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Cal Poly Dorm Vandals Set Off Housing Scramble

Units in a new residence hall are flooded, displacing 205 students. Officials seek temporary off-campus options while repairs are made.

August 08, 2003|Stuart Silverstein | Times Staff Writer

Cal Poly Pomona is scrambling to find temporary housing for 205 students due to vandalism that caused $2 million to $3 million in flooding damage at a yet-to-open residential hall.

Officials said Thursday that the affected students, due to arrive on campus in time for the start of the fall quarter on Sept. 25, will be assigned to off-campus apartments or hotels, perhaps for several months.

The vandalized structure is one of a pair of residential suite buildings under construction since May 2002, at the Cal State campus. The $26.5-million project, which features kitchenettes and patios and is located near the student union, has a waiting list of several hundred students.

"We had rousing interest in the project, and all of the students had picked their spaces, and were excited about moving in," said Douglas R. Freer, director of university housing services.

These days, Freer said, enthusiasm among students has turned into concern about where their emergency housing will be, and how long they will have to remain at their temporary site.

"We don't have all of the answers right now," said Freer, who added that the extent of the building damage still is being reviewed. "If there's anything working in our favor, it's that our university opens later than most.... We're still a good month and one-half away from the start of the fall term."

Freer said the university is negotiating with managers of hotels and apartments near the campus, and that there appear to be ample options for emergency housing for the students.

University officials continue to investigate the vandalism, which occurred late July 15 or in the early morning of July 16. No arrests have been made.

Officials said the vandal or vandals flooded the building by bringing in hoses and turning them on, as well as by turning on faucets in the 53 suites of the four-story wood-framed building. They said the water was left on for about seven to 10 hours, damaging the carpeting as well as walls, ceilings, floors, kitchen cabinets and counters.

The second new residential suites building was not vandalized, and it remains scheduled to open in time for the arrival of students next month.

"It appears that whoever vandalized the suites knew what they were doing," said Gerald Lipson, the campus' interim police chief, noting that the construction was nearly complete. "They knew exactly when to make the biggest impact on the construction project."

Edge Development, which is building the project, is offering a $20,000 reward for information leading to an arrest and conviction in the case.

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