Costa Mesa hotels will have to pay a fine if they attract an "excessive" amount of police attention under a new law aimed at properties run by what one City Council member referred to as "slumlords."
Under the ordinance approved Tuesday, motels and hotels could incur fines of hundreds of dollars if they generate above an average 0.4 calls per room per month for recurring "nuisance activities." Those activities were defined as including persistent noise, gang-related crime, illegal use of a firearm, disturbing the peace, illegal use or sale of fireworks, drug possession or sale, underage drinking and loud parties. Violent felonies are also covered.
Righeimer acknowledged that Costa Mesa motels act as homes to people who have nowhere else to go, but that living conditions in some are deplorable and shouldn't be tolerated.
"We are compassionate people … but this is not a way to run a business," he said. "This is not a way to run a city. This is not a way to run these properties."
Critics of the law, including two City Council members and several local innkeepers, say it will inhibit people from calling the police for fear of a fine, which in turn would endanger guests.
"I think we're opening a
Councilwoman Sandy Genis also questioned the logic of singling out motels for their use of police services when apartments, bars and shopping areas might be equally troublesome.
"I've yet to see the data that tells me they are the problem business," she said.
Representatives from the
Affordable-housing advocates also urged the council not to pass the law, contending it would hurt the poor who rely on motels for shelter.
Lili Graham of the Santa Ana-based Public Law Center said the ordinance would deter crime reporting and thus give motel owners police-like authority to handle problems.
"That's giving a lot of power to landlords, who are business people, not police officers," she said.