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QUOTATION: People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing. - Walter H. Judd

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2005-02-06 - 2:25 p.m.

There Goes the Neighborhood

We live in what used to be called West Davis. We’ve moved, but only a few blocks from where my children grew up, in the same general area. But because of extensive growth, we now live in what is known as Central Davis, just 10 blocks from the University of California at Davis (UCD) – even closer to some student housing. In fact, the house next door to us is what we affectionately call “a student rental.”

As is often the case, the family of a student purchased it many years ago as an investment and for a place for their son to live during his undergraduate and graduate years at UCD – and for seven of his closest friends. Their son has graduated and moved on with his life. The house has remained rented – the occupants change each year or sometimes each quarter.

We’ve had few complaints, the main one being the appearance of the front yard when the occasional futon frame or apartment-sized refrigerator gets left when someone moves out or when the lawn began to look unkempt. Once the students made a raised bed (I know not what they were growing; one can only guess) against our back fence, causing it to cave in. That turned out to be a happy event. When I contacted the owner of the property to ask that he have the fence repaired, I also mentioned that the students seemed too busy with their studies to keep their yard in a “neighbor-friendly” condition. I gave him the name of my gardener, who I was sure would be happy to care for his yard, as well. That solved two problems.

Parties. Well, of course, everyone has gatherings in their homes from time to time. But rarely do they sell tickets in the driveway. One group of students did. And we had red plastic glasses in our yard the next day to attest to the fact the party had been beyond what one might expect in a residential neighborhood. One of their guests picked up one of our landscape rocks and tossed it through the back window of my husband’s Honda that had been parked in the driveway, because our garage was full of boxes we’d not unpacked since we moved in. Actually, that solved another problem. My husband immediately cleaned out the garage so that he could park the car there in the future.

From time to time, a couple of our student neighbors will ring our bell, announce they are having a party and implore us to call them, rather than the police, if it gets too noisy. You see, we have a noise ordinance in Davis. In fact, it is such a stringent ordinance that one mustn’t even snore too loudly. True. One woman was arrested and fined for snoring too loudly after her neighbors complained. That story even made it to the joke roster of Jay Leno and David Letterman.

Davis is a quirky town. We have a tunnel under a newly constructed street – a tunnel in which the toads could walk, since the street would interfere with their usual passage to the Post Office. Citizens rose up in rebellion when the City planned to pave an alley. Noise, however, can be a real issue in neighborhoods adjoining student housing - thus the noise ordinance.

A couple of weeks ago, the students rang the bell, gave me a slip with their names and telephone numbers and made the usual request. I asked if they were selling tickets this time, and they assured me they were not. That night, we heard the base beat of the music as we went to bed at about 11 p.m., but it did not keep us from falling asleep. We’ve wisely made our bedroom on the opposite side of our house from the student rental. The next morning, the students had cleaned up whatever mess by the time we went out. No problem.

In our mailbox the next day, however, was the following letter:

NOT IN OUR NEIGHBORHOOD!

On Friday, January 21, 2005, the tenants of 802 Villanova Avenue had a party. Hundreds of vehicles were parked along Villanova and surrounding side streets.

Vandalism will increase, robberies will increase. Our property values will decrease.

Rohypnol (the date rape drug) is prevalent in Davis.

Put a stop to this decline of our lifestyle now, ie. nip it in the bud.

Hundreds of cars? A wing-ding! We slept right through this bacchanalia. Unlike some other parties the group has had where late-night party-goers (or rather home-goers) have sang, shouted, and said their good-byes in loud voices, that night we heard nothing.

The letter was unsigned. No phone number. No address. I hate anonymous troublemakers, don’t you?

A couple of days later, poking out of our mailbox we found a note from the perpetrators of the bash, this time signed, however, complete with address, phone number, e-mail address and an apology for any inconvenience their party might have used us.

Last Friday night we threw a party for one of our friend’s graduation/acceptance to Grad School. For the celebration, we invited about 100-120 people. The party started at about 9 p.m. and at about 10:30 p.m. swarms of people started coming to our house, some by car and others by a service called “tipsy Taxi”, a service for transporting students around town. We did not know why so many people showed up at that time, but were later notified by one of the arrivals, that an anonymous person posted the party on the Internet. When we realized what was going on, we asked of the service not to bring anyone else to the house. This did not stop people from coming in their cars, at which point we started sending people back where they came from. The house was full of people and we basically turned everyone around and sent them home.

At around 1:30 one of the neighbors called the police. When they arrived, we finally got enough help and sent most of the people out of our house. The party continued until about 3 a.m. and all ended well.

Addressing the issues:

The party we had involved no drugs, vandalism, or date rape drugs. It merely involved a bunch of students having fun and some loud music. In the immediate surrounding area there were a few beer cans left in the street, which were picked up first thing in the morning. Other than lack of parking at 1 a.m., no real damage was done to any of the neighbors or any public matter.

After a discussion with the police, we were notified that if we have a party again, we can call the police on ourselves and they will come to help us send people home if a case like this ever happens again. If it will, that will definitely be our course of action….

Each year when the new student body arrives, the stores become more crowded, the bike lines fill with novice bikers, and, yes, parties. People complain. If one chooses to live in a college town, one should also expect students. Goes with the territory. As the students pointed out in another paragraph of the letter, it is BECAUSE of the University that our property values are as high as they are. Without students in Davis – THERE GOES THE NEIGHBORHOOD!

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