Following a standoff with defiant property owners Floyd and Betty Squires, the city of Eureka is condemning the couple’s Blue Heron Lodge, a 15-room motel on the south side of town.
Eureka Chief Building Official Brian Gerving said the couple — who for years have faced allegations of providing substandard housing in their more than two dozen rental properties throughout Eureka — has failed to apply for a lodging permit, as required by the city’s motel ordinance.
Journal attempts to reach the Squireses were not immediately successful, but Gerving said Floyd Squires has informed the city he has no intention of applying for the permit, arguing the Blue Heron Lodge is not actually a motel. Consequently, the city plans to serve a warrant of closure on the property Feb. 4, shuttering it and evicting its residents.
Passed by the Eureka City Council in 2013, the motel ordinance was billed as a way to crack down on problem establishments that suck up a lot of police attention. The ordinance requires motels and hotels to apply for a lodging permit — which comes with an annual city inspection — and also imposes financial penalties on those that generate the highest ratio of emergency service calls to rooms.
Gerving said the Squireses operated the Blue Heron without a lodging permit for all of 2014 and then — despite repeated contacts from the city — failed to apply for one for 2015. When a code enforcement manager finally made contact with Floyd Squires in November, Gerving said, “Mr. Squires indicated that he doesn’t believe the facility is a motel, even though it does fit the definition under the ordinance.”
Specifically, Gerving said the ordinance doesn’t distinguish between transient and non-transient hotels and motels, or those that accommodate visitors who stay for a couple of nights versus those whose guests generally stay for months at a time. Instead, Gerving said, the ordinance defines hotels and motels as places that don’t have self-sufficient dwelling units, which in most cases means they lack a kitchen and minimum square-footage requirements. Under that definition, the Blue Heron Lodge is a motel, Gerving said.
Additionally, according to data from the city, the Blue Heron has generated more calls for service per room than any other hotel or motel in town, with almost six and a half calls per room, per year, since the ordinance went into effect. That’s two more calls per room, per year than the runner up, Chin’s Motel.
Residents at the Blue Heron have until Feb. 4 to find a new place to leave, a potentially daunting task. Gerving said representatives of the city, the county Department of Health and Human Services and Street Outreach Services spent part of Monday on site posting notices by each of the Heron’s 15 doors and giving residents contact information for organizations and agencies that can help them find housing. Possibly because Eureka and the Squireses have a history of suing each other, Gerving said the city had a videographer on scene yesterday to document the contacts with residents. Gerving said, after officials left, the videographer kept the camera rolling and “documented the property manager removing the notices we’d posted.”
Consequently, Gerving said the city and DHHS will return to the Blue Heron multiple times between now and Feb. 4 to make sure residents know what is happening and are connected to agencies that can help them transition.
The Squireses have faced a long history of accusations surrounding the quality of their housing. Most notably, the city sued them back in 2011, seeking to have 26 of their properties placed into the hands of a receiver, who would bring them up to code compliance and bill the Squiresed for the expense. The properties in question have been inspected and a ruling from a local judge in the case is expected any week.