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DOWNTOWN : City Imposes Strict Conditions on Hotel

July 03, 1994|TOMMY LI

After hearing complaints from the community about prostitution and drug sales at a Skid Row hotel, city officials have imposed strict conditions at the building to curb the public nuisance problem.

The 16 conditions for Modoc Hotel, which range from installing no-loitering signs to hiring a 24-hour security guard, will go into effect July 15 if no appeal is filed by the owner, said Jon S. Perica, associate zoning administrator.

Hotel owner Chung Chuan Wang, who did not appear at the hearing, could not be reached for comment. If an appeal is filed, a public hearing will be scheduled by the Board of Zoning Appeals, Perica said.

Parents, school officials and police told Perica during a June 23 public hearing that the two-story 76-room brick hotel at 819 S. Towne Ave.--across the street from an elementary school--has attracted prostitutes and drug dealers.

Parents and school officials testified that drug needles were found near 9th Street School, and they submitted pictures showing used condoms on the campus playground.

According to police records, 29 arrests were made for prostitution between 1990 and April of this year. And in November there was a fatal shooting in the hotel's parking lot while school was in session, police said.

"The police say that this hotel has a real reputation throughout the region," Perica said. "What you have is men dressed as women, dressed in outrageous costumes . . . so outrageous that it stops traffic sometimes."

Male prostitutes solicit customers in front of the hotel and then rent a room inside, he said. Sometimes they talk to customers through a window in one of the hotel rooms.

"The prostitution surprisingly goes on between 6 and 8 a.m.," just as school begins across the street, Perica said. "What type of example are we showing children as far as acceptable behavior?

"This is a real bad case," he said.

Blight in and around Modoc Hotel over the years has also contributed to the problem. Wang pleaded no contest to various slum charges in 1989 and again last March.

Wang is in the second week of a 30-day sentence under house arrest at Modoc Hotel. A judge issued the sentence earlier this month after finding that Wang failed to clear trash from the building, a health violation. Although the judge released him from house arrest for one day to attend the June 23 hearing, Wang did not show up, Perica said.

If the conditions take effect July 14, the owner will have three months to comply with them or face a second public hearing in which city officials can consider pulling the hotel's operating permit, Perica said.

Some other conditions include:

* Hiring a hotel management company to screen all tenants.

* Requiring valid identification of all hotel guests.

* Keeping clean all hotel property as well as the front sidewalk of 9th Street School.

* Paying a $4,052 fine for city costs.

Wang could face up to six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Perica said he has reviewed other hotel cases before but "this is in a category all by itself."

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