No limit to College and Rolando spring break ragers?
College-area resident Cindy Sonboleh lives near a frat house. “The partying has gotten worse,” she told me over the weekend. “I looked out my window at girls dressed in awful white cowboy boots and bathing suit tops and g-strings urinating on the fence by the church.”
Sonboleh, 55, an SDSU alumna herself, used to party around campus. But that was years ago. Nowadays, she needs to rest up for work at a supermarket and wants her neighbors and visiting partyers to respect their surroundings. But it’s a challenging request.
“I went out there, and even though she (the person urinating) was surrounded by her posse [wearing] white cowboy boots, I was able to take a picture of her peeing. After that, everyone was yelling at me and recording me back. At one point, I said, ‘Are you going to this school? Are you supposed to be smart?'”
Hundreds, sometimes thousands, of partyers, many from outside the College area, rendezvoused in the College and Rolando neighborhoods to chill in recent weeks, many more than when Sonboleh partied around the college. “I think the difference now is with social media. And invites can go far and wide,” she noted. “It’s just that people who don’t live around here don’t realize how bad it’s gotten, and it’s nothing like back in the day when police actually showed up to these types of things.
It’s Spring Break on campus. And since the recent murders of two U.S. citizens at the border city of Matamoros, many students and their buddies are not crossing the border and staying put in the U.S. attending ragers in the College and Rolando areas.
Sonboleh continued, “I’m not against parties and a bunch of kids wandering around. I love the energy, as I graduated from here and like to take walks through the campus.”
Another SDSU alum, John M., who lives in the Rolando area, is not as fazed by the en masse partyers. “SDSU is on Spring Break till April 1. The residence hall students will be back on April 2 — and probably the fraternity and sorority residents too. If SDSU is in the NCAA Championship game on April 3, then win or lose, make sure your cell phone cameras are ready to record all kinds of debaucherous footage (alcohol-fueled or not). I am sure the SDSU police and maybe SDPD as well will make their presence visible on the campus if the Aztecs are in the final game. And the National Guard will need to be on standby!”
Rolando resident Susan Hopps-Tatum, who graduated from SDSU in the top 10 in her 1990 class, is not amused with the Gen Z alums. And while she admittedly partied it up SDSU-style in the 80s, as she grew up in the area, back then it was still “a nice family neighborhood with many young families, including many employees of the university,” she said in a recent email to me. She noted that the big parties in the 1980s-1990s were predominantly held at designated fraternity houses and, occasionally, at a home rented by students. “We drank, stayed out late, and had a blast, and police sometimes shut down a party, and everyone would begrudgingly disperse. But I never witnessed the destruction of property or disrespect of police officers in the ’80s.”
But like the rest of San Diego, the popularity of the university has brought about density in College and Rolando neighborhoods. The neighborhoods’ borders are Collwood Boulevard and Montezuma Road to the southwest, 73rd Street to the east, El Cajon Boulevard to the south, and the 8 freeway to the north.
Hopps-Tatum saw the “turned up” College neighborhood transition in the 1990s. “More and more homes were sold, and investors rented them to students,” she explained. “Because SDSU University had increased their student population greatly, student housing was in short supply.
“Around 2014, I began to notice a significant uptick in large, out-of-control student parties attributed to an increase in student rentals,” Hopps-Tatum continued. “Other neighbors were concerned as well. At this time, I began attending The College Area Community Council (CACC), which is a citizen-run council overseen by the city of San Diego. Community members routinely brought many concerns about student parties and behaviors to the CACC. In addition, there is an SDSU liaison who sits as a member of the board.”
Hopps-Tatum became so involved with the council that she became a board member. “During this time, many of the older residents of the community began to pass on. Investors saw the opportunity to buy up houses and then convert garages, dens, and family rooms into additional bedrooms. Investors began to build out the houses, often adding multiple bedrooms and frequently paving the backyard for parking.”
Then fast forward to 2022-2023, “where the state of California now allows for Addendum Dwelling Units (ADU) to be built in backyards to help with the housing shortage,” she continued. “It’s good in theory, but the city of San Diego has taken that to an extreme, now allowing multiple ADUs to be built on a single-family-zoned property, with essentially no setback requirements, no parking requirements, no limits on occupants and no infrastructure upgrades to the water, sewer, streets. Investors near the university have exploited these free-for-all building options and are maxing out the build area and height on all their properties.”
And because of this, Greek satellite homes, or Greek satellite multi-home properties, popped up in the College and Rolando neighborhoods. Hopps-Tatum said they’re called Greek satellite houses “because they are off-campus and they are held to none of the constraints that the on-campus Greek houses must follow. So now we routinely have “ragers,” their word, not mine, any day or night of the week.”
I reached out to a couple of SDSU alumni in their 20s for a comment, and they did not want their names posted in the article, as “everybody knows each other because of social media,” said one person. “Look at those students who disrespected that hot dog vendor; their names were plastered on the news and social media. I agree with the older people complaining, but we just want to get litty when we are done studying. These boomer “Karens” and “Kens” act like they never partied.”
Debra M., a 37-year local from the College community, sent me photos of one St. Patrick’s Day (March 17) rager on Campanile Drive just south of the campus. “The boys came outside the house to pee,” Debra explained, and “the girls that came onto my property to pee. I could not photograph because I was too busy screaming at them before they could get in position.”
On the NextDoor forums, long threads of College and Rolando neighbors corroborate other sources in this article. Many say that after Covid, the ragers raged. “We see students lying on the sidewalks,” continued Hopps-Tatum. “Rapes, fights, violence, weapons, and guns have become common at many of these very large and loud parties. In the Fall of 2021, San Diego Police arrived to shut down a huge backyard party with hundreds of students in the yard and on the streets. The fire department was present to attend to a student in an alcohol/drug-related emergency. While the officers cleared the party, drunk students began jumping on their (police) cars and climbing onto the fire truck! About a half hour later, there was a shooting around the corner from this party at another student party.”