Wednesday, May 28, 2008

WWU Dormitory Expansion Plan - Yawn!

An alert reader provide me with the meeting notice (at left – click on image to enlarge) concerning the proposed building of an annex to Buchanan Towers dormitory on the campus of Western Washington University. In an earlier post to this blog, I reported to my readers the then “indefinite” plan to build one new dormitory on the WWU campus. Since no other proposal has come before the Board of Trustees recently (You can check their meeting agenda and minutes at their site by clicking here.), this must be THE plan for “additional” dormitory space.

Here is a quote from the minutes of the 14 December 2007 board meeting: “George Pierce, Vice President of Business and Financial Affairs, introduced Tim Wynn, Director of Facilities Management; Rick Benner, Executive Director of Facilities Planning and Development; Ed Simpson, Acting Assistant Director for Design and Construction; and Bob Schmidt, Project Manager. Benner provided the Board a brief history of the project to add 100 to 200 beds into the residence hall system. Following a feasibility study, it was decided to add a five story addition to Buchannan Towers and the university is now ready to move into the project design and construction administration phase. Benner presented a recommended project design for the addition including renovations to Buchanan Towers. The total project cost is $18M and occupancy is scheduled for Fall 2010.”

These are the plans for new housing from a university which is desperately seeking (with your tax dollars) expansion of Huxley College at the waterfront to the tune of 500 additional students. Even at the maximum of 200 beds, this dorm appendage will not even house half of the students thus attracted. Maybe if WWU springs a few extra dollars for bunk beds it can double the capacity. Creative solutions might also involve the adoption of “hot cots” wherein every 8 hours each bed is turned over to another student, thus tripling its capacity. Huxley students might find this environmentally appealing. You will recall that the institution just spent almost 2.5 times $18million for a new academic building so the trend is clear – Bellingham neighborhoods will have to suck up the overflow students into non-existent housing unless, of course, you make more rooming houses from those single family homes on your street.

One might also legitimately ask the manner in which the university will accommodate the several hundred vehicles which will certainly accompany the 100-200 students. One of my readers informed me that about ten years ago the citizens of Bellingham pushed the site, now to be occupied by the dorm expansion, as an excellent spot for a multi-story parking garage. That never came to be.


HeraldReader said...

So, let me get this straight. You have an entire blog dedicated to pointing out inevitable flaws of student numbers and room availability in a large institution that you volunteer at. Instead of discussing topics that are important to the general public that WWU has control to change. You blame lack of housing for single family homes on poor college students condensing together in various houses? Thus actually lowering the number of houses they take up?

Yes, some groups get to be a little more rowdy than they should be. Those nails tend to get hammered pretty quickly though. At least from what I've seen. But seriously, when a good group of people live in a house that don't cause any big problems, is it really such a big deal?

This is a college town afterall. A lot of people seem to forget that when they move their families in close to campus and expect it to be as calm as living in high class neighborhood far from campus or in the countryside.

zonemaven said...

Dear Herald Reader,

If you were to take the time to read my blog from the beginning, you would find that it is dedicated to issues of zoning enforcement, only part of which involves students, not only of WWU but of WCC and BTI - or any other group of modest means attempting to find affordable housing in Bellingham. I do not blame students for the situation in which they find themselves, given that this city and WWU have not served moderate and low-income people well in the domain of affordable housing. WWU, by dint of its size, is a huge factor in the distortion of the rental market by the mere fact that over 8,000 students seek rentals each year. They do this, in part, by grouping together in single family homes in violation of zoning codes. I understand the economic reasons for them to do so, however, the zoning laws exist to control density throughout the city. To ignore these laws renders any city planning moot, devalues property and places renters in danger in what is largely an uncontrolled, unregulated and unsafe rental market.

Rowdiness, litter, illegal parking and other such behaviors are somewhat related to the creation of illegal rooming (group) houses. The sad fact is that these 'nails" do not get hammered in any way commensurate with their numbers as I have experienced myself and as others have reported to me. And yes, it is a "big deal" that landlords and tenants alike scoff at laws even if the renters do not cause problems. Ignoring of laws creates an atmosphere of permissiveness wherein bad behaviors emerge as the perpetrators see little risk of being sanctioned. This goes for landlords as well as tenants.

You seem to suggest that people who cannot afford to live in "high class' neighborhoods are condemned to a lesser quality of life merely because they can afford to live only in areas close to a campus. On the contrary, those of modest must certainly expect that the local government will provide them with equal protection under the law and that comity is as much their due as the due of those who can escape by living elsewhere.