City Suit Alleges Illegal Frat House

In a decade-long fight with a Cal State Fullerton fraternity, the city has filed a lawsuit alleging that the organization is illegally operating a house on Teri Place.

Filed in Orange County Superior Court last week, the lawsuit states that the Epsilon Nu chapter of Sigma Pi Fraternity Inc. has been conducting fraternity business and sponsoring parties without city permits. It alleges that the people living in the frat house have "disturbed the peace of their neighborhood and caused police to respond to continuous complaints . . . and continue to have a grave negative impact on the community."

City officials said the fraternity was denied a permit by the Planning Commission in 1988 on grounds that the property was filthy, had broken windows and had dead grass and trash in the yard. Sigma Pi appealed to the City Council and was granted the permit under conditions that numerous repairs and changes be made to the house.

The fraternity rejected the conditions and sued the city. The city successfully countersued, and the frat house was declared a public nuisance in 1989. A year later, Sigma Pi again applied for an operating permit and was denied by the Planning Commission, which cited police calls to the house at 2100 Teri Place.

The latest lawsuit alleges that the fraternity has been operating illegally out of the house since 1994 or 1995.

According to the lawsuit, shots were fired from the roof of the house in May 1997, shattering several windows at a nearby apartment complex. It also states that a fraternity member was arrested on suspicion of burglarizing another frat house three months ago and that a number of people have been arrested as a result of drinking in public and disorderly conduct during loud and out-of-control parties.

"The city's position is the fraternity is operating illegally," City Atty. Richard D. Jones said Monday. The city also wants the property owner, John Merino, to be prohibited from renting his house to any Sigma Pi member.

Merino said Monday that that would be unconstitutional.

"It's illegal," he said. "How can they tell me I can't rent to someone because of the group he belongs to?"

Merino also said his property is not an official frat house. Only a few Sigma Pi members live there, he said, and they hold their meetings at Cal State Fullerton.

Fraternity officials could not be reached for comment.

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