MODESTO -- The owners of the Modesto Inn say they have spent more than $200,000 renovating their central Modesto motel after a recent city order threatening to condemn the property.
They have removed all but two tenants from the 58-room motel, which has been an eyesore and nuisance for neighbors, who have complained about public drunkenness, prostitution, drug use and other crime associated with the Needham Street property.
City officials acknowledged the Modesto Inn owners' progress at a Building Board of Appeals meeting last week, but said the owners had failed to comply fully with a June 20 city order that declared the motel unsafe. They instructed the owners to complete a list of repairs.
For instance, city officials said the motel owners had yet to provide a licensed contractor's report regarding the motel's plumbing, electrical and mechanical systems. Officials were concerned that some of the renovations may have to be redone after the city inspects them.
Anand Patel, one of the Modesto Inn owners, apologized to the board, and the Modesto Inn's attorney said his clients would promptly provide the city with the reports.
The board voted 4-0 to give the Modesto Inn owners an additional 30 days until Dec. 10 to come into compliance. Additionally, the city's chief building official, Will Crew, will work with the Modesto Inn owners.
Failure to fix the code violations, such as exposed wiring, by Dec. 10 could bring $1,000-per-day fines, with fines accruing from mid-July.
The extension lets the motel owners reach an agreement with the family that owns the land under the motel. The Thompson family owns the land and leases it to Anand and Chiman Patel, who have owned the Modesto Inn for about a year.
Move affects site owners
The city order to bring the inn into compliance with city codes is against the Thompsons, because the family is listed in the county assessor's records as the property owners.
Sean and Sheldon Thompson and the attorney who represents them and other family members argued Thursday that the family should be removed from the enforcement action. Under the terms of their lease with the Patels, the Thompsons said, they have limited control over the motel.
Because of that, the Thompsons have started legal proceedings to evict the Patels and take possession of the motel. The Thompsons then would remove the remaining tenants and secure the building, which is one way to comply with the city and avoid the $1,000-per-day fines.
Sean Thompson said they then would evaluate what would be the best use of their land, which has had a motel on it for more than 50 years.
The Thompsons' attorney said his clients undertook the legal proceedings because they feared the Patels would not fix the code violations, leaving the landowners liable for the fines.
The Building Board of Appeals decided not to consider the Thompsons' request to be removed from the case. A majority of board members said they were not qualified to make what they considered a legal decision.
The Modesto Inn came under city scrutiny after a May fire destroyed four of the motel rooms and displaced 25 tenants. Most residents were paying monthly rent for their rooms, which were not adequately equipped with electrical outlets, fire alarms or phone service, officials have said.
A brighter future?
But Anand Patel told board members he and his business partner want to turn the Modesto Inn into a true motel and no longer rent rooms by the month. He said they are talking with Wyndham Hotels and Resorts about the Modesto Inn becoming a Knights Inn, one of Wyndham's hotel chains. Wyndham's chains include Travelodge, Days Inn and Ramada.
Patel said he and his partner have spent more than $200,000 renovating nearly half of the Modesto Inn's 58 rooms, including putting in new carpeting, bathroom fixtures, windows, air conditioners and furnishings.
"We want to make this a first-class hotel," said Modesto attorney Thomas Hogan, who represents the Patels.
But some of the Modesto Inn's neighbors who attended Thursday's meeting were skeptical, asking whether the Patels had the money or financing to complete the renovations, and why they are so eager now to improve what many consider a longtime eyesore and public nuisance.
"A year ago, you did not care," said Shelly Billington, who lives a block from the motel.
Bee staff writer Kevin Valine can be reached at email@example.com or (209) 578-2316