Monterey County

Code Violations Force Tenants of El Dorado Motel To Move Out

Motel failed to make necessary changes

Code Violations Force Tenants of El Dorado Motel To Move Out

SALINAS, Calif. - Serious electrical hazards, carbon monoxide leaks and bug infested rooms.  Families not only staying, but living at a local motel are being forced to leave, because the city said the owner failed to bring the building up to code. 

The problem now -- these people have nowhere else to go.  But the motel owner tells us some tenants don't pay their rent and some have been living there as a courtesy.  He also said not all rooms have code violations. 

Slideshow: Code Violations at El Dorado Motel in Salinas

We've got the information from the city of Salinas, on numerous health and safety violations at El Dorado Motel on North Main Street.  We're finding out just how bad things have been for the people living at a motel that's made national news in the past -- and the troubling situation they're facing.  We found out what these code violations are and what's next for the families who live there.

The manager said at one point 30 families were living at the motel.  The motel manager said the owners tried to bring the property up to code over the past few months.  But according to the city's code enforcement, the owners failed to make the necessary changes. 

Open electrical sockets, missing wall units and taped up windows -- proof of the motel's code violations weren't hard to find.  Residents said they may have to deal with cockroaches and dangerous living conditions, but it's better than being out on the streets.

"We were doing community meetings here and stuff like that, you know helping tenants that live here and just all of a sudden here we are again," said tenant Rita Acosta.

Again, looking for a place to live.  Owner Sunil Patel said the city is getting "nit-picky" about it's requests and he's doing everything he can to make the necessary repairs.  Residents said either way, looking for a new place to live is going to be difficult.

"It basically makes me sad because of seeing all these families and you know they just don't know where they're going to.  Right now, a lot of the hotels that are up and down North Main Street are basically full," said tenant Katherine Davis.

Salinas Code Enforcement Division said it gave the owners a list of violations back in May and by November, little progress had been made.  The city said it gave tenants 28 days to move out.  Some residents said they got a notice on their door, while others said they didn't know until word spread around.  Last month a code enforcement officer organized a task force of local agencies to help people with the transition.      

"We're still paying rent because we still need a place to stay, until it closes. But with paying rent, how are you able to save money to find another place?" Acosta asked. 

The city said it's been difficult to get the owner to cooperate, forcing all tenants to find a new place to live by the end of this week.  The motel manager told us the owners plan to bring the property up to code and re-open as soon as possible. 

We've been covering the plight of the motel residents for years, especially the children who suffer.  In 2009, a special report aired nationally about two kids, Tristan Clarke and Gus Hernandez, who lived the hard life.  In 2010, we followed up with the family of 12-year-old Tristan, after they were barely scraping by and living at the motel.  But the community rallied around them.  Tristen's mother found a job and moved out of those poor conditions.  Gus' father was also able to find a full-time job and create a new program at the motel with the Salvation Army to help others in need.

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