More than 70 occupants of a six-story residential hotel in downtown San Diego have been ordered to vacate after city inspectors found numerous health and safety violations and determined the hotel was a “public nuisance,” according to city authorities.
San Diego’s code enforcement officers found mold, rodent infestations and fire hazards during inspections conducted at the C Street Inn in March and April, the City Attorney’s Office said Monday in a news release. Inspectors also found the facility did not have a fire alarm system, fire sprinklers, extinguishers or smoke alarms.
Additionally, hallways at the single-room occupancy hotel — located on C Street between Sixth and Seventh Avenue — were blocked with trash, plumbing modifications had been made without city permits and there were electrical hazards, including an uncovered electrical junction box installed in a shower .
According to the City Attorney’s Office, the property owner failed to obtain a certificate of occupancy, which is necessary to confirm the property was in compliance with safety requirements.
Property owner Jack Rafiq disagreed with some of the city’s allegations, saying there is no need for occupants to vacate.
The city provided $4,720 to each of the 72 people living in the hotel, for a total of $339,840 to aid in relocation. The city has ordered the property owner to pay the relocation costs, but he has appealed.
To expedite the relocation process, the city paid the costs up front, and an administrative hearing will be held to determine whether the property owner will be required to pay the money back.
Leslie Wolf Branscomb, spokesperson for the City Attorney’s Office, said no confirmed date or location has been set for the hearing.
“Dozens of people were living in dangerous conditions in this squalid century-old building,” City Attorney Mara 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.”
The City Attorney’s Office also said the hotel had become a “public nuisance” because of criminal activity on the property. Representatives noted that the San Diego Police Department has responded almost 200 times since May 2019 to problems at the hotel, including burglaries, public intoxication, exhibiting a deadly weapon and disturbing the peace incidents.
In an interview, Rafiq did not dispute all of the city’s code-violation allegations, but he said the hotel has the proper fire alarm and sprinkler systems.
“We’ve been going through inspections every year and every five years for fire,” Rafiq said. “They just came down, and they’re saying that my system does not work, does not have a permit and does not have proper approval — which is totally not true.”
Rafiq said the alleged code violations are not reason enough to remove the occupants.
“I’m basically going to be out — bankrupt — because of the way the city is pushing the issue,” Rafiq said.
San Diego authorities will be working with the hotel occupants to ensure they find proper housing, according to the City Attorney’s Office. Wolf Branscomb said three of the occupants have found housing, so far, and the process is ongoing.
Rafiq said he believes most will likely end up on the street.
The city has ordered that Rafiq establish a round-the-clock fire watch to ensure the safety of the occupants until they have vacated. The city has also required the owner to add up-to-date fire safety measures, fix any electrical hazards, treat the mold and rodent infestations and obtain the required permitting documents.
The City Attorney’s Office is reviewing the case for potential prosecution.