The Costa Mesa City Council is directing the planning commission to review an ordinance designed reduce the length of motel stays in the midst of a lawsuit over the matter.
The 5-0 council vote during an hours-long meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 5, requests the commission review the city’s long-term occupancy ordinance, which is the center of a pending lawsuit filed by a former Costa Mesa Motor Inn resident against the city and the motel’s owners, Los Angeles-based Miracle Mile Properties.
The ordinance was adopted in 2014 and limits guest stays at motels to no more than 30 consecutive days or 30 days with a 60-day period unless the motel has obtained a conditional use permit that allows for long-term occupancy.
The commission will consider the ordinance and make a recommendation to the council on whether it should be repealed or amended.
“I don’t just simply want to deliver these issues to a judge,” said Councilman John Stephens, who along with Councilman Jim Righeimer requested the council discuss the matter.
The Motor Inn accounted for over half of the city’s long-term occupancy units, Stephens said.
The conditional use permit requires motel owners to adhere to certain conditions that include proving regular main and housekeeping services, on-site laundry, each room be at least 375 square-feet and has a fully equipped kitchen.
Since the closing of the motel in 2016, there has been a reduction in police calls for service and motel units that accept long-term occupants, according to a staff report.
“This is not to say that anything that was done in 2014 was inappropriate, it’s just to take another look at it based on change, circumstances and that’s it,” Stephens said.
Residents have described the city’s motels as hotbeds for crime such as drug use, prostitution, and other illicit activity.
Housing advocates argue that motel residents often can’t find affordable housing anywhere else and are one often one step above homelessness.
Linda Tang, a representative with the Kennedy Commission, an Irvine-based affordable housing advocacy group that is also suing the city and Miracle Mile Properties over plans to replace the Motor Inn with luxury apartments, supports the repeal of the ordinance but said the council must be willing to work with motel residents.
“Making changes to the ordinance isn’t enough if it still discourages motel operators from renting to long-term occupants or increasing the costs such that it’s no longer…