Open the Floodgates: Over a month later, students are still displaced after Chapman Grand flood

Chapman Grand was opened to student living in fall of 2018. Photo by Brandon Winchester.


A month after the flood at Chapman Grand that displaced 94 residents, some refugees from the deluge say they have yet to be told when they can reoccupy the apartments for which they paid a premium.

“The school could have updated us better during that time, definitely. I had no idea how bad my apartment was or still when anything’s going to be fixed,” said Karlie Angelis, a sophomore screenwriting major.

The evening of January 11th a water main broke at Chapman Grand affecting 61 apartments. Chapman relocated the students to vacant rooms in Chapman Grand and Panther Village, and some chose to commute.

“The total cost of repair and the timeline for students to return is still not defined,” Vice President of Strategic Marketing and Communications, Jamie Ceman acknowledged in an email.

The night of the flood, a fire alarm went off in all of Chapman Grand. Students received an email from the university that stated the water was shut off and residents would be separately notified if their room had been affected and how to access rooms to pick up necessary belongings.

We will continue to provide timely updates via e-mail as we gather more information and have a clearer picture of the extent of the damage and repair timeline,” the email stated.

Following the flood, the university sent emails to affected students every week. These emails gave little new information. The updates were “literally the same thing,” said Dylan Derakhshanian, sophomore political science and communication studies double major. “Just that they still don’t know when our rooms would get fixed.”

Rather than going room by room, repairs are happening in chunks – with floors, walls, and pipes being done en masse – according to an email that Ashley Park, sophomore health science major, received from the university.

“(The university) did a fantastic job, minus giving us a timeline for when we were going to get moved in,” Derakhshanian said.

Because housing costs are calibrated by semester and the flood occurred during interterm,  students had not yet paid their rent at Chapman Grand, meaning no refunds were issued.

Derakhshanian said he was given options in an email regarding where he could move. Chapman has given students the option to relocate permanently into a vacant room in Chapman Grand or Panther Village or the option to temporarily move to another apartment at either Panther Village or Chapman Grand, until repairs on their currently damaged rooms, are complete.

Some students have given up on ever moving back into their old apartments, promoted as offering a luxury undergraduate experience.

Angelis and Derakhshanian both moved to Panther Village and plan to stay until the end of the semester, regardless of whether their rooms are ever repaired. Derakhshanian said parking is easier at Panther Village, where he can get his Postmates stress-free.

“I actually like it more than my place at Grand. It’s homey here and they have full beds,” Angelis said.

The first night, students were left to fend for themselves, said Park. Park was in Riverside. Friends grabbed her things and moved them into Panther Village for her while she raced back.

“I know a friend of mine who had to take in someone they didn’t even know,” said Nathalia Castillo, sophomore health science major.

Park was also relocated to Panther Village, but was not pleased with the accommodation.

“My temporary key card didn’t work until the third time I tired it,” Park said. “We walked in and the door wouldn’t close properly, it wasn’t really flushed to the top or the bottom – and it was super dirty.”

Instead, she slept on an air mattress for over a month in Castillo’s not-flooded Chapman Grand apartment.

“It was all super stressful, and I felt bad for Nathalia. I thought, geeze, what do I do if I’m still here by the time spring semester starts?”

Park was still sleeping on the floor two weeks into the spring semester. February 8th, Castillo was finally moved to a new apartment in Chapman Grand.

After the first flood Public Safety entered rooms to wrap up furniture and belongings in plastic wrap to minimize damage, Derakhshanian said. When they found damage, the university provided forms for students to receive compensation for ruined belongings.

“Thanks to the herculean efforts of the Department of Residence Life and First Year Experience, all the impacted students were offered the chance to remain in student housing and a process was quickly put in place to consider reimbursement of damage to personal property,” Ceman said in an official response.

The University is not liable for damage caused by students in apartments, according to the Residence License Agreement, a form every student in Chapman housing has to sign. However, the form fails to mention who the liability falls on in the event of a flood or facilities error.

A moving company was also hired by Chapman to help students store and transport their belongings, Derakhshanian said.

Park had a negative experience with the moving company.

For three days 16 boxes of Park’s belongings went missing.

Park had emailed Dave Sundby, Director of Residence Life and First Year Experience, asking if she could store belongings in the cabinets of her flooded room, since they were not damaged by the flood. Sundby responded to the email saying this was fine, and that they would notify her if her belongings had to be moved. Park returned to her room the next day with Castillo to find all 16 boxes gone.

“All of the cabinets were completely empty, and nobody reached out to Ashley to ask for permission to move the belongings,” Castillo said.

Public Safety found the 16 boxes in another students room and they were delivered back to Park three days later.

“It’s just really bad communication on everyone’s part. And I feel like (the university) could have done a better job at communicating with students,” Park said.

The carpet of the first floor in building Quad D; still under repair. Photo by Brandon Winchester.

Outside one flood affected room. Photo by Brandon Winchester.

A hallway appearing to be undamaged by flooding in Quad D. Photo by Brandon Winchester.

Correction: In an earlier version of this article, cutlines for pictures said flood damage was to Quad B in Chapman Grand. Cutlines have been corrected to show the photos depicted  Quad D, where the flood occurred. Also, an earlier version of the story said students were notified their rooms had been flooded within an hour. That passage has been corrected.

Claire Treu and Brandon Winchester

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