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Commentary: Motor Inn is trying to do the right thing

October 05, 2013|By Jean Forbath

The Costa Mesa Affordable Housing Coalition has been following the Daily Pilot's coverage of our city's motels with great interest. As mentioned in the articles, some motels have served for years as the only affordable long-term housing for many very low-income families in Costa Mesa.

For us, that is a real plus. However, we would never advocate sustaining dangerous, unhealthy and unsafe lodging for these already vulnerable families. We felt we needed to learn more about the charges.

Since the Costa Mesa Motor Inn seemed prominent in the coverage, and since it houses the largest number of families, we toured the facility and met with the manager. From the Pilot's articles, which stated the Motor Lodge has been cited for various violations and fined more than $40,000, we were fully expecting to find something akin to a slum.

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However, we were pleasantly surprised at how well-kept the buildings and grounds were. The site has lovely landscaping with green lawns and lush plants, a large play area with tot-lot equipment and picnic tables.

The motel has a well-maintained swimming pool (where, incidentally, a gentleman was relaxing while reading the paper — a tourist maybe?). The entrance/lobby has a tiled marble fountain. Plans call for repainting the whole motel and repaving the parking lots.

Our group was able to go into one of the newly refurbished rooms. We were impressed with the quality of materials being used and the general desire to provide clean and safe housing.

The manager answered questions and gave us a picture of who his tenants are. He explained that the motel has not paid any fines yet. The management immediately responded to the cited violations, and he estimated that ultimately, the motel may have to pay only about $1,800 in fines.

The most serious charge seemed to be the number of smoke detectors that were not working. He pointed out that most of them only needed to have the batteries replaced. The tenants remove them so the alarms don't go off while they are cooking.

The motel management replaced more than 100 screens, which had some tears, and made minor plumbing repairs, and generally were able to fix most of the more serious violations within 10 days.

We asked him about the large number of police calls reported, and he said the majority of them are for domestic violence. He said many of these families are under a great deal of stress and take their frustrations out on each other.

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