Chapman Wants to Add 1,800 Students at Orange Campus Over Next Decade

Memorial Hall

Memorial Hall illuminated in the historic core of Chapman University’s Old Towne Orange campus. (Photo by Daniel Langhorne)

Chapman University will propose adding hundreds of more students over the next decade, setting the stage for another showdown with Orange residents.

Three community activists with knowledge of the University’s latest specific plan amendment confirmed they were recently briefed on the latest proposal by Jack Raubolt, vice president of community relations for the university. Enrollment at the Orange campus is currently capped at 8,700 students and would increase to 10,500 if Chapman’s plan is approved.

Chapman officials indicated they’ll formally submit the proposed specific plan amendment to the city in March. The application would trigger the California Environmental Quality Act’s process of studying an enrollment hike’s impacts on traffic, public safety, noise, parking, and utility services. At the university’s request, the Environmental Impact Report would also review “quality of life” impacts.

“Chapman University supports the process of due diligence and public hearings associated with a specific plan proposal and we welcome public discourse to ensure that all sides are heard,” University Spokeswoman Sheri Ledbetter said.

The target date for a City Council vote on this proposal would be in March 2019, well after the November General Election. With Mayor Tita Smith terming-out this year, Mayor Pro-Tem Mark Murphy is poised to take the city’s top elected position. His election as Mayor would require a special election or appointment of someone to fill his council seat. Councilmember Fred Whitaker is also terming out and Councilmember Kim Nichols will run for re-election this year.

Old Towne resident Brian Lochrie launched the Neighbors Say No campaign in 2015 to oppose Chapman’s proposed growth. At that time, Chapman wanted to add nearly 3,000 students over a decade.

Lochrie said his neighborhood group appreciates the University’s efforts to provide housing for all freshmen and sophomores by acquiring a 900-bed apartment building in Anaheim’s Platinum Triangle and breaking ground on a 402-bed dormitory building next to the Villa Park Orchards Packinghouse.

“That all being said, a cap of 8,700 [students] is all our community can take with a university in a residential neighborhood,” he said.

Villa Park Orchards Packinghouse Building Move

A heavy tow truck pulls a historic structure to its new location north of the Villa Park Orchards Association Packinghouse. The move paved the way for the construction of Chapman’s new 402-bed dormitory building at Palm Avenue and Cypress Street. (Photo by Daniel Langhorne)

The Old Towne Preservation Association and the neighborhood group Respect Orange also oppose any further growth of Chapman’s student population in Old Towne Orange. Representatives of both of these groups declined to comment until after a meeting with university officials slated for Monday,

Lochrie plans to share his concerns about Chapman’s contentious proposal with Orange elected officials and council candidates in the coming weeks. He has no doubt the specific plan amendment will be a top election-year issue for council candidates.

“We’re confident our elected officials will listen to the community on this important issue,” Lochrie said. “Any further growth would negatively impact the community and would turn us from a town with a college into a college town and that’s not something I want to see in my hometown.”

Contact the reporter at ddlanghorne@gmail or Tweet @DanielLanghorne.

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