Monday, June 16, 2003

Berkeley Housing Debate, now available in new CalJunket flavor!

Over at CalStuff, Kevin's readers (myself very much included) had much to say about the current state of campus housing. I'll spare you the details because (a) if you read my site, you probably got here via Kevin's, so you are already familiar with the topic at hand; or (b) if you are oblivious to the debate to which I allude, you can go ahead and check it our for yourself under Wednesday, June 11 (or you can be smart and avoid it altogether).

My main contention on this matter is several-fold. Fist, my experience is that the "tortuous, painful, miserable, neo-Holocaust-inducing" housing conditions in Berkeley are severely exaggerated by students for some unkown reason. The commentator on CalStuff would like to believe that apartments in this town are all dirty, in crime-infested areas, overpriced, and nearly impossible to fget in to. I can't argue that rent in Berkeley isn't inflated; that's simply a byproduct of being a dense urban area that is home to a world-famous university with a 35,000 student body. But the remaining accusations are incorrect and unfounded.

On filth: most places are only as dirty as you let them become. Certainly some apartments very close to campus are unrightfully allowed to become dilapidated by the owners, which of course can't be alleviated with a mop and some Simple green; but you CAN take advantage of your renters' rights and insist that the landlords fix bad plumbing or broken windows, or you can just choose to not apply to apartments that don't appeal to you.

On crime: how many students are robbed each year, assuming they stear clear of the Eucalyptus Grove? Not a dsiproportionate number given the population of our city. (An ironic share of the crime around campus is committed by students, too.) Keep your bike inside at night. Lock your front door. Take the same safety precautions you would take anywhere.

On the availability of apartments: one fellow on CalStuff claimed he waited forty minutes to be shown a place, and once put down a deposit on a place he didn't even get. I in no way question the truth of this account. What I question are the apartment-searching skills of this young man. If you insist upon living two blocks from campus in an immaculately clean domicile, you need to get information on more than just four or five apartments (or you can move into one of the wings at BAM). It doesn't take more than an hour to send a dozen emails to posters on, and I can assure you that at least one will right back by the end of the day. Maybe I'm just really lucky, but I've found two apartments since moving out of the dorms in May 2002, and neither of them took me more than 3 hours to find. The first time, I waited until the end of May to start looking, so admittedly most the good places close to campus were taken. I ended living in an extraordinarily clean apartment with two friends in a cute neighborhood just one block away from Berkeley Bowl for just $400 a month. It was a long walk (20-40 mins) to campus, but the rent was very low, and walking is good for you. In my second experience, I answered about 10 cragslist postings, got 5 responses by 8pm that evening, looked at one of those apartments by 9pm, and had officially found my new place by 9:15. Now I share a great place on Delaware & Milvia with four other very attractive and friendly women. And I only pay $470 a month, which includes utilities. If you really want a great place, it's as simple as looking early and replying to 10 or more postings. Don't try to pretend that finding an apartment is this impossible or even necessarily stressful task. I found both my places in less time than it usually takes to find a parking space on Bancroft. (Though I've not once been without a parking space directly in front of my new apartment.)

The other big debate was the matter of college acting as a transition into adult life and the responsibility therein. It seems that a good number of kids in college are scared to move into apartments because all the amenities of dorm life will be stripped from them. Eventually, you will have to learn how to rinse your own dishes and pay your own water bills and wash your own undies, and college is as good a time as ever. Some of us even learned how to do this stuff in high school. Some of us even learned how to cook our own food and pack our own lunches before we became legal adults. I won't keep this rant going much longer, but if you curl up into a ball once the responsibilites of real life are gently tossed to you when you move out of the dorms, then you're a big pussy. That's right, I said pussy.

Finally, no one should rely on dorms to make friends. Of course they're a great place to meet new people with common interests, especially during the first year. But if you find apartment life necessarily isolated or empty, then you simply aren't trying hard enough. Our campus is full of hundreds of student groups, each of which caters to a specific type of person. We also have hundreds of courses that lump 10-400 different students with at least one similar interest or ambition into the same classroom. Not to mention that Berkeley is home to Raleigh's, Blakes, the Bear's Lair, Jupiter, and Triple Rock, each a swell place to make fun of drunk smarmy dudes or even become one yourself. In short, if you find that your social life is dwinding that significantly post-dorms, you just might not be taking advantage of all the resources and opportunities that Cal has to offer.

Hope I didn't offend anyone or cheese anyone off. I just get a little disturbed at the apparant inability of my peers to make their own decisions and forge their own adult identities. I'm also fiercely jealous of anyone who's parents can afford to help them financially. Or of anyone who had friends in high school. Who's laughing now, big-shot high school kids with real-life cars, huh? Who's laughing now?


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