Letter to the editor: Response to the expansion editorial

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Sandy Quinn, president of the Old Towne Preservation Association

By Sandy Quinn, president of the Old Towne Preservation Association

I read the Aug. 26 Panther news story and the opinion piece published Aug. 30 regarding the Chapman Specific Plan Amendment for expansion, and I am grateful to the editors for calling student attention to these important issues before the city, the university and residents of the Old Towne Historic District.

The news story was well done and a fair report on what occurred when the Old Towne Preservation Association and Chapman President Jim Doti and Chancellor Daniele Struppa had a meeting. Chapman is blessed to have these outstanding, visionary and nationally respected academic leaders. President Doti’s legacy will always be his extraordinary success at building a small college into a major university with national ranking and respect.

The editorial properly pointed out that the expansion requires corresponding additions in student housing, and OTPA certainly agrees. In fact, the temporary suspension of expansion does not include plans for new housing. Both Chapman and OTPA agree that while other issues are discussed and resolved, let’s go ahead with more housing. Even if enrollment remains the same, more beds are needed.

Here’s the core problem: Chapman University is in the middle of the largest residential historic district in the state of California. It’s on the National Register of Historic Sites. There are 1,400 homes in the district built before 1940, many in the late 1800s, and there are few neighborhoods in America with the charm, history and quality of architecture and life that Old Towne offers. It’s one of the reasons that Chapman is so unique, and probably key in every student’s choice of the university.

But Chapman University only has so much land in Old Towne Orange and future growth is therefore limited. Even now, without any expansion, the school and city need to address housing, parking, infrastructure, public safety, traffic, support services and other issues. To ignore these needs is to deteriorate the fabric and integrity of our neighborhood. Your editorial seemed to suggest that student spending in Plaza restaurants justifies the expansion.

I appeal to you and the student body to understand the issue. The university was asking the community and the city for approval of the Chapman University Specific Plan Amendment, which included all the expansion plans. Homeowners and community organizations were getting ready for all-out, organized opposition. Many felt the city council would not vote approval, even if the expansion passed a tough environmental impact review. Residents were picking sides, getting angry, attending City Council meetings for weeks in vocal opposition. “No on Chapman expansion” yard signs were going up around the neighborhood.

The Old Towne Preservation Association is a 30-year-old organization formed to preserve and protect the uniqueness of our neighborhood. We felt it was time to sit down with Chapman leaders and come up with a positive plan before the situation got out of hand. President Doti and Chancellor Struppa agreed, and decided to hold off on the expansion plan while the school, working with a blue ribbon community advisory committee, worked together and developed an acceptable plan satisfying various issues.

I hope The Panther will be helpful in building a partnership between the university and the neighborhood. As President Doti put it so well last end, we are all in it together.”

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