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Actions To Take To Save Westmoreland, Last Affordable Housing for OR Students

The Issue
Because people around the state have a stake in this issue, they are joining opposition to the sale of Westmoreland Village, a student family housing community located in west Eugene. It is a publicly-owned low-cost student housing resource used by thousands of Oregonians over the past forty five years while attending the UO. If Westmoreland were sold, it would eliminate access to higher education for those who need such housing in order to afford rising tuition.
 Mother and Infant Forced to Move Because of Proposed Sale of Westmoreland
Mother and Infant Forced to Move Because of Proposed Sale of Westmoreland
Contrary to the continuous local media spin, this is not a done deal. We can and will stop the sale of Westmoreland because it is bad policy on many levels and is against the public interest of the state-wide community. That's why we have received overwhelming support in the form of cards, letters and emails to the State Board. They came from individuals like Oregon taxpayers, parents of future college students, UO alumni, reps from social services, affordable housing advocates and from progressive organizations throughout the state including the Rural Organizing Project, Portland Indy Media and Onward Oregon. See the latter's endorsement attached and below.

Urge the State Board of Higher Education to vote no on the UO proposed sale of Westmoreland Family Housing, a public resource consisting of 404 units of irreplaceable affordable housing in West Eugene.

Actions To Take To Save Westmoreland

1) Email a message no later than Wednesday to the State Board of Higher Ed at  ryan_hagemann@ous.edu.

2) If you're in the Eugene area, please attend a short rally this Wed 7/12 beginning at 1215 PM in front of Johnson Hall on the UO campus. Free Save Westmoreland T-shirts for all who show up, musical surprises and a short 1 PM press conference with our attorneys will conclude the event. Please arrive before then.

3) Attend the State Board meeting at Portland State U on Thursday at 3 pm July 13th on the third floor of the Smith Memorial Union when the proposal to sell Westmoreland is deliberated.

Free rides in vans and cars caravanning from Eugene will leave the south side of the UO EMU at 1230 PM. Please call me at 484-9167 to reserve a seat so we'll know how many vehicles are needed. (Note: If you have a large vehicle you can bring, call Brett at 606-0247 to see if it's needed.) Gather at noon outside the ASUO office. The caravan will return to the UO by between 630 and 730 PM. Again free "Save Westmoreland" t-shirts for all who show up.

Thank you,

David

David Zupan
Representing the Save Westmoreland Coalition and
Oregon Citizens for Affordable Housing, PO Box 5031, Eugene 97405
phone: 541-484-9167

BACKGROUND

Dear Fellow Oregonians,

Recent press releases from the University of Oregon reveal a carefully orchestrated attempt to undermine the majority opinion of the community that the proposed sale of Westmoreland Family Housing is wrong.

We want to assure the community and citizens throughout the state that we can stop the sale of Westmoreland because there are still many significant obstacles to the UO proposal and many serious flaws in their position.

Many elected officials have raised serious objections to the UO plan, especially after two hours of testimony at a December forum sponsored by community and student groups and attended by more than 100 people. Far West, Jefferson and Friendly Street Neighborhood Associations have passed formal resolutions opposing the sale. Numerous campus groups are united in opposition including the UO Faculty Senate that voted twice against the sale despite heavy lobbying by President Dave Frohnmayer.
> Visit our action web page now to send a letter to the Board of Higher Education

Obstacles to the sale include the fact that the UO Administration has no legal right to sell Westmoreland. The real property owner, the State Board of Higher Education, may decide at their July 14th meeting at PSU in Portland not to approve the sale based on strong opposition from citizens around the state like you! Even if the Board approves the transfer, many legal and land use limitations may stop the UO from selling Westmoreland.

Westmoreland is zoned only for Public Land uses which means only a public agency or a non-profit can use the property. A change to private ownership requires legal rezoning and public input. It also creates another legally challengeable decision. Our organization is prepared to pursue legal remedies to demonstrate that the UO's proposed action does not comply with Oregon law.

