Eviction concerns for motel residents during Fresno "Red Light District" reboot

FRESNO, Calif. (KFSN) -- A change of ownership and a possible attempt at eviction caused confusion and chaos for a few days for people living in a place they call a "motel of last resort."

The Parkside Inn is a motel right along Highway 99 on Olive.

Marilyn Martin says she's lived at the Parkside Inn for three years despite dirty bathtubs and problematic plumbing.

She and her husband struggle to get around, so moving would be tough even though she pays at least $250 a week in rent. But this month, she thought the manager was leaving them no choice.

"She wasn't going to accept our rent," Martin told Action News. "So I was like, she said, 'You have to be out of here today.' And I was like 'What?'"

The city of Fresno and the Fresno Housing Authority are in the process right now of buying four motels along Highway 99 -- the Motel 99, the Days Inn, the Welcome Inn, and the Parkside Inn.

As part of the process, they asked for a list of tenants. But before they got the list, the tenants say they were told to leave.

"Most of the motel owners provided us a full list," said Fresno City Council President Miguel Arias. "One motel owner chose to try and reduce that list by asking people to prematurely leave and depart the facility and that's where we had all this confusion and chaos."

Owners gave us a statement saying it was just a misunderstanding and tenants aren't being evicted:

"Last Friday, when pre-programmed key cards 'stopped working,' some tenants believed, incorrectly, that they had been locked out and evicted," said the statement from Mitesh Gajjar. "They had not been, and room cards were re-programmed and re-issued."

"It looks like right now, they're pretty happy to let people stay in the motel for the near future, so it doesn't look like we're going to have to file anything for injunctive relief," said Brandi Snow of Central California Legal Services, which is now monitoring what happens to residents at Parkside and the other motels.

The city and Housing Authority are investing $40 million to convert the motels into homeless shelters and then affordable housing for people with low income.

Arias says they understand some of the rooms aren't up to code, so the residents of those rooms would get somewhere else to live.

In the end, they plan to buy up about half of the Motel Row motels.

"The others, we're going to start the inspection process that's going to look into each individual unit and require the owner to make the code enforcement health and building standards upgrades that are necessary," arias said.

He says if the motels don't stay up to code, the city could seize them by eminent domain. His ultimate goal is to eliminate the historical red-light district of Fresno where vulnerable families and human trafficking have lived side by side.

Full statement from Mitesh Gajjar on behalf of Akshar, Inc. DBA Parkside Inn:

Parkside Inn proudly provides low-cost safe and clean temporary housing options for both transient and non-transient tenants that may not have other housing options in the City of Fresno. As has been reported, Parkside Inn is in the process of being acquired by the Fresno Housing Authority. This news has generated a lot of concern by our tenants. The Fresno Housing Authority has assured us that our tenants will continue to be taken care of and looked after, and was a consideration in deciding in favor of the transition.
Recently, we were contacted by Central California Legal Services on behalf of some of our tenants who do not understand the transition and the key card protocol. Our policy and practice has always been that when a guest pays for a week's stay, they will receive a key card that is programmed for a week and when that week runs, that guest will need to return to the office to arrange for additional days which will trigger a re-programmed key card. Last Friday, when pre-programmed key cards "stopped working," some tenants believed, incorrectly, that they had been locked out and evicted. They had not been, and room cards were re-programmed and re-issued.
We at Parkside Inn take a lot of pride in our property and our guests and have worked with our guests to get through these difficult times.
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