Continued from Slumlord To Evict 20 San Ysidro Children By October
By Barbara Zaragoza
After interviewing occupants of the Gateway Inn at San Ysidro who received 60-day eviction notices that may leave them homeless, I made calls to several city officials this week. Public records show the owner of the dilapidated single room occupancy (SRO) building submitted a request to demolish the hotel — located near the U.S.-Mexico border — although the permit has not yet been approved.
Two messages were left for the Housing Commission regarding this; however, they did not return my calls. One of their documents cite a Single-Room Occupancy (SRO) Hotel Regulations Ordinance (San Diego Municipal Code 143.0510-143.0590) that says (page 3): “Applicants proposing the demolition or conversion of an SRO are required to pay relocation expenses to long-term tenants (residencies of 90 days or more).”
This is further supported by a Voice of San Diego article, which states: “In 2004, a change to a state law called the Ellis Act gave cities the ability to pass regulations to protect SROs from being demolished or turned into market-rate housing. San Diego’s ordinance says property owners can’t convert or tear down an SRO without agreeing to replace the lost units and pay each long-term tenant two months’ rent to cover relocation costs.”
One might then ask if the Ellis Act places the burden of decent affordable housing on the owner of this SRO? Unfortunately, no one has been able to answer my question.
The City Attorney’s office did reveal that criminal misdemeanor charges were filed against the Gateway Inn on February 2, 2015. The complaint cites five violations, including unpermitted uses of the property, construction without a permit and failure to keep the property free of waste.
According to Gerry Braun, Communications Director at the City Attorney’s Office, the San Diego Police Department brought this case to the City. The hearing, set for September, had to be postponed because the Gateway Inn building might actually be a historical landmark. Next month, the Historical Review Board must first decide whether to designate the building “historic.”
Other than this complaint, code violations were never filed about broken windows, bathtub drains that lead out to the dirt or other problems cited by occupants. That might be because tenants of SROs often have nowhere else to go. Filing a complaint could mean eviction, so occupants would rather stay silent about their housing conditions out of fear.
Meanwhile, in the criminal misdemeanor complaint filed, the Gateway Inn owner faces a mere $5,000 in fines. Braun explained why this might be. “The normal process for substandard housing is that the complaints are made, code enforcement would then go out and they would do everything they can to get enforcement… The general principal is that you don’t want landlords paying huge fines. You would rather have them taking that money and put it into the housing and getting it up to code.”
However, when landlords face substantial improvements to the property, they are also required to relocate their tenants while the upgrades are being done. The costs become large. Owners are then presented with three options: fix up the property for huge sums, sell it or demolish it.
In a phone interview, Braun said nobody had ever brought up the Ellis Act before regarding this SRO. In an email, he wrote, “The property owner has informed our office that he is in the process of getting a demolition permit. The law allows this option as an alternative to cleaning up the property and getting the proper permits.”
This Week In The News
- Attendance boundary issues at SUHSD continue: Residents of Eastlake continue to press the Sweetwater Union High School District to re-consider the attendance boundary changes they approved back in January 2015. In particular, parent activists say they paid Mello Roos for the better schools and their children should be able to attend those better schools. (South Bay Compass)
- Your drinking water: The Sweetwater Authority approved the refinancing of its bond debt. That means water rates will not go up for residents in Bonita, western & central Chula Vista as well as National City. (San Diego Union Tribune)
- Marijuana bust: A 25-year-old male U.S. citizen entered the San Ysidro border crossing with 1,500 pounds of marijuana concealed inside pieces of wooden furniture. The street value was estimated at $735,000. (U.S. Customs and Border Protection)
- Chula Vista’s four-year university: We’ve got the land set aside and now Assemblywoman Shirley Weber is part of an Assembly Select Committee that will try to get an interested party to move in. Weber said she is working at the state level to find opportunities. (Chula Vista Star News)
- More condos for CV: Residents picketed a 71 condo residential project at the corner of 3rd Ave and K Street more than once, but to no avail. The Chula Vista City Council voted to back the project, which will now move forward. (Chula Vista Star News)
- Our Little League: In an upset to local baseball fans, Park View Little League lost to the Goodlettsville Baseball Little League from Tennessee. This year, they won’t be going to the World Series. (Times of San Diego)
- CV schools scored well: According to the Chula Vista Elementary School District, “The state Department of Education released testing results on Wednesday, and for the second consecutive year students in the Chula Vista Elementary School District outperformed the state and county averages of their peers in English Language Arts and mathematics.”
- You might get your water from Mexico: Sandra Dibble at the San Diego Union Tribune reported that “Baja California’s ambitious plan to build the largest desalination plant in the Western Hemisphere took an important step forward this week with the signing of a public-private partnership for a project in northern Rosarito Beach.” Why is it important for the South Bay? Because the Otay Water District (which serves parts of the South Bay) hopes to purchase some of the water to diversity its supply.
- Friendship Park Anniversary: 45 Years later, the Border Wall at Friendship Park hasn’t changed. Voice of San Diego has a piece about yoga classes, prayer services and First Lady Pat Nixon’s 1971 quote: “I hope there won’t be a fence here too long.”
- Historic photographs on display: The San Ysidro Public Library, a historic site, received a little facelift this week when volunteer community members framed and hung black-and-white photographs along the walls for a permanent exhibit.
South Bay Foodie Paradise
I’ve said it more than once: if you don’t know that the food in the South Bay is divine, you’re missing out. Three new tidbits this week:
- The San Diego Union Tribune, in honor of National Waffle Day, named Aunt Emma’s Pancake Restaurant in Chula Vista & National City one place to eat great waffles.
- NOVO Brazil Brewing Company plans to open a market and a new craft beer tasting room at 41 E. Eigth Street and A Avenue in National City. The City Council voted to approve NOVO Brazil’s permit. The public market would be similar to Liberty Station in Point Loma, but smaller in size. (San Diego Union Tribune)
- And — a huge shipping container restaurant for Imperial Beach??? (San Diego Eater)
National City’s Automobile Heritage Days & Latino Film Festival
- The Latino Film Festival is being held at the Westfield Plaza Bonita this year from August 26th through September 1st. Check it out.
- Also, National City is hosting the 25th Annual National City Automobile Heritage Days on Saturday, 27th at Kimball Park. Click here for more.