The garage at the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity house in Fullerton has plenty of chairs, a 65-gallon fish tank and a built-in wet bar--complete with sinks, beer on tap and a Formica counter.
Missing from the garage: cars.
The garage at Lambda Chi Alpha is typical for fraternities at Cal State Fullerton. But, to the chagrin of neighbors, the semi-empty garages are used as "party rooms" while cars belonging to fraternity members and their guests line the streets surrounding "Fraternity Row."
Today, City Council members are scheduled to vote on an ordinance that would allow only residents of homes and apartments near Fraternity Row to park on the nearby streets. To many of the fraternity members, the move is yet another in a series of "harassing" changes prompted by their neighbors.
Fullerton City Atty. R.K. Fox said Monday that he sent council members a memo advising against the parking-permit program because of "serious legal problems" with the ordinance. Fox declined to specify, but another city official said earlier that the city attorney was concerned that permit-only parking would discriminate against fraternities.
"I don't see how they can tell you where to park on a public street," Sigma Pi member Rob Funk, 20, said.
Complaints about the parking problem were followed by claims that some fraternity houses were in violation of city building and fire codes. The Fire Department is conducting room-by-room inspections of the 17 fraternities and sororities. For most of the seven fraternities huddled together on "Frat Row," the results will mean that they either lose their bars or put them on wheels.
Fire Marshal John Clark said Monday that the fraternity garages do not necessarily have to be used for cars but must be available for them, so only movable items are allowed. Fraternity members can also forget about extra extension cords and, for some, it will mean putting up walls that were knocked down without permits, Clark said.
"They're trying to get us to give up," said Michael Flynn, 19, house manager at Tau Kappa Epsilon.
Charging that the inspections are discriminatory because they affect only the Greek letter houses and not the apartment complexes or houses nearby, a TKE member expressed his feelings by hanging a sign on a door bearing a hammer and sickle and the words, "Search warrant required for entrance."
"They're just doing this to harass the fraternities," said Lambda Chi Alpha member Paul Wasserman, 21. "They want to get rid of us."
Wasserman wasn't off base as far as A.J. Elberson is concerned. The owner of a four-unit apartment complex facing the fraternities, Elberson said he is tired of the noise, the parties, the litter and the cars. Elberson said his property is depreciating and he has a hard time getting new tenants when there is a vacancy.
"As far as I'm concerned, I'd like to see the fraternities out of here," Elberson said.
A Fullerton official suggested that moving the fraternities to the campus would be an expensive but "ideal solution."
"If those two communities (residences and fraternity houses) would be built today, they would be separated," Elberson said.
In life styles, they are worlds apart.
Hurt by Broken Bottle
Resident Karen Trosko, 28, said the noise from the parties keeps her two young daughters awake. She said that last year, one of her daughters was hurt by a broken bottle left on the street after a fraternity bash. There is always trash left around, she said, adding that she has caught young men urinating on her yard.
Not convinced that a parking-permit system will resolve anything, Trosko and her husband have made up their minds. "We're moving," she said.
"One of our major complaints is that they use their garages as party rooms," said Trosko, who was sitting in her garage filled with bicycles, toys and old furniture. "We don't party in our garage."
Fraternity members reply that the city doesn't have the right to tell them what to do with their own garages.
"You can't tell me what to do with my property. I don't dictate to them what they have to do with their garages," Wasserman said.
"It's actually a party room, but we have to call it a garage for legal purposes," Delta Chi member Mark Maricich, 19, said of his fraternity's garage with a complete wet bar.
Maricich and other fraternity brothers point to their philanthropy as part of the good they do for the community. The parties have toned down, they said. Gone are the big open parties and the alcohol during rush week, when fraternities recruit new members.
Clean Up Neighborhood
"We're trying to alleviate the problem," said Delta Chi vice president Will Telish, 20, who added that members clean up the neighborhood twice a week.
But the neighbors are not helping calm tempers, Lambda Chi Alpha president Rob Jenican said. Fraternity members said they asked neighbors to call the fraternities before they call the police if there is a problem, such as a loud party.
"But they don't call us, they call the police," Jenican said. "And they squirt us with water hoses."
"We're not out tearing the streets. We're not vandals," Wasserman said.
The bottom line, resident Trosko said, is that the fraternities, which are surrounded by homes and apartments, are in the wrong place.
"I went to college and I partied," she said, but the fraternity houses "don't belong in this area."