Saturday, August 19, 2023

5505 Lindo Paseo, SDSU's "hidden" Fraternity disaster zone

We are quickly approaching another semester for the California State University system, so let's run through something San Diego State would love to bury and persuade the English-speaking world to forget.

The property now known as 5505 Lindo Paseo was once two single-story 1950s ranch houses on a street full of them, and all were occupied by fraternities or people wanting to be in fraternities. That was 2007; by 2014 it was a street filling up with multistory student housing, i.e., overpriced, undersized apartments. The nearly-finished building at 5505 was a three story pseudo-mansion with semi-underground parking, and it was to be the headquarters/living space of the Theta Chi fraternity. They got booted out after six years for "hazing violations", with the house left boarded up.

Above: The glory years of the "mansion", aka the late Obama period. (Video posted in 2016.)

Below: The Daily Aztec wandering through the garbage left behind, early January 2020.

The SDSU chapter of Theta Chi was not only kicked out of their house, they were dissolved. After a period of time where the property was abandoned, Kappa Sigma fraternity moved in, even though they were under an "interim suspension" from 2019. I don't know where they were before 2020 (there has been a lot of construction in the general area since 2010, some frat buildings have vanished.) By May of that year they were under suspension until 2022 (read the letter here). While we are on the topic, it should be said that the author of the letter, Carol Montero-Adams (director of Student Life & Leadership) is impossible to speak to either by email, telephone, or possibly in person. Her office is unlisted, her office telephone is unlisted (the telephone number in the letter is for Student Life, not her work number), she does not respond to any email queries. We know what she looks like thanks to the SL&L website, but that's it. But getting back to Kappa Sigma, they kept operating even though the group was suspended. This would bite them later.

Before we continue, there is some backstory that must be discussed, namely how the University and the Fraternities have been at war since the early 2000s, namely because of "Operation Sudden Fall", a sweeping 2008 drug sting run by the Drug Enforcement Agency and SDSU's small police force that arrested 22 drug dealing students and 17 suppliers. Many of the fraternities had members that were involved in these, including Theta Chi, which was suspended to 2012. The properties that became 5505 Lindo Paseo were Theta Chi's conjoined frathouse. Wikipedia has an extensive article on Operation Sudden Fall, even pointing out the student uproar that the DEA had been called in to Federalize these drug crimes, and yet the SDSU president at the time, Stephen Weber, doesn't have even a stub BLP. Put that down as another of Wikipedia's strange gaps, either through oversight or deliberate neglect. At any rate, the University has been coming down on these groups like a hammer ever since, so that at least five unrecognized fraternities are operating, one of them being Kappa Sigma. There seems to be a real push to make SDSU more like UCSD, the University of California research college in nearby La Jolla, even though each university does different things as mandated under the California educational plan (SDSU, by being a former Normal School, is a teaching college; UCSD, as previously stated, was designed for pure research, mostly scientific.) In order for SDSU to reach this arbitrary, pointless goal, it has to suck the joy out going to it, which might be why the new Conrad Prebys Student Center lacks a bar, unlike it's 1960s predecessor, and why the frats are on a short leash. If they are like this with student activities, Heaven help any grad student who tries to organize a union of grad students; the campus police harassment might make for a good lawsuit.

Kappa Sigma operated as it had before suspension, possibly contravening whatever the national KS organization order them to do (we tried to contact them, they would not speak to us at all). It all came to a head in late December of 2022, when Carol Montero-Adams suspended the group until 2030 (read the letter here). However, Champion Real Estate bought the property in September to redevelop it, so the kiss of death was already on the frathouse...except that a company called "Waterwheel Properties" now claims the building as its mailing address, which might explain why it's sitting derelict now. We have tried to talk to Champion Real Estate, they would not reply. At this point I would not be surprised if the SDSU legal team (whomever they are) is deeply involved.

Bonus: Site Photos

Above: If it isn't readily apparent, the landscaping stopped this summer. All of these photos were taken in late July.

Below: A better aspect of what the greens look like now. There is a pair of glasses and an X Box in those weeds.


Above: Broken windows are a running theme in these photos. Notice that the third floor door is wide open.

Below: A window on the side facing 55th Street blown out to the metal frame under the while plastic. All of this damage must have been done by the frat as a final "screw you" before leaving.

Below: The front door with a new-ish coded door latch and a piece of scrap wood to cover the old door handle hole, possible proof that Waterwheel is using the place for something. The building used to have a magnetic lock that could only be opened by student ID (box on the wall to the left.)

Below: Uline office sundries catalogs, possible proof that somebody is using the building for possible office use, or they just got mass-mailed off a list like most businesses and USPS just left them there.

Above: What it looks like inside, taken through the front window.
Below: The back door to the kitchen with a piece of wood over a broken pane.

Below: The kitchen, possibly in the state of being rebuilt. Shot through a door pane.

Below: Shot through the back French doors, here is their bizarre decoration for some sort of final event.

Above: A slightly zoomed shot. The door in the back is the front door, with a black metal frame chandelier hanging above the entrance, a leftover from the first occupants, Theta Chi.
Below: The mattress somebody left in the loading area. Truly a fitting symbol.

We forgot to mention the leaking plumbing hookup on the 55th Street side which created a fetid swamp for 
about one month until the somebody shut off the water to the building, all the parking garage garbage, and how nobody wants to talk about 5505 Lindo Paseo; not the purchaser, not the frat, not the frat's national leadership, not SDSU. This lawsuit is not part of that, but more piling on.