Motel owners agree to pay more than $500k to settle lawsuit

Bakersfield

Nov. 10, 2015 | | Bakersfield, CA

A motel on Union Avenue dealing with major problems since 2013 will now have to pay up more than half a million dollars after settling a lawsuit.

The District Attorney’s office sued the owners of the Tropicana Motel, Bobby and Shobhana Patel, because of a number of issues with their building that eventually forced their residents to be evicted.

John Mitchell works in the victim’s services unit of the DA’s office and said the problem was so bad that bugs were spilling out into the parking lot. He calls it the worst housing situation he’s ever seen.

“An inspection revealed vermin infestations including mice, roaches and bed bugs; plumbing hazards; exposed electrical wiring; inadequate and broken weather stripping; lack of adequate heating appliances; non-working smoke detectors; exposed electrical wiring; and general dilapidation,” wrote Mitchell in a press release.

Usually if something like this happens to a business, Kern County Public Health gets involved. They close the place down, the business cleans up, and then it reopens.

However, Mitchell said this case was too drastic to be handled administratively. One challenge involved trying to help the people who lived there. Many of them didn’t want to leave because the only other alternative was homelessness.

“They’re poor folks,” said Mitchell. “They’re the ones who would be the easier, I think, to get ignored.”

Kern County Supervisor Leticia Perez used $10,000 to help the 150 tenants who were evicted. She was horrified to see what was going on.

“It was really the most disgusting and heartbreaking thing that I had seen in — maybe ever in Kern County,” said Perez.

Now the owners are trying to turn over a new leaf. They’ve changed the name from the Tropicana Motel to the Residence Hotel.

As part of the settlement, they owe $547,500. The majority will go to the tenants who were evicted, $300,000. The defendants will also pay $175,000 in penalties and $22,500 in costs, which will include reimbursement of $10,000 in costs that were funded by Perez.

The owners declined to give any kind of formal statement, but did say that their business is now clean.

“It does look cleaner,” said Perez.

The people who live there today say they’re glad the place looks so much better than it used to.

Perez says she is sure there are more places out there with similar problems that need to be taken care of, and she hopes this case sets a precedent.

The DA’s office hopes other business owners will pay attention and clean up their act on their own.

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