Costa Mesa council moves to clean up city's motels

Calling for civil fines and penalties against motel owners, some Costa Mesa City Council members Tuesday criticized a dozen properties they deemed as ongoing nuisances.

Councilman Steve Mensinger, citing a city investigation, said many of Costa Mesa's motel residents live in cluttered, dirty rooms that violate city codes, and police are often called to the properties to settle crimes.

Mensinger and Mayor Eric Bever asked city CEO Tom Hatch to issue fines and other civil penalties to bring the hotels up to code.

"This is a resource drain, no question at all," Mensinger said.

He and others on the council have prioritized cleaning up motels along Harbor and Newport boulevards. At times, they've suggested taxing occupants more than at other properties, and called for the city to buy the motels and redevelop their land.

The motels, however, offer some of the most affordable housing in the city, and the council may face opposition from regulators and activists who want to preserve housing for low-income families.

City fire and building safety officials, and county heath officials, visited the Regency Inn on Newport Boulevard and other motels that offer extended stays. They found soiled mattresses, rooms stacked high with clothing and other goods, and insect infestations.

"What we discovered was pretty disturbing," said Rick Francis, the assistant city CEO.

Francis said 12 motels generated 1,677 calls for police service in 2011 — about 2% of the Police Department's total 87,000 calls. They included domestic disturbances, drugs and other charges. He showed a photo with a discarded syringe and another of a stained mattress.

"It should not be something that humans even come in contact with," he said.

Francis added that it may be difficult to ultimately shut down some of the motels because the city relies on them to fulfill the state's affordable-housing requirements.

Twitter: @mreicher

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