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A Long-Awaited Checkout for Garden Grove's Notorious Motel

Bulldozers move in after the city buys the land for redevelopment. Address was a magnet for crime.

September 05, 2003|David Haldane | Times Staff Writer

Over the years, the headlines told the story: "Woman Arrested in Lover's Death," a recent one read. "Security Guard, 63, Found Fatally Stabbed," said another, and, later, "Man Wounded in Shooting at Motel."

Those events, and many others, happened at the Fire Station Motel, one of Garden Grove's most notorious crime spots. Thursday, the City Council gathered in the 12600 block of Harbor Boulevard to take turns swinging a sledgehammer at the site as part of a ceremony that officials said was long overdue.

"We are celebrating tearing this place down," Mayor Bruce Broadwater said after watching a bulldozer knock over a battered tower that was one of the last standing structures. "I really feel good about it."

The city hopes to sell the nearly 11-acre site to a developer for use as an entertainment facility, retail outlet or anything else compatible with its redevelopment goals. "It's a turning point," Councilman Mark Leyes said of the city's acquisition of the property.

The Fire Station, built in 1956, had for years generated more police calls -- most involving drugs, prostitution, beatings and shootings -- than any other location in the city. "It became a magnet for criminal transients," Leyes said. "It had a reputation that went well beyond city limits."

After rebuffing earlier efforts to close the motel, the Fire Station's owner approached the city this year with an offer it couldn't refuse. "He just realized that it would probably take too much to fix it and decided to get out of it instead," Leyes said.

Garden Grove bought the motel and an option on an adjoining RV park for $10 million. The place shut its doors about two months ago. Two weeks ago, Broadwater said, the bulldozers began their work, and two weeks from now the city hopes to have the site ready to sell.

The ceremony drew a few enthusiastic onlookers. "This is beautiful," said Daniel Arthur, owner of a nearby business.

His wife, Vivian, said she was planning a little celebration of her own. "I don't drink," she said, "but I'm going to go home and pop some champagne."

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