Sandpiper Motel, Costa Mesa

The Sandpiper Motel next to Newport Boulevard and the 55 Freeway in Costa Mesa. (Don Leach, Daily Pilot / May 7, 2013)

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Mike Lin knows his motel is not the best lodging choice in Costa Mesa.

Customers at the Sandpiper Motel, he said, cannot expect five-star service from a one-star or "no-star" establishment.

After all, the Sandpiper is not, unlike the Westin, within walking distance of the world-renowned South Coast Plaza. It doesn't have a trendy on-site restaurant or temperature-controlled rain forest shower heads like one would find at the Crowne Plaza.

It doesn't even have a pool — a basic amenity of many motels, including the Vagabond Inn off Harbor Boulevard.

"It's not luxury," Lin admitted, standing in the motel's front office. "It's pretty basic."

Next to Lin was Councilwoman Wendy Leece, who on Monday morning took up his offer of a tour. She wanted to see for herself the conditions at the Newport Boulevard motel before making a decision that would affect the business' ability to have several long-term tenants.

Lin took her into the manager's office and apologized for the mess. He soon clarified that, unlike the back office, the front office is kept clean because that's what the customers see.

He pointed up front to the coffee pot and box of pastries. They're free, he noted.

At check-in, the Sandpiper requires photo identification for all its guests, about 80% of whom pay with cash. Lin keeps a photocopy of the IDs for his records.

Lin then took Leece to the second story, down the corridor and inside one of the vacant corner rooms.

"It's like the '60s and '70s," Leece remarked, adding that the decor reminded her of the motels where her family would stay when she was young. The Sandpiper was built in 1959.

While visiting another room, Leece made a closer inspection of the furniture. Though it looked like it had been around a while, it seemed functional — like the motel. "It's nice and clean, but a little old," Lin said.

Leece told Lin that she doesn't think the government should be telling him he needs to update the dressers — a point she would make the following day to her council colleagues.

"It's up to you," she said. "It's your business. The government has no right to tell people to polish furniture."

Lin told her he feels frustrated. City code enforcement officers visited his property several times last year, as they did other motels. The visits generated violations against his business, among them missing or broken window screens, peeling baseboards, mildew, peeling paint, damaged walls, broken door knobs, a dead roach and, in one case, severe hoarding.

The hoarding in Room 139 has since been resolved and the room remodeled. The tenant there, an elderly World War II veteran, found assistance after he left the Sandpiper, where he had lived for about five years.

"One case doesn't make everything seem that we don't care," Lin said.

Lin noted that he has now spent more money fixing Room 139 than he makes from it.

"Hang in there," Leece told him. "You're doing the best you can."

Lin added that he's not sure what's he's doing wrong. He said he would like to change his business, but the market drives his low price and he's meeting that demand.