Things went from bad to worse last week for the poor families living in Orick’s dilapidated Green Valley Motel.
According to resident Ada Crandall, who has lived at the residential motel for five years, Child Welfare Services visited Tuesday, April 2 and told her that her children could no longer stay at Green Valley because it’s unsafe.
This comes about a month after the Humboldt County Division of Environmental Health red tagged portions of the motel and posted notices to vacate.
Two buildings, including the motel’s front office, were deemed unfit on Feb. 25 due to leaking roofs, falling roof tiles and electrical problems.
Slumlord Ravindra “David” Kushwaha was legally required to pay to help relocate the affected tenants, but hasn’t done so. Requests from tenants are being ignored, said Crandall.
“They won’t talk to us,” said Crandall, referring to property owner Kushwaha and Paul Hewitt, who sometimes serves as the Green Valley’s Manager when he’s not overseeing Eureka’s Budget Motel.
Ada Crandall and her husband Randy are disabled and don’t have the money to move, so they’ve continued to live at the Green Valley with their adult son and three children.
But last week they were paid a visit by Child Welfare Services, who Ada Crandall said informed them that their children could no longer reside at the motel.
“They said my children could no longer stay here because of the red tagging,” she said. Fortunately, she was able to place the children with a family member across the street.
Crandall said she suspects that the motel owner or manager may have contacted CWS to force her and her family out of the motel so the establishment wouldn’t incur the costs of relocating them.
“They want to get us out of here,” she said.
A call was made to Kushwaha. He called back once, but the line went dead after he was informed that he was talking to a reporter. Kushwaha was called back several times. Three voice mails were left for him, but he didn’t call back as of press time. A message was left for Paul Hewitt, but he also didn’t call back.
Former Manager Rebecca Cox, who resigned from her job after the red tagging, confirmed that conditions at the Green Valley are still lousy.
Cox lives in the manager’s quarters portion of the motel with her 77-year-old mother and 79-year-old father. All of them are disabled.
The roof in her unit leaks, she said, and the wiring is faulty. When a new light bulb is screwed in, it will often blow when the switch is turned on.
There is also a serious cockroach problem. The cockroaches crawl across the walls, over counters and even get inside the refrigerator. If food is accidentally left out, the cockroaches quickly descend on it and spoil it.
Although conditions the motel are substandard, the rent isn’t necessarily cheap.
Before the motel was red tagged, a standard motel room was going for $525 plus tax per month for single occupancy, and $575 plus tax for double occupancy, Cox said.
Safer and cleaner units can be rented elsewhere in Humboldt County for the same price. However, landlords often require a credit check, a deposit and first and last month’s rent. This can be financially impossible for someone on a very low income.
The Green Valley, on the other hand, only requires the first month’s rent (plus tax) to move in.
Crandall said she was paying $1,100 a month for what’s called the bunk house. It’s a five-bedroom structure which the county claims was constructed without permits and is not up to code.
Besides being out of compliance, the bunk house is falling apart. According the Crandall, the bathroom is broken, there are holes in the floor, roof tiles are falling down, there’s black mold on the walls, there are numerous leaks and some of the walls have rotted so much that you can see through them. There’s a broken window and a railing is missing from the staircase leading up to the second-story structure.
Crandall said she wishes the owner would just make the repairs. Although the rental is not cheap, everything is included in the price – water, electricity, garbage, satellite television and even housekeeping and toilet paper, being that the Green Valley is technically a motel.
Since the building was red tagged, residents have stopped paying rent and are waiting to be relocated – something which the owner is resisting.
Crandall said she and her husband plan to stay at the Green Valley until they are relocated as required by law.
“I’m standing my ground,” she said.