Betsy Bredau and her community watchdog group, Safe Streets Now!, have been dealt a rare setback by a Small Claims Court judge, who rejected 14 suits filed by neighbors against a downtown hotel owner.
Judge John S. Lane ruled against neighbors who had filed suits against Vanmalibhai Galal, owner of the 10-room Arcade Hotel at 1097 Long Beach Blvd. Lane did not explain the ruling and was not available for comment. The complaints had accused Galal of operating a haven for prostitution and drug activity.
"Obviously, there is nothing going on in this property," said Galal's son, Mahesh, who manages the inn for his father. "This is just malicious prosecution."
The neighbors had sought $5,000 each from Galal for mental and emotional distress they say they have suffered while living near the inn. The lawsuits were patterned after a Safe Streets Now! strategy that tries to help neighborhoods root out drug dealers and troublemakers by taking owners of problem properties to Small Claims Court. The program was recently awarded a $20,000 grant by the city to conduct six neighborhood workshops over the next two months.
Bredau said this was the second time one of the group's efforts had been unsuccessful since she brought the program to Long Beach in August. All but five of the group's 55 campaigns have been settled out of court, she said.
The elder Galal has filed a suit in Superior Court against Bredau, alleging that most of his tenants have moved out because of what he described as harassment by her group.