Planning Commission reviews motel limits

Critics warn that proposed changes could displace the working poor.

April 29, 2014|By Bradley Zint

The Costa Mesa Planning Commission examined a proposal Monday evening that could significantly reduce the number of allowable long-term motel tenants.

Because the city has largely met its most recent requirement to provide affordable housing, "it is no longer essential to authorize long-term stays" at motels to satisfy that mandate, according to city staff.

A state-mandated document called the Housing Element, which addresses citywide housing needs from 2013 to 2021, says Costa Mesa needs only two more low-income housing units. The figure is based what's called the Regional Housing Needs Assessment, which in 2008 said Costa Mesa needed to provide more than 600 low-income units.


Jerry Guarracino, interim assistant director of development services, cited successful affordable-housing programs as one reason Costa Mesa needs far fewer low-income units in the updated Housing Element, approved by the council earlier this year.

Costa Mesa permits most motels to set aside up to 25% of rooms for long-term use, defined as tenants who stay 28 consecutive days or 28 days within a 60-day period. Under proposed Planning Commission changes, that number could dwindle to zero.

The commission could also chose to modify the definition of a long-term stay from 28 to 30 days and mandate quarterly reports of long-term tenants.

Earlier this month, the commission declared that the Sandpiper Motel, 1967 Newport Blvd., was officially "operating as a public nuisance." With the declaration came a reduction in the amount of long-term lodging that the 44-room property could have, from 19 to 11.

City officials said the owner, Mike Lin, has appealed the matter to the council. The commission justified its decision partially on city code enforcement citations levied on the motel, which targeted among other things vermin infestation, hoarding and broken-window screens.

City officials stressed that their intent is not to relocate long-term motel tenants, who might otherwise face homelessness because of financial hardship. Officials have suggested grandfathering in existing motel tenants to prevent displacement.

The commissioners added that motel owners need to be held accountable for any deplorable conditions.

Commissioner Colin McCarthy said the discussion isn't about the tenants, but rather unsavory motel owners.

"That's not what I want to get lost in all the shuffle of this discussion," he said.

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