Modesto -- Most of the people who rent rooms at the Modesto Inn have few options. Many are only a few dollars away from living on the street or sleeping in their vehicle if they have one. Despite their dire financial circumstances, the residents at the Needham Avenue motel deserve a safe dwelling place and the city is right to insist that the property owners and motel operator bring the full complex up to building codes.
As reported in Saturday's Bee, the former Travel Lodge is in poor shape and the shortcomings are not just cosmetic. City building officials say the building violations, include plumbing problems, exposed wiring, trip hazards on staircases, cockroach infestation, a trashy swimming pool and missing smoke alarms.
"Our concern is someone is going to get hurt in the building ... (or) the place could burn to the ground," Chief Building Official Will Crew said. Fortunately, no one was killed in a May 17 fire at the complex, the incident that prompted the city to crack down on the problems at the complex.
The city issued its order on June 20. The city's appointed Building Board of Appeals upheld it during last week's meeting. This appears to be a case where the owners of the property and the operators of the motel are pointing fingers at each other rather than putting their attention on making the needed repairs to their investment property.
The motel operator also has a responsibility to make sure that the complex is safe for the law-abiding residents and that those who aren't law-abiding are booted out. Residents of the nearby Graceada Park neighborhood are understandably concerned about their security, as well, because of the multiple incidents that have occurred.
We are somewhat reassured by the reaction from Anand Patel, who leases the property. He said he would "try and improve things within the 30-day period and show them this is what I have done."
While condemning the motel would no doubt put inn residents on the street with few if any other options, the city cannot legally and morally allow the unsafe conditions to continue. This is not a case of government overreach but of essential government intervention in an intolerable situation.