Council to continue motel discussion

The Costa Mesa City Council is scheduled Tuesday to examine a proposed ordinance that would place more restrictions on motels that want to house long-term occupants.

Last month the Planning Commission recommended the new guidelines, which would require that motel owners apply for a new permit if they want to have long-term tenants, newly defined as those who stay longer than 30 consecutive days or 30 days within a 60-day period.

The existing definition is 28 consecutive days or 28 days within a 60-day period.

The motel would also need to have at least 75 total rooms, with the long-term accommodations being at least 375 square feet.

The rooms would also need fireproof safety deposit boxes, regularly scheduled maid and housekeeping services, a kitchen with a sink, a tabletop to prepare food and a microwave or oven.

The ordinance would not displace current long-term motel tenants whose rooms do not comply with all of the proposed mandates.

Affordable-housing advocates have spoken against the law, calling it harmful to the poor who rely on motels as housing of last resort before homelessness. Some were particularly critical of the 375-square-foot room-size minimum, saying motels would require extensive and expensive remodeling to achieve that size.

The commissioners contended that the law is not about excluding the poor, but rather about improving living standards at motels, some of which have been targeted by code enforcement for various health and safety violations.


Second readings

The council will also do a second reading of an ordinance related to the city's hoped-for annexation of Santa Ana/Colleen Island, unincorporated county land abutting the city's Eastside border with Newport Beach.

Last month, the council had initial zoning discussions regarding the nearly 14-acre parcel, which contains an undeveloped 2.11-acre lot poised for new single-family homes.

The council approved minimum 6,600-square-foot lot sizes for the new homes there, a compromise figure slightly higher than the city's 6,000-square-foot minimum but smaller than the county's 7,200 square feet.

Santa Ana/Colleen contains 51 homes and about 150 residents.

The Orange County Local Agency Formation Commission will have the final say on the annexation process. The commission is tentatively scheduled to vote on the matter Aug. 13.

Meanwhile, the proposed ordinance that would codify types of prohibited behavior at council meetings is also up for its second reading.

The council removed the most controversial of the behaviors — being "unduly repetitive" about points of view when addressing the council — during its July 1 meeting. Council members also removed profanity as a wrongdoing.

Councilwoman Wendy Leece was critical of the ordinance, saying it would have a "chilling effect" on free speech and expression. She cast the lone dissenting vote during the ordinance's first reading.

"We're putting our residents on notice as, 'You better think twice because you might be arrested.' I just do not support this," she said.

The current municipal code says that during public comment periods, "personal, impertinent, profane, insolent or slanderous remarks" are prohibited.

The city attorney's office had requested a new ordinance after an appellate court ruled the code unconstitutional and "over-broad."

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