The reputation of this UO Administration is tarnished for pushing this misguided proposal. Despite the rhetoric about caring for its students, the UO's plan to sell Westmoreland demonstrates misplaced priorities. A few UO administrators are eager to surrender 406 units of well-maintained, affordable housing in a truly diverse and safe student family community. Clearly they are not in touch with the hardships of low and middle class students and non-traditional, minority and international student families who find it increasingly difficult to afford higher education.

Affordable rents allow these diverse populations to gain access to the UO. Westmoreland also attracts high quality graduate students, who teach and do vital research, thereby furthering the academic mission of the University.

Yet Westmoreland costs the UO nothing. By law University Housing is a "self-supporting auxiliary" and all debt service, maintenance and management must be paid from student rent. Westmoreland has retired its debt and now generates surplus revenue. FY2005 Westmoreland rent provided $300,000 to service debt at the newer Spencer View Family Housing.

Without Westmoreland, rents at Spencer View would rise. If Spencer View were no cheaper, Westmoreland families would seek less expensive commercial rentals. The impact would be significant because of what is already described as a dismal market for renters with safe, affordable units in short supply.

At current rates, the difference between rent at Spencer View and Westmoreland amounts to a savings of $1 million dollars a year to tenants. This "savings" enables the university to provide incentives that further its academic mission by increasing access and diversity and attracting high quality graduate students. It costs the UO nothing because lower rents in effect create this subsidy.

Why liquidate student housing that is in significant demand? The short answer is that some UO officials want to gamble on a very risky exchange of real estate. Westmoreland would be sold and the cash used to buy property near the most expensive collegiate basketball arena project ever proposed. We cannot afford such a misguided plan with its vague timelines and the requirement that a self-sustainable housing resource be sold to fund other building projects. Nothing in the proposal to sell Westmoreland is worth undermining the academic mission of the university and forever eliminating almost all-affordable housing for Oregon college students and their families.

homepage: homepage: http://www.savewestmoreland.com
phone: phone: 541-484-9167
address: address: PO Box 5031, Eugene, OR 97405

from the Sec. of the Board 12.Jul.2006 16:51

reporter

The following is a comment from:

Ryan James Hagemann, JD

Secretary of the Board

The Board will review and deliberate on the Westmoreland proposal at its
Thursday, July 13, 2006 meeting from 3:00-5:00 pm. The meeting is in
the Smith Memorial Student Union, on the Portland State campus, Rooms
327/8/9. The Board will vote on the Westmoreland proposal at its
Friday, July 14, 2006 meeting. The vote will be the first item of
business after the meeting is called to order at 9:00 am. Because ten
hours of public hearings were held in Eugene at the direction of the
Board president, there will be a limited amount of time for public
testimony at the Thursday meeting. Those interested in providing public
input must sign up at the Thursday meeting and, per Board administrative
rules and policy, will be limited to three minutes in order to provide
an opportunity to as many people as time will allow.



If you are interested in viewing the docket materials explaining the
proposal, you may find them at:
 http://www.ous.edu/board/dockets/ddoc060714.pdf. Of the 123 pages of
docket materials on the web, the Westmoreland materials start at page
18.



As Secretary of the Board, I have received correspondence from many
individuals, both supporting and opposing the proposal. I do not know
if individual Board members, the University of Oregon, or other staff
have received similar correspondence.



I am unable to comment simply because I believe it is more appropriate
for Board members to comment. Requests, such as yours, come through me
and I find my Board members to reply. If the Board president, or any
other Board member, would like me to provide a comment, I would be more
than happy to do that for you. In the meantime, as with all
other requests for comments and interviews, I track my Board members
down to let them know of the request.



Please let me know if there is anything else that I can do.



Sincerely,

RYAN JAMES HAGEMANN



Ryan James Hagemann, JD

Secretary of the Board

Office of the State Board of Higher Education