In a ruling filed this afternoon, a Humboldt County Superior Court judge has given the city of Eureka the green light to condemn the Budget Motel.
The motel’s owner, David Kushwaha, had asked the court to intervene and stop the city’s forced eviction of his tenants, which was initially scheduled to happen this morning, due to substandard conditions and more than 340 code violations. Through his attorney, Kushwaha asked the court to give him 45 days to address the violations, which include bedbug and cockroach infestations, hazardous wiring, inadequate plumbing and heating fixtures and a host of other things.
But Judge Dale Reinholtsen found Kushwaha had little chance of ultimately winning the case and that the alleged violations are “hazardous and pose an imminent threat to occupants of the motel and the surrounding community.”
Eureka Chief Building Official Brian Gerving said late this morning that if Reinholtsen ruled in the city’s favor, he planned to move forward with clearing and boarding up the motel first thing tomorrow. There are currently 40 to 100 people living at the motel (estimates vary widely) and, while tenants will be given $1,600 per unit in relocation assistance funds, it’s unclear where they will all go or how many have secured housing or shelter elsewhere.
The city is expected to issue a press release shortly.
A Humboldt County Superior Court judge is weighing whether to put the city of Eureka’s eviction of tenants at the Budget Motel on hold, and indicated he will issue a ruling in the case by noon today.
Judge Dale Reinholtsen heard arguments from both sides at a hearing this morning, just about an hour after the evictions had been scheduled to begin before a temporary restraining order halted them pending his ruling. The city is seeking to clear the motel after finding more than 340 code violations during a recent inspection, saying it's unsafe for human habitation and poses a threat to the public. The motel's owner is asking Reinholtsen to issue a preliminary injunction that would indefinitely delay any city action on the property.
This morning, Carlton Floyd, who’s representing the motel’s owner, David Kushwaha, argued that his client only received a notice to vacate the property and word of the pending evictions on Tuesday. Further, Floyd said his client, who lives in Oxnard, has not received any written notices from the city in the last six months to a year and urged Reinholtsen to give his client some time to address the violations on his own.
“I’m not here to argue that there aren’t violations — I’m sure there are some,” Floyd told the court. “I’m here to argue that (my clients) should be given a chance to clean up the motel themselves.”
Floyd said his client has already contacted an engineer, a plumber, an electrician and a pest control specialist about working on the property, with inspections scheduled this week. Floyd said the evictions would be incredibly detrimental to his client, noting that he would be required to pay roughly $60,000 in tenant relocation fees and lose income on top of paying for repairs. All that money, Floyd said, would be better spent fixing the issues the city has identified.
In closing, Floyd asked the court to give Kushwaha 45 days to clean up the property, saying he could get all violations addressed except for those that require an engineer, which could take some more time.
City Attorney Cyndy Day-Wilson countered that problems at the Budget Motel stretch back a decade, rattling off a list of “final” notices the city has sent Kushwaha over the years on a host of code violations, may of which Day-Wilson alleged are still present today. Further, she said the condition of the property is an immediate threat to public health and safety, noting extensive bedbug and cockroach infestations, extensive mold, human waste, faulty and exposed wiring, missing plumbing fixtures, unrepaired fire damage and failing “structural elements.”
“This work can’t be performed while people are present,” she said. “It’s to that extent. … I have no doubt that these violations can’t be addressed in 45 days. Some of them can’t even be addressed in 90 days. There’s extensive work to be done.”
Floyd said he wasn’t aware of Kushwaha’s history of code violations and subsequent contacts with the city, but still urged the court to give his client time to remedy the problems. “(The city has) waited so long to do something, why would 45 more days matter?” he asked.
“Another 45 days?” Day-Wilson asked rhetorically. “He’s had five years already to address it and he hasn’t.”
We’ll update this post when we get word of Reinholtsen’s ruling.