Downtown hotel with ‘deplorable’ conditions vacated by city

SAN DIEGO – More than 70 people in a downtown single-room occupancy hotel are being evacuated due to the property’s “deplorable living conditions” and other hazards, the City Attorney’s Office said Monday.

Mara Elliott

City inspectors say The C Street Inn at 630-636 C St. had “numerous substandard building violations” detected in inspections conducted in March and April.

Inspectors found the six-story hotel had infestations of mold and rodents, hallways blocked by trash, unpermitted plumbing modifications and electrical hazards, and a lack of fire safety infrastructure, including alarm systems and extinguishers, among other issues.

Occupants of the hotel will receive $4,720 apiece — and collectively nearly $340,000 — to help relocate elsewhere, according to City Attorney Mara Elliott.

“Dozens of people were living in dangerous conditions in this squalid century-old building,” Elliott said in a statement. “All the occupants will be relocated to safe and clean housing, and we will ensure the property owner is held accountable.”

As a result of recent inspections, the city determined the hotel to be a “public nuisance,” finding that San Diego police have responded to the property more than 190 times since May 2019.

Elliott’s office said hotel owner Jack S. Rafiq appealed the city order to pay for relocation funds. They instead advanced the money to occupants using the California Health and Safety Code with a hearing planned in the future to recover the funding from the owner.

Reached by phone Monday, Rafiq said the allegations are “not true.” He believes the decision is more about closing down the hotel rather than issues found during inspections, including the alleged rodents, which he said were determined after a hole was found.

“They just want to get the property vacated because it’s (single-room occupancy),” Rafiq said, adding, “They want to get low-income people out of there.”

Elliott’s office said Rafiq was ordered to institute a “round-the-clock fire watch” lasting until the building is vacated.

“Rafiq must also remedy the electrical hazards, treat the mold and pest infestation, obtain the required building permits, and repair the entire building,” the office said.

The case is being investigated by Elliott’s office with it being handled by Deputy City Attorney David Miller and under the direction of Chief Deputy City Attorney Gabriela Brannan.

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