 1960s mindset, has neither provided for its expansion (administratively and physically) nor accommodated the problems that neglect of its physical design has wrought. This is an ongoing failure of management, and it distresses me. WMU should not be kowtowing to consumeristic 18-year olds; that it does is a significant measure of its leadership.


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