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Owners of troubled New Harbor Inn agree to give Costa Mesa first right of refusal as part of settlement

The owners of the New Harbor Inn have agreed to take steps to provide better safety and transparency measures in accordance with a recent settlement agreement with Costa Mesa.

That includes giving the city the right of first refusal should they attempt to sell the property, which officials have called a hotbed for criminal activity.

If Ming Cheng Chen and Hsiange Chu Shih Chen try to sell the motel, the city can refuse the sale. It will then have 30 days after being provided with the purchase offer to agree to purchase the motel and match the terms and conditions.

The city would be barred from transferring the property to another developer, said Frank Weiser, attorney for the Chens.

Should the motel ever be put up for sale, the city would assess the terms of the sale and its budgetary priorities at that time, said Councilman John Stephens.

“Potentially, the property could be used for affordable housing or transitional services,” Stephens said. “It is good to have that option to consider.”

As part of the agreement, the Chens will provide security patrols on the property along with detailed logs, retain copies of identification and registration cards of each registered guest for up to 90 days and provide that information to the city within seven days upon request.

They must also ensure sanitary standards are followed, as well as local, state and federal laws.

Other provisions include allowing code enforcement officers onto the property for inspections and when police and fire personnel respond to calls for service.

“We actually got more effective safeguards for the motels than we could have ever got from a trial,” Stephens said.

Weiser said the agreement was well-negotiated and pleases all those involved.

“I think it’s fair,” Weiser said of the conditions. “I really think the city and the Chens now have made peace.”

The Chens signed off on the city’s conditions when both parties recently agreed to drop lawsuits against each other.

In recent years, the Costa Mesa Police Department has responded to the property for prostitution, the sale and use of illegal drugs and a person found unconscious, possibly from a heroin overdose in one of the rooms.

In April 2016, the city filed a public nuisance complaint against the motel. The complaint said the motel posed “a serious threat to the safety of the public” caused by a number of criminal acts.

In response, the Chens filed a federal lawsuit against the city last year, alleging Costa Mesa officials were discriminating against the motel and its low-income tenants by trying to push them out.

The city has tried to shutter some of the blighted motels on Newport and Harbor boulevards in recent years in an attempt to improve the quality of life in those areas.

Source: The Orange County Register

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