The owner of Orick’s Green Valley Motel has obtained the permits necessary to make repairs to re-open two red-tagged buildings, according to Kevin Metcalfe of the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services. The permits were required because two of the motel’s buildings, the office and an unpermitted living unit known as the “bunkhouse,” were deemed unfit and served with notices to vacate in February. The notices were in response to multiple complaints by the motel’s residents of leaking roofs, falling roof tiles, exposed wiring, and lack of working smoke detectors.
The dilapidated motel serves mostly as long-term housing for low-income families. Problems at the motel go back to at least 1995, with residents frequently complaining of cockroaches, mold, overflowing toilets and rodents. Residents have also said that localized spraying 3-4 days a week for cockroaches often makes them feel sick.
A resident who declined to be identified said repairs have been done, but called them “cosmetic,” and said the work is not being done by licensed contractors. The resident went on to say that work on the motel is never done by licensed contractors, including plumbing and electrical work. According to Tom Sobelik, Chief Building Officer for the Humboldt County Planning and Building Department, whoever does the repairs on the red-tagged buildings must have worker’s compensation insurance. He also said that the Building Department does not regularly inspect remote locations like Orick, and that inspections are generally complaint-driven.
Although the notices to vacate ordered residents of the red-tagged buildings to be out by March 1, the buildings are still occupied because some residents have nowhere else to go. That includes the motel’s former manager, Rebecca Cox, and her disabled parents. Cox resigned as manager when the notices were served because she said she was tired of repairs not being done. A tour of Cox’s dwelling in the office unit reveals holes in the walls, exposed wiring, sagging beams, and live and dead cockroaches on counters and surfaces. Metcalfe says both buildings are considered fire hazards due to the exposed wiring.
The motel’s owner is legally bound to help residents of the red-tagged buildings relocate, and Cox says the owner’s lawyer has offered them $2,000 to be out by this Monday, although she is having a hard time finding a new place to live. “They don’t want you,” said Cox of her family’s housing options, adding that owner Ravindra Kushwaha and District Manager Paul Hewitt don’t return phone calls requesting reference. “They would rather see us on the street.”
Cox says that $2,000 will get them through about August. “We don’t know what we’re going to do after that.”
Critics have said that landlords such as Kushwaha, who lives in Southern California, take advantage of low-income populations, who often possess bad credit and limited housing options. In past interviews, Hewitt has said that the complaints are mostly driven by disgruntled former tenants seeking retribution for being evicted. Kushwaha returned a phone call but declined to comment over the phone. He did offer a 5-minute, profanity-laced tirade, referring to past articles in the McKinleyville Press about the motel as “crap.”