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Planners limit long-term stays at motel

Commission decides the Sandpiper was not being properly maintained and changes its operating permit.

April 15, 2014|By Bradley Zint
  • The Sandpiper Motel in Costa Mesa.
The Sandpiper Motel in Costa Mesa. (Don Leach / Daily…)

Citing conditions ranging from hoarding and vermin infestation to broken window screens, the Costa Mesa Planning Commission on Monday night unanimously agreed that a Newport Boulevard motel has been operating as a public nuisance.

During a series of inspections from May to November, the Sandpiper Motel was found to have various signs of improper maintenance — inoperable smoke detectors, peeling baseboards, water damage and broken tiles — as well as public health hazards, such as mildew and hoarding, according to evidence presented Thursday by city code enforcement staff.

The commission's decision, which followed a nearly three-hour hearing, effectively changed the 44-room motel's operating permit to allow for fewer long-term tenants — those defined in the city code as guests who stay more than 28 consecutive days or 28 days within a 60-day period.

The Sandpiper, 1967 Newport Blvd., can now dedicate 11 rooms, or 25%, to long-term stays. Since 1999, the motel had been allowed to use 19 rooms, or 40%, for long-term tenants.

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The five-member body also agreed with the allegation that the Sandpiper's staff was not ensuring regular maintenance of the property, as required by its permit.

The commission's decision follows Mayor Jim Righeimer's call last September that city staff examine the Sandpiper's operating permit, specifically with regard to how people were living there long-term in reputedly deplorable conditions.

Deputy City Atty. Elena Gerli on Monday questioned the Sandpiper's maintenance procedures.

"It is doubtful that these monthly inspections are being conducted," she said, adding that the problems "were ultimately corrected due to the city's insistence and the city's enforcement levels."

City officials did credit the motel's owner, Mike Lin, with quickly fixing most of the violations, which also included an improperly installed water heater, graffiti, peeling paint and damaged walls.

"My reaction from [Lin] is that, 'We'll clean it up as soon as we possibly can,'" said Code Enforcement Officer Jon Neal.

Lin has owned the 44-room motel, built in 1959, for 10 years. He also owns a Travelodge next to the Sandpiper and manages apartments.

Lin's attorney, Allan Calomino, contended that most of the Sandpiper's violations were "cosmetic," not health-related.

Together they do not rise to the level of a public nuisance, he said.

"We've done what you want from a respectable business owner: Comply with the city and make adjustments," Calomino said.

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