ELLENSBURG—Christi Arnold loves her home on North Water Street. She and her family have lived there three years but she says the neighborhood has become unbearable. The problems with loud parties spilling out into the street, improper parking, trash accumulating in driveways and unkempt yards aren't anything new, but she is reaching her breaking point.
"This is truly a stew that's about to boil over," Arnold said.
She's gotten up in the morning before to find tire tracks in her yard.
"That did me in," Arnold said. "We're not going to take it anymore."
She said some of the young renters in the neighborhood, many of whom are Central Washington University students, have no respect for the families and children living in the neighborhood.
"We're just kind of irrelevant," Arnold said.
Her neighborhood, which is called Sun Ridge, stretches from Greenfield Avenue to Bender Road and east to Ellington Street and is north of CWU. Problems with partying, noise and trash echo those brought up by residents of Currier Creek Estates off Reecer Creek Road this fall.
Ellensburg Police Department officials say they are enforcing the noise ordinance and writing tickets in the area. Central Washington University officials said students are held accountable for actions on and off campus (see related stories on Page A8 and A9).
Not all renters a problem
Arnold says not all of the student renters near her are irresponsible. One house occupied by college women is quiet. Arnold said the tenants are responsible and mature.
"There are many mature young people, many," Arnold said.
Other houses are different stories.
"Every single night of the week," Arnold said about the partying. "My kid crying every night... And you can't call the police every night of your life."
"We're sick all the time," Arnold said, blaming lack of sleep and no peace of mind.
A few blocks east of the Arnold home is Courtney Court, a cul-de-sac that was discussed in a neighbor relations forum sponsored by the Campus-Community Coalition in September. Of the 13 homes in the cul-de-sac, only three are owner-occupied.
Couches sit on front porches or are leaned up against houses. Garbage cans sitting next to garages are overflowing. Silly String stretches across a strip of sidewalk and a giant depiction of a part of the male anatomy is spray painted in one of the front lawns.
One of the houses in Courtney Court identified as a party house has five young men living in it. CWU student Jake Richardson is one of them.
"I can understand how they want quiet," Richardson said about his non-partying neighbors.
"If my mom lived in this neighborhood, she would get annoyed," he admitted.
At the same time, he added, Ellensburg is a college town. Richardson said he and his four roommates, one of whom is the landlord since his parents own the house, try not to have parties. Instead they attend other parties in the neighborhood.
"Most of the neighbors, they party too," Richardson said. "I can hear parties at night."
Over Halloween weekend he and his housemates did end up having a party, but it wasn't planned that way, Richardson said."People just kept showing up," he said. "It, literally, got like a lot more people than we expected."
Eventually the cops showed up, too, and Ellensburg police officers issued Richardson and his roommates a $250 noise citation. Richardson said they won't have any more parties because they can't afford more noise citations.
He says the neighborhood parties aren't happening every night of the week, though. Mondays through Thursdays are pretty calm. On the weekends, "you have to expect it's going to happen," he said.
"It's not like we try to make them mad," Richardson said.
Neighbors also complain about messy and unkempt yards. Richardson's residence is in the process of getting new floors, which explains the recent mess in the front yard. Most of the time he and his roommates try to keep the outside of the house picked up, he said.
Kristie Smith and her family are also Courtney Court residents. Smith said the undesirable neighborhood relations started five years ago when her family first moved in.
Fence boards along her property are broken, the swale separating her home and the house behind her is a trash dump and cars are parked every which way they'll fit, she said.
After Halloween weekend, she went on trash patrol and gathered cigarette butts, beer cans and alcoholic energy drink cans. She also found a pile of charcoal and a piece of burnt wood that suggested someone had a campfire behind her house.
Smith said the main issues are when friends of the student renters come into the neighborhood to visit. They're loud and they scream and they speed up and down the street, Smith said.
She's tried getting ahold of some of the landlords and is in contact with a couple.
"A lot of these houses are investments," Smith said. "They may not be aware the way their investments have been treated."
Student neighbors can be responsible, and many are. Take Smith's neighbor, Shawn Desanto who lives on Ellington Street, for example. Desanto is a CWU student homeowner. He says there is always trash in the street and many renters don't take care of their lawns.
"It's an eyesore," said Desanto, who takes good care of his home.
Desanto thinks there are two reasons behind the unkempt homes in the neighborhood. Either the people are first-time homeowners and don't know how to take care of the place, or they are renters who don't care.
Desanto has two roommates and has had parties in the past.
"I've been issued two tickets," Desanto said. The first cost him $250. The second one was $500. If he gets a third in the same year, it will be $1,000.
"There's no reason for us to be getting on other people's nerves," he said. "If they can hear us, we're being too loud."
Arnold, who lives on North Water, says too often she hears student renters say, "if you don't like it, move."
"It's not just easy to move," Arnold said. "We would, but we can't."
She never thought her home would ever be worth less than what she paid for it.
"We're investors," Arnold said. "We came here to settle down, wait for our homes to increase in value. It's created this mess. I purchased thinking that it was far enough away from the college and I wouldn't have to deal with the partying."