City targets off-campus behavior

City Council President Darrell Clarke proposed legislation on Thursday that would seek to address community concerns by holding Temple and landlords who oversee off-campus housing more accountable for the conduct of student tenants.

The proposed bill, if passed, would incorporate the area west of Main Campus as an additional “educational housing district.” Currently, some areas near the campuses of St. Joseph’s and La Salle universities are subject to the same regulations.

The bill proposes requirements for landlords, like having a supervisor for residences with student tenants. It would also mandate that landlords purchase a student housing license.

Clarke told CBS3 that property owners can have their rental licenses suspended if they receive a certain level of code violations due to unruly student tenants.

The proposal would also require students to notify Temple of their off-campus addresses and indicate whether a vehicle is kept there. Temple would need to be notified if students received parking tickets or citations for code violations like excessive noise, destruction of property and public alcohol consumption.

“[Clarke] knows that the vast majority of Temple students who live off campus and their landlords are good neighbors,” Clarke’s Director of Communications Jane Roh said in an email.

But Roh added that Clarke “could not ignore the very real concerns that the community has about the safety and maintenance of student housing as well as instances of disrespectful behavior by both students and landlords.”

Clarke proposed a similar bill in 2004, but it lapsed in a committee session in May of that year. He has previously proposed bills to limit off-campus student housing altogether, and successfully banned student housing from parts of Yorktown in 2005. Some properties were grandfathered into the 2005 bill, but the area remains mostly free of Temple students.

Nick Pizzola, a North Philadelphia native and property owner who has been renting to Temple students for the past eight years, said landlords have fundamental difficulties in dealing with unruly student behavior.

“How do I take responsibility for student behavior?” Pizzola asked. “My only control over it is to evict them.”

Pizzola said he hasn’t had to deal with severe disciplinary issues with his residents, but added that he never heard of a case around the area where a student was suspended or expelled. He said those punishments should be enacted more often for off-campus recalcitrance, since most disciplined students he knew of received community service as punishment.

Pizzola said there should be harsher punishments, especially for what he calls “egregious behavior”: namely verbal abuse of community residence and violent acts.

“Stricter enforcement would have an impact,” he said, later adding, “for verbally abusing neighbors, community service [as a punishment] isn’t enough.”

Pizzola said most neighbors are “willing to allow some of this behavior, as long as it doesn’t spill out into the streets.”

In past years, Homecoming weekend has been marked by increased arrests relating to noise and alcohol consumption.

President Theobald and Student Body President Ray Smeriglio sent a letter to the Temple community on Oct. 8, which warned that students would be held accountable for the Student Conduct Code and that Temple Police would continue enforcement of alcohol citations.

“To be clear: The Student Conduct Code is not limited to conduct within the formal boundaries of our campuses,” the letter read. “Students are – and will continue to be – held accountable for their actions off campus.”

Brandon Lausch, a university spokesman, said Friday that Temple has been working with Clarke’s office to address concerns displayed in the bill.

“We expect our students to conduct themselves in a respectable manner and to respect North Philadelphia,” Lausch said.

Roh said if the proposal is scheduled for a committee hearing, anyone with concerns about the bill “will have an opportunity to testify on both whether this proposal should move forward and how it should be implemented if it does move forward.”

Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@temple.edu and on twitter @JBrandt_TU

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