Over the last two days, the city of Eureka red-tagged another of the city’s flophouse motels — the Royal Inn, in the city’s downtown district on Fifth Street. Windows were boarded up and long-time tenants were evicted yesterday and the day before.
The city’s actions were prompted Tuesday morning, when the Eureka Police Department served a warrant on a room on the motel’s upper floor. According to Brian Gerving, the city’s public works director, police at the scene noticed that only one staircase was operational — the other had been blocked off. Police called the city’s code enforcement unit, as having only one staircase operation posed a potential hazard in case of an emergency.
Code enforcement and building inspectors arrived, and noticed that the other staircase — the one that was not blocked off — was in a bad way as well. When people walked up and down, Gerving told the Outpost yesterday, the stair case “bounced up and down very significantly.”
Gerving says that as inspectors continued their work, they discovered numerous other health and safety violations on both floors of the motel — faulty electrical systems, water damage from bad plumbing, the accumulating of debris and rotten framing.
“It’s a very lengthy list that we haven’t finished compiling yet,” Gerving said.
The decision was made to remove tenants from the building until such a time as the motel’s ownership remedied the violations. City representatives, along with the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, were able to re-lodge some of the tenants at the scene, Gerving said, and motel ownership will be responsible for the costs of relocating both those tenants and the others. Gerving said that the city can front funds for these tenants and recoup the cost in court, if necessary.
The evictions at the Royal Inn differ from other well-known shutdowns of substandard motels in the city — such as those at the Budget Motel or the Blue Heron, in years past — in that they took place at a moment’s notice.
“Often times when there are properties in this condition, we’re aware of it for a length of time,” Gerving said. “There’s a lot of planning that goes into an action like today. We really didn’t have that luxury this time. The violations we found were so egregious that we needed to take immediate action.”
Eureka Police Department spokesperson Brittany Powell told the Outpost yesterday that the suspect the police were looking for Tuesday morning was not at the motel. However, officers did find drugs, ammunition and a silencer in the room they were searching.
On September 14, 2021, at about 8 a.m., Detectives with the Eureka Police Department’s Problem Oriented Policing team (POP), served a search warrant a motel on the 1100 block of 5th Street in response to drugs and weapons. Detectives seized a large amount of ammunition in different calibers and two suppressors. The male subject of the warrant was not on scene but a warrant for his arrest is anticipated.
Also written into the search warrant was the City of Eureka Code Enforcement and Building Inspector, who observed structurally compromised stairways and other dangerous building code violations. Based on this information, the City of Eureka Code Enforcement team obtained an inspection and abatement warrant, which was served on the morning of Wednesday, September 15th. During the course of the inspection, code enforcement personnel catalogued numerous violations of the Eureka Municipal Code, California Building Code and Health and Safety Code including hazardous electrical work, leaking plumbing, rotten stairs and structural members, rooms contaminated with blood, urine and feces, severe mold issues, infestations of rats, cockroaches and bedbugs, fire hazards and other violations. These issues posed a significant hazard to the occupants and surrounding community and the decision was made to vacate the motel and secure it against entry.
During the course of the day, the City worked with other organizations and local housing providers to immediately relocate the most at-risk individuals and to provide relocation assistance to residents of the motel. The costs of all relocation expenses, staff time, contractors and materials will be tied to the property and collected by all legal means available including liens and tax assessments. In the past, the City has been very successful in recouping taxpayer dollars spent cleaning up problem properties.