Planners to tackle ‘problem’ motels


The Costa Mesa Planning Commission will begin examining a series of measures Monday aimed at addressing problematic motels in the city.

The five-member commission won’t take any specific action during its 6 p.m. meeting at City Hall but will receive a report highlighting problems stemming from some motels, among them prostitution, drug dealing and nuisance complaints.

Many of the problems, according to the report, stem from long-term motel stays, officially defined as more than 28 consecutive days or 28 days in any 60-day period.


City officials said the motels, originally patronized by tourists, became less financially viable once tourism waned in the decades following the 1950s. That caused some motel owners to rent rooms to guests seeking longer stays at reduced rates.

“As longer-tenured guests started to fill the reduced-rate rooms, public nuisances and crime started to follow in and around many motel properties,” according to city staff.

The Planning Commission is tentatively scheduled at its Nov. 12 meeting to

examine the permits for two properties that are allowed to have more than 25% of their rooms available for long-term guests: the Costa Mesa Motor Inn, 2277 Harbor Blvd., and the Sandpiper Motel, 1967 Newport Blvd.

The plans come after Mayor Jim Righeimer — a vocal critic of the so-called problem motels — singled out the two properties during the Sept. 17 council meeting.

“You go into these motel rooms and it breaks your heart,” he said. “It is wrong to have people living in motels with pimps and prostitutes and having children nearby.”

The Motor Inn, which has 236 rooms, received more than $40,000 worth of fines in August. A code enforcement investigation alleged 490 violations within 209 inspected rooms, among them hoarding, mold, unkempt conditions and defective or missing smoke alarms.

About $23,000 of the fines, which were fix-it violations, have since been voided and certain problems fixed, officials said earlier this week.

In addition to examining the Motor Inn and Sandpiper permits, at a future meeting the commission will be looking at an ordinance designed to reduce the amount of long-term stays at any motel from 25% to 10%. Should planners recommend that ordinance, it would face final City Council approval.

The motels problems of 2013, however, are nothing new and were previously addressed in the 1996 Newport Boulevard Specific Plan, city staff wrote.