Branding it an "open and blatant" haven for drug pushers and prostitutes, the City Council earlier this month revoked the business license of the Glenmore Hotel, closing a decades-old downtown structure that long ago went to seed.
Glenmore owner Albert C. Eisen, a 70-year-old Malibu resident who bought the hotel in 1962, said that even though he visits the property about three times a week, he only recently became aware of its problems.
Nevertheless, Eisen did not ask the council to reconsider its action. Instead, he pleaded only that city officials delay the revocation, explaining that he has agreed to sell the hotel to the city's Redevelopment Agency but would like to keep collecting rent until the 100 or so low-income tenants relocate. His attorney, Walter R. Tucker III, argued that to deny Eisen a temporary stay would be punishing him for the acts of people he can't control.
But the council refused to wait. With Councilman Floyd A. James absent and Mayor Walter R. Tucker abstaining because his son is Eisen's lawyer, the remaining three members voted unanimously to lift the license after reviewing Police and Fire Department reports that chronicled two dozen incidents since January.
Gazing down at the pack of papers, Councilman Maxcy D. Filer said: "There's enough in this one police report, as far as I'm concerned, to say, 'Yes, that license should be revoked' . . . for the simple reason of what has gone on there."
In the report on a narcotics raid at the hotel, one resident admitted to officers that she is a prostitute and told them of a variety of allegedly illegal activity on the part of other residents.
"We would have to be blind, deaf, unintelligent if we didn't know what had gone on in the past years," Filer continued. "There's just no possible way you could have lived here or read any newspaper from here to not know what has gone on."
Filer said the city should have closed the three-story, 45-unit building "at least two or three years ago. I don't think we should let it go on one minute more."
Tells of Son's Death
John Maxwell, who serves on a city jobs training advisory board and also writes a column in a local newspaper, rose from the audience to tell how his son had died from a drug overdose in 1971 while at the Glenmore. For nearly 16 years, Maxwell said, he has been "hoping" that the hotel would someday "be blown off the face of the Earth."
While stressing that Eisen "is in no way insensitive" to problems at the hotel, attorney Tucker argued that the council was relying on crime reports that were either incomplete or had been presented to the owner only minutes before the license hearing, limiting his opportunity for rebuttal.
Tucker said police did not contact Eisen about the problems until May. And when the hotel owner went to headquarters to discuss the situation, the officer who had set up the meeting was called away before they could talk. The appointment was never rescheduled, Tucker said.
"He just feels that based on the information that's before him, that he's not getting a fair shake," the lawyer concluded. "He did not know about these things (in the reports) particularly. . . . Had he known, he would have done something."
Filer countered that council members would never be able to revoke a business license "if you permit the owners to plead ignorance of what's going on."
2 Years of Negotiation
Over the past two years, the Community Redevelopment Agency has been negotiating to buy the Glenmore, which stands on Palmer Street near Tamarind Avenue within the Northside Downtown Redevelopment District.
When the agency offered Eisen $315,000 for the property, records show, he responded with a March 8, 1986, letter stating that he was "flabbergasted by the (proposal's) lack of reality." He argued that the offer overlooked the hotel's total business value. "Your offer is so far out of line that I must assume that your appraiser does not have sufficient competence to judge the relevance of income in an income-producing property," the hotel owner wrote, "or I am being subject to an arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable abuse of power by a government agency."
Decided to Accept Offer
In a recent interview, Eisen said he had planned to fight the city's attempt to take the property. But when the council moved to revoke his business license, he said he weighed the alternatives and decided on the advice of his lawyer to accept the Redevelopment Agency's slightly higher offer of $347,750.
When Eisen mentioned the pending sale during the hearing, however, Filer said the transaction was "irrelevant" to the issues surrounding the business license debate. Filer also chided Eisen for remarking that neighborhoods throughout Compton--not just around the Glenmore--are confronted by serious drug problems.
'Dope All Over'
"Sir," said Filer, "you did mention that there was 'Dope all over Compton.' That might be true. However, there's dope all over Malibu, too."
"Sir, I'm not making a case that Compton is special," Eisen replied. "There's dope all over the U.S.A. And I can't feel that the council should hold me responsible for the dope that exists at the Glenmore Hotel."
Councilman Robert L. Adams was sympathetic to Eisen, saying that many of the city's landlords "really aren't aware of what's going on." But he said the council must nevertheless take action to stem drug activity. He then joined Filer and Councilwoman Jane D. Robbins in casting the revocation vote.