A Sunset Motel fights to be a Tourist Hotel – THC fights to keep it a Residential Hotel and preserve affordable housing.
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Residents Want Tourists in Sunset Motel
Zoning law to make it residential opposed
Neighbors in the Outer Sunset are rallying behind the owner of the Beach Motel, who is under fire from city officials for renting rooms to tourists.
The City’s zoning administrator wants the 20-room motel to operate only if it switches to residential use – geared to longer-term tenants — to conform with neighborhood zoning regulations.
But the owner, Bob Patel, wants to continue renting to tourists, as he says he has for the past 15 years. Neighborhood activists want to retain the status quo, too.
“We worked really hard at cleaning up this neighborhood, establishing a neighborhood watch program, going after loitering at the corner,” said Bob Kelly, a leader in the Outer Sunset Neighborhood Association and owner of a bar bearing his name on the ground level of the Judah Street motel.
“What we don’t want is for this to turn into a halfway house or homeless shelter,” Kelly said. “That’s not going to improve the quality of our neighborhood.”
His fear reflects rumors swirling through the neighborhood that if the motel converts to a residential hotel, it will become a flophouse for homeless people and welfare recipients. However, no such plan exists, at least not officially.
The unease of some neighbors stems from the involvement of the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which has been battling Patel in court for years to force him to cease renting to tourists. They say that it violates The City’s 1981 residential hotel conversion law.
Last summer, a Superior Court judge sided with Patel, but the case is on appeal. Now, Randy Shaw, an attorney who heads the Tenderloin Housing Clinic, is hoping The City will be successful in going after Patel using zoning laws as the weapon.
Patel’s attorney, Andrew Zacks, conceded that the area was zoned for residential use, but said the 41- year-old Beach Motel had been “grandfathered” in as a lawful, nonconforming tourist motel. He conceded, however, that the official paperwork establishing the motel for tourists, rather than longer-term residents – required when the hotel conversion ordinance passed 17 years ago — had not been properly submitted. Still, he said, the motel has been well established as a business targeting tourists.
Zoning administrator Robert Passmore said that official records showed otherwise, but that if Patel could show evidence proving that The City was wrong, he would reconsider his position.
The Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which prompted Passmore to take action against the Beach Motel, has been fighting for years to retain San Francisco’s residential hotels, one of the last affordable rental sources for low-income people. The clinic also runs a city-funded program that houses welfare recipients in residential hotels, primarily in the Tenderloin and Sixth Street areas.
Nevertheless, Shaw said he’d never had a plan to operate a program at the Sunset District site.
Shaw said Patel “probably could get $600 to $700 a month (per room) given the motel’s location — two blocks from Ocean Beach – and that each room has private bathrooms”
By that calculation, Patel said, “I’d be broke in a month.” The cheapest room at his motel rents at $45 a day. There are no kitchen facilities.
The City’s Board of Permit Appeals is set to take up the issue Feb. 18. Zacks said legal action would be taken if his client lost.
Meanwhile, Supervisor Leland Yee and the San Francisco Neighbors Association, the group that placed the initiative to rebuild the Central Freeway on last November’s ballot, are using the Beach Motel to promote a new cause: another measure proposed for the June ballot to require neighborhood notification when a city sponsored project is planned for an area.