A squalid West Anaheim motel that was a locus of human trafficking, prostitution, illegal drug use, and criminality has been shut down by city authorities, who described conditions at the Covered Wagon Motel as “inhumane” and “deplorable.”
A team of about 20 city officials descended on the Covered Wagon on March 29. The officials came from various city departments: Planning & Building, Code Enforcement, Anaheim Police, City Attorney’s Office, and city administration. They were accompanied by City Net outreach workers from the Community Care and Response Team.
Approximately 25 people were living in the Covered Wagon, including families and seniors. They were paying between $1,000 and $2,000 a month in cash, using an ATM in the motel lobby. Some residents were living in rooms that were boarded up. One man paid $1,000 a month to live in a storage container at the north end of the property.
According to sources, the team encountered conditions in the dingy 70-room motel they described as horrifying. The property is split between north and south sides. Most of the north side rooms are boarded up and unfit for occupancy, according to the city.
Officials found human waste and filth in the ruined motel rooms, and often were littered with drug paraphernalia. The occupants of one room fled upon the arrival of city officials, leaving behind syringes, pipes, drug tinfoil, knives, and stolen gift cards.
When city officials knocked on the door of one room, it was answered by a young child who was crying because his mother had been gone for hours.
The city “red-tagged” the dilapidated Covered Wagon Motel for a raft of public health and safety violations including, open electrical wiring, water leaks, sewage problems, no smoke detectors, mold, filth, and squalor.
The red-tagging is part of a city effort to address issues with motels on Beach Boulevard and ensure they are operating safely and according to basic standards, according to city spokesman Michael Lyster.
“While some motels operate well, others contribute to serious problems on Beach, including human trafficking and prostitution, chronic drug use including fentanyl and methamphetamine, and illegal gambling,” said Lyster.
The onsite restaurant, Christi’s, is owned separately and will continue to operate. Officials from Code Enforcement and the Orange County Health Care Agency visited the restaurant on March 31, and are evaluating its continued operation.
Motel Residents Relocated
In the days before the red-tagging, city officials were able to relocate five families living at the motel. After the property was shuttered, the city relocated the remaining residents using motel vouchers – except those who were engaged in criminal activity. Voucher recipients were screened for long-term residency.
“The red-tagging and clearing was a balancing act of need to clear inhumane and unsafe conditions while also working to relocate people in a human and orderly way,” said city spokesman Michael Lyster in response to inquiries.
The city has secured the property with security, floodlights, and cameras. The motel owner has filed with the city for a demolition permit.
“I am incredibly grateful to the team that has been working all week at the Covered Wagon,” said District 1 Councilman Jose Diaz.
“Thank you to our amazing staff from nearly every department at City Hall – from the Anaheim Police Department to code enforcement and public works, and so many more,” said Diaz. “And a special thank you to our partners including City Net and Be Well OC. You have all shown such dedication to improving the lives of those relocated from the motel as well as all Anaheim residents living nearby.”
From Mid-Century Modern Glory To Crime Haven
The Covered Wagon Motel began as The Bahia Motel in 1961, one of a string of Polynesian and Googie-style motels that dotted Beach Boulevard. They were classics of mid-century modern style and destinations for vacationing families visiting Disneyland and Knott’s Berry Farm during Orange County’s decades of booming growth.
Like other Beach Boulevard motels, it went into decline in the 1990s as the boulevard itself became a center of illicit activity. As recently as 2013, owners of these motels mounted a vain effort to improve their image and clientele.
“This is the most disgusting, filthy, no linens, toilet paper, towels and full of roaches!!!!,” reads a December 1, 2021 Yelp review. “The wi-fi doesn’t work, no hot water, air conditioner doesn’t work, and the female owner has the people who live here fix whatever needs repaired – which is everything. Code enforcement needs to called to come look at this place.”
“This motel is a hangout for drug users/dealers, criminals and prostitutes, Not a safe or clean place to stay. If you have to advertise that you are bed bug free, then that spells problems. DO NOT STAY HERE,” reads a 2015 review.
The city is engaged in a determined effort to finally revitalize the historic corridor.
“Long term, our planning calls for the redevelopment of the 1.5 miles Beach running through Anaheim with new apartments and townhomes, sidewalk businesses and as an inviting, walkable street,” said Lyster.
Last year, the city acquired and demolished the Americana Motel. It was the third run-down Beach Boulevard motel to be cleared: the Silver Moon Motel was torn down in 2002, and Lindy’s Motel met its end in 2017.
This weekend, leasing offices opened for Nolin, a new 65-townhome community going up at northeast Beach and Lincoln.
Good riddance!! But where will the riff-raff end up? Hopefully not on the neighboring streets. Therein lies the problem.
Thank you city of Anaheim and to every one of us who pushed hard along to way to keep the focus on this so we could one day celebrate a safer, cleaner, well deserved nice Beach blvd. It was unbelievable these motels had existed in that horrible criminal way for as long as they have, right under the citys nose. It is taking forever, but we are getting there….thank you, thank you, thank you!
Now lets get the Trader Joes or equivelent to 39 Commons., get the rest of those motels gone, and make a Beach blvd worthy of pride for our whole city!!!!!!
Its finally WEST Anaheims turn! 👏👏👏
Progress is happening. The corner where the former Tool Shack is should be torn down this week or the next. The contract with a grocer for 39 Commons should happen in the next few months. Some retail has already committed to the area. The city held a Business Watch meeting last Wednesday that was well attended, and had positive discussions. Code enforcement has started its proactive approach to the Commercial Corridor. Underground of the Electrical Lines should hopefully be approved this year – the funding for it has been 100% approved already. At the same time, new LED lighting will be placed along the entire stretch of Beach Blvd. Progress is happening, and will continue to happen.
The city is holding a Rebuild Beach update meeting this Wednesday, the 6th of April at 6 PM at Baden Powell Elementary. The meeting is open to everyone. Hope to see you there!
…….one more down, 16 to go!
Please Note: Council Member Jose Diaz lives directly across the street from the covered wagon Motel on Rome Avenue.
This article is filled with so many lies. My mother in law lived there. Not because she wanted to, because that is the only place she could afford. She hated it there, but had no choice. She has COPD and had mold all around her. I was constantly going over bleaching everything in an attempt to make her living conditions safer. We were told it would be at least 30 days before they red tag it and voila, they show up the very next day and tag it condemned. She was told she had two hours to pack her things and leave. City net took her all the way to studio 6 on harbor and the 91 freeway. Far from the stores and places she would walk to everyday and far from her doctors that she went to weekly. She was given a 28 day voucher and was told her family isn’t allowed to visit her like she was in trouble or did something wrong. City net promised to help with permanent housing but when her 28 day voucher was done, they were at her door kicking her out onto the streets along with all the others they promised to help. Yes there were drugs and violence at the wagon, comes with the territory, but the core residents that were there 9 + months, are good people and didn’t deserve this.
My wife and I lived there on and off for the last 2 years .It was the only thing we could afford. At the time she worked security at the gate to keep the bad people out. It was a task. Our hotel got flood twice so we finally made a mad dash and never went back.Plus the owner changed management. That declined to a down hill spiral. It was constant spraying of bleach to kill the mold. Then she had to be on an inhaler while our stay there. No telling what other health conditions will arise with all the black mold and the sewage backing up. I swear when we got flooded for the last time I seen a turf float by.