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Another grab from the papers...

  • Subject: [cg] Another grab from the papers...
  • From: "Sean C. Gambrel" scg@ceimaine.org
  • Date: Wed, 9 Jul 2003 12:36:24 -0400
  • Importance: Normal

Last one, I promise.
These folks have a community garden...  any members on this list?

Great Trailers, With a Hitch
Irvine Meadows on the UCI campus offers cheap, funky housing for students,
but it's scheduled to be demolished in a year.

By Jeff Gottlieb, Times Staff Writer

This isn't your typical student housing, and Foghorn the chicken is the
least of it.

Tucked into a corner of UC Irvine, all but unnoticeable to anyone driving
by, is a trailer park. Not a mobile home park with double-wides as big as
houses. Trailers. Eighty of them, sold from student to student for the last
three decades for as much as $12,000.

The Irvine Meadows West Trailer Park is scheduled to be demolished in July
2004 and the site turned into a parking lot. Trailer park residents, some of
them doctoral students who have lived there for eight years, are none too
happy, and they plan to fight it.

This is their community, where everyone knows everyone, a bastion of
individuality and creativity, a Bohemian enclave amid the cookie-cutter
apartments on and around the campus.

"Even if I had to pay Irvine rents to live here, I would pay them over any
beige Irvine Co. monstrosity," said Camille Barr, who shares her 30-foot
Concord trailer with Foghorn the chicken and Charlotte, her chocolate Lab

Brian Crawford likes Irvine Meadows so much he's moved there twice. He lived
in the trailer park for four years, then went to Berlin as part of his
doctoral work in literature. When he returned a year ago, he bought another
trailer for $7,000.

"It's one of the few places I've ever lived that has a real sense of
community," he said.

Though they are trailers, few of the vehicles have ever left or could
survive a trip, even across campus. Crawford's trailer was built in 1955,
Barr's in 1969. Those in the park come from the days before RVs the size of
cruise ships flooded the highways. Their floors have been replaced, rooms
added, lofts built.

Often the trailer is the anchor for a structure built around it. One trailer
is big enough to hold two upright pianos and a wood stove with room to
spare. Another has been ingeniously modified so that the refrigerator is on
the porch and can be opened only from inside the trailer.

About all that remains of Teresa Pond's original trailer is the kitchen. Her
trailer  more of a house  is one of the largest in the park. The inside
walls are textured stucco, and the ceiling is at least 10 feet with a
skylight. Out back is a dog run for her Lab-shepherd Emma, a garden with an
irrigation system and a 400-square-foot patio.

Pond, 32, who just received a master's degree in fine arts, is moving to
Brooklyn to pursue a career as a director. She's heartbroken that her home
will be torn down.

"This place has such energy," Pond said. "You don't even know you're in

That's one of the advantages, students said. Unlike Berkeley, Ann Arbor and
many other college towns, Irvine doesn't have a wealth of bookstores, cafes
and theaters showing offbeat films. What it has is suburbia, proximity to
the beach and the highest average rents of any U.S. city whose population is
greater than 100,000.

For the $130 a month the university charges for the spot, which includes
utilities, Irvine Meadows is the best deal in the county for its mix of
graduate students and undergraduates.

The trailer park began about 1973, when Irvine was in the middle of nowhere.
UCI was 8 years old, with fewer than a third of its current 23,000 students.

Angry at students camping in vans and RVs across from campus, the City
Council passed an ordinance to halt the practice. In response, UCI set up a
$10-a-month, 12-space trailer park where the Bren Center now sits. It was
billed as the only one of its kind in the country.

Irvine Meadows moved to its current site in 1980. This time the trailer park
came with sewer lines and electricity.

These days, bougainvillea and morning glories have overtaken some trailers.
Loud paint jobs scream out. Inside the ring of trailers are a park and a
community garden.

University officials announced in 1999 that they would close Irvine Meadows
in five years in a compromise with the residents. UCI's master plan would
add science buildings to the area and turn the trailer park into a parking
lot or parking structure.

When the compromise was struck, university officials said they would try to
find another place for the park. Chuck Pieper, UCI associate vice chancellor
for student affairs, said a spot near the recreation center in the east part
of the campus was considered but the cost of providing infrastructure would
have made rent more expensive than students could pay. And the new site
would have the same problem as the trailer park's current home  it wouldn't
be permanent. The master plan proposes student apartments for the land.

Trailer park residents think the university doesn't understand the place.
They say administrators see it as an eyesore, with all the stereotypes of a
trailer park, and want to get rid of it.

"They think we're a bunch of troublemaking hippies," Crawford said.

Residents have been trying to raise awareness about the trailer park, hoping
they can garner enough support to pressure the administration to save it.
They've been selling T-shirts that show a silver Airstream trailer and a
flash of color, with the slogan "Outside the Master Plan."

A free concert at Irvine Meadows, called Hitchstock, is set for today. The
headline act, appropriately, will be the Trailer Park Troubadours, a musical
comedy group. It will be a going-away party for Foghorn and Barr, who's off
to postdoctorate work at the University of Virginia.

"We're not giving up," Crawford said. "The best thing we can do to keep the
park going is to alert people of its presence."

The American Community Gardening Association listserve is only one of ACGA's services to community gardeners. To learn more about the ACGA and to find out how to join, please go to http://www.communitygarden.org

To post an e-mail to the list:  community_garden@mallorn.com

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