City fines motel $40,000 for alleged violations

Costa Mesa city officials issued more than $40,000 in fines earlier this month to a Harbor Boulevard motel known for its frequent police presence and allegedly unsanitary living conditions.

Code enforcement and police personnel visited the Costa Mesa Motor Inn on Aug. 15.

The 236-room property, at 2277 Harbor Blvd., received about $19,000 in direct fines and $23,000 worth of fix-it tickets, which the owner has 30 days to rectify, according to city officials.

"It's just a holistic approach to everything in the city," said Mayor Jim Righeimer, who saw some of the alleged violations firsthand while accompanying code enforcement during the inspection. "Usually businesses that have a lot of calls for police and fire usually have a lot other issues. And you go in there and, sure enough, they have a lot of issues.

"They're not maintaining their property and they're not being good neighbors."

Officials cited various health and safety problems within about 200 rooms at the motel, which takes up nearly 4 acres. They included unkempt conditions, hoarding, inoperable or disconnected smoke detectors and insect infestation.

A call for comment from the on-site Motor Inn manager was not immediately returned.

"The city's job is not to be the property manager for a hotel owner," Righeimer said. "They need to manage their own properties. We can't continue to go out to the properties and give them a fix-it list and not get at the root of the problem."

Inspectors also targeted the Motor Inn in March. They visited 14 rooms, all occupied. The Orange County Health Department took several rooms out of service for inadequate sanitation, according to city documents.

The Motor Inn is permitted to make available up to 94 rooms, or 40%, for long-term occupancy, according to the city's Housing Element, a state-mandated document that addresses housing needs.

"I think that the community needs to be aware of the motel health and safety issues," said Jim Fitzpatrick, chairman of Costa Mesa Planning Commission.

He said the problems with certain hotels in the city aren't new and that Costa Mesa has been trying to address them with some kind of task force at least since the 1990s.

Fitzpatrick, who also watched code enforcement representatives during the inspection of the Motor Inn, applauded their efficiency, likening the process to a smoothly running automobile assembly line.

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