Anaheim cracks down on motels accused of attracting drug trafficking and prostitution

As part of the city’s effort to revitalize a 1.5-mile stretch of Beach Boulevard, Anaheim officials have cracked down on motels they say attract drug use, prostitution and other crime to the city. region.

Much of the iconic street shopping corridor that opened in 1934 as a thoroughfare to Orange County beaches has fallen into disrepair. Among other development projects aimed at revitalizing the boulevard, cities like Anaheim, Buena Park, and Stanton have focused on problematic motels as a way to improve the community.

This week, the Anaheim City Council voted to tighten restrictions on the Anaheim Lodge and Travel Inn. Police say crime has increased at both properties in recent months.

“Much of the criminal activity along Beach Boulevard stems from poorly run motels that facilitate an environment conducive to illegal activities such as drug dealing, illegal gambling halls, slap houses and prostitution,” a said Ted White, director of the city’s planning and construction department. . “These criminal activities result in assaults, shootings, drug overdoses, deaths, human trafficking and property crimes along the boulevard.”

The council voted to impose a series of conditions on the two motels, including the creation of a safety and operating plan that will be renewed annually, the presence of a manager on site 24 hours a day, cleaning services daily newspapers, a ban on short-term rentals, a requirement that guests be at least 21 years old to rent a room, and regular maintenance such as trash and graffiti removal.

City Council addressed the issue Tuesday night in response to motels’ appeal for a similar Planning Commission decision earlier this year. A lawyer for the motels filed an appeal claiming that the police illegally entered and searched the properties, and that there was no evidence that the motels were breaking the law or creating a public nuisance, among other reasons.

“I don’t doubt there could be issues with the people who live there or with some of the criminal areas in general, but isolating a few motels and then just imposing the conditions arbitrarily is not the way to go,” said attorney Frank Weiser, who represents the motels. “Getting to the bottom of what they are doing, my clients have no objection to voluntarily working with the city to try to uncover any alleged nuisance activity. in the area. To that extent, I think they have gone above and beyond what they are required to do.

Anaheim cracks down on two motels, the Anaheim Lodge and the Travel Inn, which allegedly attract crime.

(Ben Brazil / Daily Driver)

Weiser said the motels are already meeting a number of conditions imposed this week by the city, including establishing a safety and operating plan, 24-hour on-site management, daily cleaning services, a ban on short-term rentals and regular maintenance. He said his clients object to the city imposing the condition that gives officials the power to later revoke a business license and shut it down.

Weiser also complained about the meeting’s proceedings, saying he and his customers never received the “documentary evidence” the city used to make claims against the motels.

“How am I supposed to refute an accusation in which I see no documentary evidence?” he said. “…It seems so fundamentally clear that this is just a violation of due process.”

The city council was unswayed by Weiser’s argument and approved the 6-0 terms, with councilman Jose Diaz recused. Councilman Jose Moreno said it was the council’s responsibility to rein in problem businesses.

“If they become a nuisance and a danger to public health and safety according to the measures we use, that deserves special attention,” Moreno said. “We are moving towards modification to better secure the health of this community and improve it as part of the reconstruction of the beach [Boulevard] what we are trying to do. So yes, it is in the city’s interest that this section of the boulevard become safer.

Buena Park and Stanton are also investing in revitalizing the boulevard.

Buena Park bought motels and replaced them with restaurants, modern hotels and other attractions. Stanton has also purchased motels and turned them into housing for the homeless through the statewide Project Homekey program, which involves the purchase and rehabilitation of vacant hotels, motels, apartments and other buildings. The program was introduced by the state amid the pandemic as a way to transition homeless people into permanent housing from Project Roomkey, another pandemic-era state program that placed homeless Californians shelter in hotel rooms to reduce the risk of spreading COVID.

Anaheim is also involved in the Homekey project. Late last month, he received $26.5 million in state funding to convert a Studio 6 motel on Harbor Boulevard into affordable housing. The city has also partnered with the Jamboree Housing Corp. to transform a former Econo Lodge motel on West La Palma Avenue into affordable housing for veterans, psychiatric patients and formerly homeless people. The property was the first of its kind in Anaheim since the city passed an ordinance in 2019 allowing motels and other commercial and office structures to be converted into affordable housing.