Following a nearly two-hour hearing during which dozens of photographs documenting health and safety violations were presented, the Planning Commission amended the Costa Mesa Motor Inn's operating permit Monday night.
The unanimous decision declared the 236-room motel "operating as a public nuisance" and further limited the number of long-term tenants it could house. The commission added a caveat: No current long-term tenants would be displaced.
Since 1999, the motel at 2277 Harbor Blvd. had been allowed to allocate up to 40% of its rooms for long-term stays, defined as 28 consecutive days or 28 days in a 60-day period. The action by the commission decreased the allocation to no more than 25%, the same as other motels in the city.
Photographs, which were taken by city code enforcement officers and presented to the commission, depicted a host of violations in several of the rooms, including deteriorated air conditioners, electrical hazards, a dead roach, mold, mildew, missing or broken smoke detectors, a toilet in disrepair, grime, dust, trash and debris.
Code Enforcement Officer Jon Neal detailed the city's inspection and reinspection efforts at the Motor Inn in 2013, including a comprehensive raid in August that alleged 490 violations found in 209 rooms. The property later paid nearly $20,000 in direct fines.
Commissioner Colin McCarthy called the "monumental amount of evidence" justification to amend the Motor Inn's permit.
"We've reached the point of putting the period on the end of the sentence on this one," he said.
Lionel Levy, chief operating officer of the Motor Inn's owner, Los Angeles-based Century Quality Management, called the property built in 1972 "outdated" but did not deny the deplorable conditions.
"I wish I had seen these pictures when they were taken, because this is unacceptable," he said.
Levy has been involved in the Motor Inn's operations for the past eight months, often visiting weekly.
He said the Motor Inn's on-site management requests were fulfilled, including following through on purchase orders and pest-control services and fixing unpermitted construction.
"So when I see these pictures, I'm somewhat appalled, and I need to humbly apologize for this," he said.
Levy cited recently renovations that have added new tile, flooring, bedding, air conditioners and blinds.
"Everything is gorgeous," he said.
He mentioned the new plans for the Motor Inn property, first discussed by the City Council in May. Century Quality Management, which manages 5,000 apartments in the Los Angeles area, wants to raze the Motor Inn and replace it with 236 new apartments, Levy said.
Some of those units would be affordable housing, he said.
"What we want to do is replace what exists with something that is new, is beautiful and the community will be proud of," Levy said.
The Motor Inn is not the first motel to be sanctioned by the Planning Commission. In April, commissioners declared that the Sandpiper Motel, 1967 Newport Blvd., was operating as a public nuisance. They reduced the long-term tenants there from up to 40% to 25%.
Sandpiper owner Mike Lin appealed the decision to the City Council, which split on the matter, effectively upholding the planners' decision.