Conditions "Heartbreaking and Inhumane"
Anaheim, Calif.- Anaheim has shut down a Beach Boulevard motel for public safety and health concerns and relocated those who had been living there.
The Covered Wagon Motel at 823 S. Beach Blvd. was shut down March 29 as officials from Anaheim Planning & Building red tagged the building, designating it unsafe for people to occupy.
The motel was red tagged for public health and safety violations including open electrical wiring, water leaks, sewage problems, lack of smoke detectors, mold, filth and squalor.
"The conditions at this motel were heartbreaking and inhumane."Mayor Harry Sidhu
"We are working together to bring real change to Beach Boulevard," Mayor Harry Sidhu said. "The conditions at this motel were heartbreaking and inhumane. Thankfully, this action will change people's lives for the better in our ongoing effort to rebuild Beach as a place west Anaheim and all of our city can be proud of."
The red tagging is part of Anaheim's efforts to address issues with motels on Beach Boulevard and to ensure they are operating safely, legally and according to basic standards. Conditions at the Covered Wagon were inhumane with safety hazards, filth, waste and signs of drug use and human trafficking and prostitution.
While some motels along Beach operate well, others contribute to serious problems including sex trafficking, illegal gambling and chronic drug use including fentanyl and methamphetamine.
The Covered Wagon was shut down by a city team led by Planning & Building and Code Enforcement and including Anaheim Police, the city attorney's office, Anaheim Housing Authority, city administration and social workers from Anaheim's Community Care Response Team, a joint effort of the city and nonprofit City Net.
People onsite, relocation
There were about 25 people onsite in about a dozen rooms at the time the Covered Wagon was shut down. They included about five long-term residents, including a family and seniors.
Long-term residents were relocated by social workers to a better motel with vouchers covering the cost of their stay and the city providing free transportation and storage of belongings as needed.
By state law, those relocated also are eligible for support from the property owner in the case of a red tagged building.
Before the motel was shut down, social workers worked with residents for five days leading up to the closure as well as on the day of and after.
Social workers relocated about five families in the days before the red tagging.
Final clearing of the site took place over two days, as some long-term residents needed more time.
The shutdown and clearing was a balancing act between the need to clear inhumane and unsafe conditions while also working to relocate people in a compassionate and orderly way.
In a reflection of the real problems and sad realities of Beach Boulevard, some onsite appeared to be chronic drug users and those involved in sex trafficking and prostitution.
Help was made available to everyone, though those involved in illegal activity were not provided motel vouchers and either left the property or were ordered to leave the site.
The Covered Wagon is made up of 70 rooms split between the north and south sides of the motel. Rents charged ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 a month, payable in cash with an ATM in the lobby. There was no regular onsite management.
Most rooms on the north side were boarded up and unfit for staying in.
People were still living in some boarded-up rooms. A storage container at the north end of the property and utility spaces were also being illegally rented as living spaces.
Conditions across the motel were inhumane and deplorable with filth and waste, including human and drug waste.
The shuttered site is now secured with armed security, floodlights, cameras and regular patrols by Anaheim Police.
The city of Anaheim is working with the motel's owner, who has the option to address violations and bring the site up to city code. The owner has also filed for a demolition permit with the city. We are awaiting next steps to see what course the owner takes.
The motel dates back to 1961 when it opened as the Bahia Motel. It was part of a group of mid-century, tiki-themed motels along Beach that once served visitors to Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland.
Later, and up until 1994, it operated as the Razzmatazz Motel, with a dinner theater at an onsite restaurant.
Like others, the motel outgrew its usefulness as visitor lodging.
Future for Beach
Long term, Anaheim's planning calls for the redevelopment of the 1.5 miles of Beach running through the city with new apartments and townhomes, sidewalk businesses and as an inviting, walkable street.
Since 2002, the city has acquired and demolished two motels, the Silver Moon Motel in 2002 and Americana Motel in 2021 and worked with owners to demolish Lyndy's Motel in 2017.
Redevelopment along Beach Boulevard is underway with the April 2 opening of Nolin, a 65-townhome community at northeast Beach and Lincoln.
The community is an example of redevelopment that will bring new residents to the area who are invested in the future of a better Beach Boulevard.
As redevelopment plays out now and in years to come, Anaheim is stepping up enforcement of public safety and quality of life issues for those who live and work around Beach.
You can learn more at Anaheim.net/RebuildBeach.