Fullerton denies resident use of property as emergency student housing

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Larry Rovira voices his case before City Council for his house to be converted to emergency student housing.

Fullerton resident Larry Rovira was denied a conditional-use permit (CUP) to use his property as emergency student housing on a 4-1 vote. Rovira’s neighbors protested his appeal on suspicions that the permit was to turn the property into a fraternity house because of his association with Sigma Pi.

The CUP would have allowed Rovira to house 10 students on his property at 1155 West Orangethorpe Ave., a 3,770 square-foot property with five bedrooms and three baths currently listed at $1.1 million. The property is 2.8 miles away from Fullerton College, and is surrounded by smaller, single-family homes on all sides.

Rovira’s appeal had been denied before, as he filed one on Dec. 12, 2018. Rovira said that previous denials to use his property as emergency student housing were over items such as maximum occupancy, which they have since come to agree upon.

His neighbors, however, questioned the authenticity of Rovira’s proposal to turn the home into emergency student housing for students, citing increased traffic, noise complaints from parties and the property’s location as reasons for denial.

Their suspicions stem from Rovira’s ties to Sigma Pi as the vice president of their alumni club for the fraternity, which once resulted in a bizarre gathering of around 60 to 80 members chanting his name outside the property.

Leonel Talavera, a resident of Fullerton for 10 years, said the event made him lose trust in Rovira’s plans even though Rovira was open and communicative with Talavera’s questions and suggestions.

“It started about noon and went for a couple hours, and everyone showed up wearing their shirts, Sigma Pi,” Talavera said.“It was just kind of the way he went about it could’ve been a little bit different.”

The denial was upheld 4-1 with Mayor Silva being the lone dissenter. Silva shared his own neighborhood experience, saying he felt there is large stigma against young people and fraternities from the Fullerton residents.

“I walk the neighborhood fairly regularly, and I’ve never heard anyone complain about them, so there is a place where the young people are going to behave differently, they are not going to just fall under one basket, and that’s why I wanted to see this work,” Silva said about the sororities and the fraternities that live in that area.

Talavera said he knows who he would like to take over the residence in the future.

“Someone that’s going to be honest, open and transparent about what their plans are,” he said.

Rovira stated that he wishes to keep the property but if he lost, he would consider selling it. The property is currently listed for sale at $1.1 million, and another appeal seems unlikely.

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