Islamic Center of Tucson

Islamic Center of Tucson, in foreground.

Residents of a high-rise student housing complex near the University of Arizona are facing evictions for tossing objects from their north-side balconies.

GMH Capital Partners, owners of the Sol Y Luna apartments, identified the students while reviewing video surveillance tapes after similar incidents occurred on the south side of the property, facing the Islamic Center of Tucson, 901 E. First St.

Taha Hasan, director of public relations for the Islamic Center of Tucson, said four residents were evicted for tossing objects from north-side balconies — not facing the center — but Bruce Pilarczyk, the senior vice president of marketing for the company, said the number of evictions cannot yet be determined.

The residents connected to the mosque vandalism have not been identified.

“We’re following the lease and the process for evictions (for north-side residents),” said Rand Ginsburg, the senior vice president of asset services. “Notices have been issued and that process has been started.”

In the last two weeks, the Islamic Center of Tucson has noted four separate incidents of residents throwing trash, particularly alcohol bottles and cans, from their balconies and into the parking lot of the mosque, Hasan said.

A cell phone video by a member of the center captured debris plummeting from a lighted balcony and smashing into the parking lot below.

Wednesday night, the property managers discussed shutting down the balconies surrounding the lighted window visible in the cell phone video and interviewing students in nearby units in an attempt to find the residents who were responsible, said City Councilman Steve Kozachik.

The Wednesday night meeting included representatives from the mosque, the ownership company, the Tucson Police Department, the University of Arizona, the city and the West University Neighborhood Association.

Kozachik said the meeting also included a commitment from the property to implement a round-the-clock foot patrol on the interior and exterior of the building and install cameras that film continuously, not just when motion is detected.

“I also suggested that because these are annual leases, that they proactively shut down the balconies to the exterior and no longer lease these buildings as buildings with balconies,” Kozachik said, adding the company acknowledged the liability issues at the meeting.

Ginsburg added that GMH Capital Partners does “reserve the right to restrict the students” from the balconies.

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“If this continues and we feel the students are mistreating the balconies, it’s an avenue we will absolutely pursue,” he said.

The Islamic Center of Tucson first made the issue public in the fall of 2014, after more than a year of dealing with the problem alone. The previous property owner, Cardinal Group Management, instituted a $1,000 fine, potential eviction and the possibility of criminal prosecution for dropping anything from balconies.

Last week, GMH Capital Partners sent a letter to parents and students outlining a “zero tolerance policy for any such behavior” and promising a similar response, including reporting such incidents to law enforcement and the University of Arizona.

The Islamic Center has also reported that residents have yelled racial slurs at mosque-goers.

Following the meeting, “Everybody is on the same page,” Hasan said. “We’re all going to be working to find a longterm solution to make sure this doesn’t happen again and make sure everybody is safe.”

Contact Johanna Willett at jwillett@jwillett@tucson.com or 573-4357. On Twitter: @JohannaWillett