Fearful for their safety and concerned about possible deterioration of their neighborhood, a group of residents, merchants and property owners asked the Glendale City Council on Tuesday to close a motel they described as a hotbed of illegal activity.
“I personally wouldn’t walk down that street at night unless I was accompanied by Mr. T., Rambo and Dirty Harry,” apartment building owner Leonard Bini said, calling the 99 Palms Motel at 1012 Winchester Ave. a “flophouse for transients and derelicts.”
Police said there have been problems in the past at 99 Palms but that no major crime now exists in the neighborhood. Sgt. Thomas Thate, Police Department spokesman, said that motel tenants, many of whom have lived there for a year or more, “have been known to sit out there and drink and have fights” but that he was not aware of any prostitution or other illegal activities that neighbors complain occur there.
City officials said steps have already been taken to clean up activity at the the 17-unit motel near San Fernando Road and promised that it will be closely watched. Those measures were put into motion about the same time in August when the city received a petition signed by more than 200 people asking for action against the motel.
Bini and others who spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting said the motel attracts undesirables who make their neighborhood the scene of fights, dope peddling, prostitution, drinking in the street and vandalism. They complained of being harassed by people loitering in the motel’s parking lot or wandering into nearby businesses.
After a private meeting with city officials, members of the group conceded that things have calmed down recently but said they are worried that the motel will revert to its former state. “It looks cleaned up. Let’s see if it stays that way,” said a skeptical Fay Berlin, manager of the Winchester Room, a nearby bar.
Still, police patrols in the neighborhood will be stepped up to alleviate recurring problems, city officials said.
The motel, where rooms cost $10 and up a night, has irritated the neighborhood and has been cited several times for building and safety-code violations in the last two years, citizens and city officials agree. City records show that a 1984 joint inspection by Glendale officials and Los Angeles County Health Department officials turned up about 75 health and safety violations at the motel, including insect and rat infestation, holes in bathroom ceilings and walls, deteriorated plumbing and exposed electrical wiring. Most of those violations have been corrected, City Atty. Scott Howard said.
Maoson Young, owner of 99 Palms, said he intends to maintain the building in proper condition and to evict any tenants who become troublesome. He blamed problems on the former manager of the motel and a small group of since-evicted tenants, who he said had visitors coming and going all the time.
“We don’t want problems,” Young said. “We want the motel tenants to be quiet and to be good neighbors. Before I rented to people who were no good. I understand that. I cleared them out.”
Misdemeanor counts of building and safety-code violations were filed in August against Young, who lives in Hacienda Heights, but were dropped when conditions improved at the motel, said Scott Howard, senior assistant city attorney for Glendale. “They’re going to be watched to make sure that compliance with the building code and good citizenship are maintained.”
But Young asserted that his motel was not the only source of problems. He said his building has been vandalized by people who hang out around a nearby corner liquor store and other apartment buildings on the street. “They always come over to my motel,” Young said. “They are always over there drinking.”