San Francisco News

Beach Motel fights to keep tourist status

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A small motel in San Francisco could be forced to become a residential hotel, even though the Beach Motel near Ocean Beach has been operating as a tourist motel since it opened in the late 1950s. One small legal step in that process is happening Wednesday evening at City Hall.

Bob Patel has owned and operated the beach motel since 1983. He's already fought and won one legal battle to keep running it as a tourist motel, but he now has another legal fight on his hands. An unresolved case brought by the Tenderloin Housing Clinic is being resurrected, possibly for a second look by San Francisco's permitting board.

The clinic says the hotel is in violation of city regulations and is supposed to be a single-room occupancy residential hotel. The motel's lawyers alerted the sleepy outer Sunset neighborhood that the motel could become a homeless shelter.

"They decided to just lie and lie and lie, and I say that very clearly, last time they said we're trying to make it a homeless shelter," Randy Shaw with the Tenderloin Housing Clinic said. "We've never gone to any city agency trying to be involved."

"We don't really know what the use of the property would be if it's not a tourist motel," Patel's lawyer, Andrew Zacks said. "What we know is that it is a tourist motel, it's always been a tourist motel, and if we have anything to do about it, it's going to stay a tourist motel."

A lot has changed in San Francisco since the Beach Motel first opened its doors in 1958. First, there's zoning which now forbids tourist hotels in the neighborhood. Also, there's a city ordinance aimed at preserving affordable housing in the form of single-occupancy (or SRO) hotels. The Beach Motel thought it had won exemptions on both, but a hearing at City Hall Wednesday evening could reopen that legal battle.

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