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Motels to pay for excess police calls

Costa Mesa council passes the Excessive Use of Resources Ordinance despite opposition from innkeepers.

January 08, 2014|By Bradley Zint | This post has been corrected, as noted below.
  • The Costa Mesa City Council passed the Excessive Use of Resources Ordinance on Tuesday. The law is designed to help keep problematic properties in line and force them to clean up their act.
The Costa Mesa City Council passed the Excessive Use of… (BRADLEY ZINT, Daily…)

Motels and hotels in Costa Mesa that draw "excessive" amounts of police attention will now have to pay for the extra trouble.

The City Council passed the Excessive Use of Resources Ordinance on Tuesday after a second reading, with a majority — Mayor Jim Righeimer, Mayor Pro Tem Steve Mensinger and Councilman Gary Monahan — contending that the law will help keep problematic properties in line and force them to clean up their act.

Councilwomen Sandy Genis and Wendy Leece, as well as several area innkeepers and their supporters, countered that the law would inhibit people from calling the police for fear of a fine, which in turn would endanger guests.

The ordinance is designed to reimburse city coffers for the "excessive amount of police resources" used to handle recurring "nuisance activities," according to a city staff report. Nuisance activities, according to the ordinance's definition, include persistent noise, gang-related crime, illegal use of a firearm, disturbing the peace, illegal use or sale of fireworks, drug possession or sale, underage drinking, loud parties, and the commission or attempted commission of a violent felony.

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Reporting domestic violence and summoning the Fire Department and ambulance services are not considered nuisance activities under the ordinance.

"Excessive" is defined as above an average of 0.4 calls per room per month. All motels and hotels within the city limits will be affected.

"This whole ordinance is based upon the fact that if you operate like a majority of the hotels and you manage your issues, you don't have problems," Mensinger said, adding that some motel owners, whom he called "slumlords," expect the Police Department to be practically their on-site security staff.

Righeimer acknowledged that Costa Mesa motels act as homes to people who have nowhere else to go, but that living conditions in some are deplorable and shouldn't be tolerated.

"We are compassionate people … but this is not a way to run a business," he said. "This is not a way to run a city. This is not a way to run these properties."

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'Disappointed'

Leece and Genis voted in favor of the ordinance during its first reading Dec. 3 but reversed course in the weeks leading up to Tuesday's vote. The two met with some motel owners earlier this month, as did Righeimer and Mensinger in December.

Leece called the ordinance a burden on small businesses levied by a "growing government" and "more bureaucracy."

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