Buena Park's Crescent Motel Granted Another Chance

Buena Park's Crescent Motel, on the corner of Beach Boulevard and Crescent Avenue, will soon be closing down for fumigation and renovations, not violations. As the OC Register reported, owner Loc Van Nguyen agreed to council demands at an hours-long meeting yesterday after appealing the resolution of the city's planning commission to revoke his business' conditional use permit.

Unanimously approved on March 14, the resolution stated that the property has been “operated in a manner detrimental to the public health, safety and welfare as evidenced by the severity of police calls for service emanating from or associated with the business.” It went on to cite that the Buena Park Police Department has, over a seven year period starting in 2005, responded 3,847 times to reports of criminal activity at the Crescent Motel. The resolution compared 2011 police records for the establishment with the nearby Colony Inn citing a $20 dollar differential in nightly rates and less than 10% of Department responses.

Nguyen, who moved from his San Diego residency to live and work on-site, fired the third-party management agency that oversaw his business and has begun the renovation process while hiring private security. Though much of the media attention has focused on the narrative of crime statistics, the planning commission's case against the Crescent Motel goes beyond it. Commissioners also mentioned how Nguyen plead guilty to violating Buena Park's municipal code in 2005 by allowing guests to stay for more than 30 consecutive days in rooms fitted with kitchen appliances. The city prosecutor is pursuing similar charges this year on the basis of the ordinance with proceedings pending.

A planning commission staff report in February also made mention of Crescent Motel as being “part of the city of Buena Park General Plan Entertainment Corridor Focus Area” and how, in the commission's estimation, the reputation of the property could negatively affect first impressions of tourists as well as subsequent Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) revenues. The Crescent Motel is an 86-unit complex adjacent to the Soak City Waterpark and Knott's Berry Farm.

Where does all this leave those who reside as guests and whose only supposed “crime” is being of the working poor? The temporary closing down of the property will commence when all occupants find alternate lodging. Being on the move, whether or not a said motel is in violation of the city's ordinance, is not a new experience for them.

“While the reasoning behind the 30 day ordinances makes sense in theory, for those who truly cannot afford anything else, the ordinances force families into a transient lifestyle unnecessarily,” says Pam Allison, Executive Director of Project Hope Alliance. “Kids need stability in their lives and the forced transience is tremendously detrimental. A great solution for cities is to partner with and support affordable housing developers to build safe, decent, affordable housing for low income families.”

The Orange County-based organization has been active over the course of almost ten years supporting homeless motel families by providing their children with a year round academic program and after school care. Recognizing that places like the Crescent Motel often are the only available “residential” option for low-income families, even if crime-ridden and crowded, Project Hope Alliance also offers assistance in that regard. “We have launched a Family Stability Program to move families out of these risky environments and directly into permanent housing,” Allison adds. “Qualifying families have their upfront move-in costs, as well as case management services, possible rent subsidies and tuition to go back to school.”

If a 'new and improved' Crescent Motel re-opens and prices out low-income families who would otherwise stay there for periods at a time, such a program would be of benefit to them. Of course, it still may be check-out time for the establishment anyway as the city maintains the authority to shut it down permanently should negotiations in the weeks to come run awry.

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