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SOUTH-CENTRAL : Motels Targeted Over Prostitution

December 11, 1994|ENRIQUE LAVIN

Tired of sweeping used condoms from his front yard every morning, Figueroa Street resident Nathan Freeman took his frustrations about the neighboring motel to the city.

Figueroa and a handful of other neighbors complained to zoning officials that the motels on Figueroa are magnets for prostitution and drug dealing.

"One time I had to clean one (condom) up from my back porch," Freeman testified at the Dec. 1 zoning hearing.

"It's not used by late night travelers," he said of the Ash Motel, near 45th Street. "The people that use it are those who want a quick fix on drugs and a quick fix on sex."

Zoning officials are trying to determine whether to impose restrictions on the Trojan, Ding Dong, Ash and Furst motels. Another hearing will be held Thursday on the Naseeb and New Raymond motels.

Representatives of the motels said the businesses are not the cause of the problem.

"There is more commercial sex in the three major hotels of Los Angeles than in all of the Figueroa area," said Arthur K. Snyder, representing Maoson Young, owner of the Ash and Furst motels. "Unfortunately (this hearing) is an attempt to close down a commercial section that is only part of the problem."

About three residents attended the hearing to show support for the motel owners.

Councilwoman Rita Walters' office passed out flyers to Freeman and other residents urging them to attend the hearing and voice their concerns about the motels. About 10 attended, including parents of Manual Arts High School students and 58th Street block club members brought to the hearing by the Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment, a community group that led a campaign to reduce the number of liquor stores in South Los Angeles.

"Residents are looking for immediate relief from the criminal activity that has been terrorizing their children," said Silvia Castillo, assistant director of the coalition. "They want women to stop showing their body parts to the children that are walking to and from nearby schools."

Manual Arts High School, John Muir Middle School and a handful of elementary schools are in or near the Figueroa corridor, which stretches between 45th and 120th streets. There have been at least 300 prostitution and drug arrests in the corridor this year, Vice Detective Rick McElroy said.

Associate Zoning Administrator John J. Parker, who presided over the Dec. 1 hearing, said he would not rule on the cases for at least a month. If Parker finds the motels to be public nuisances, he can impose strict requirements.

In a city crackdown on motels and hotels along Sepulveda Boulevard in Van Nuys, for instance, motel managers were required to check the driver's licenses of tenants, refuse to rent rooms on an hourly basis, improve lighting around the motels and discourage loitering.

Similar restrictions were recommended to Parker by Walters, the Community Coalition and the Police Department.

If motel owners fail to comply, they could lose their business licenses and be forced to shut down.

Motel owners said they are being wrongly blamed for something society is responsible for.

"The Trojan Motel did not create prostitution and it did not create drugs," owner Tien Te Wang said. "How can a business like the Trojan Motel stop these problems? We as a small motel can't violate these personal freedoms. We can't go into their rooms and tell them what to do."

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