The city of Galt has sued the owners of a local motor inn and wants a receiver to take over the derelict property due to hundreds of violations and dangerously deteriorating conditions at the motel, city officials announced Friday.
Officials say the Royal Delta Inn on North Lincoln Way off Highway 99 in Galt is a crime den and a drug marketplace, pointing to more than 518 police calls for service between 2011 and 2014. The building itself is so unsafe that city inspectors identified nearly 2,000 code violations in an October 2014 abatement notice.
The city filed its lawsuit against the motel’s owners Dec. 22. A week later, inspectors tried to return to the property to determine if any of the violations had been corrected, but they were denied entry, city officials said in a statement.
Galt offices were closed Friday and city officials were unavailable, but in the statement officials called the litigation a “last resort” after years of code enforcement problems.
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“The City has attempted every feasible method to motivate and compel the owners to abate the unlawful, dangerous and substandard conditions at the hotel,” the statement read.
Galt has steadily increased pressure on the inn’s owners, Sam Sandhu and Harjinder “Harry” Sandhu, not related, in recent months to make needed improvements. Residents on Friday likened a Sept. 10 inspection of the Royal Delta that involved city code enforcement officers, firefighters and Galt police to a raid.
“It was like military tactics. They set up their headquarters on the (front) side of the building. DEA, Galt PD – it was crazy,” said tenant Luke Spolar, who said he has lived at Royal Delta “off and on the last two years, four or five months at a time.”
Several weeks later, on Oct. 30, Galt put the motel on notice to correct the violations within seven days, so immediate was the danger to residents. In Friday’s announcement, Galt officials said a city-appointed receiver would assume control of the 96-room motel, relocate the remaining residents and determine whether the building could be rehabilitated.
Harjinder Sandhu declined comment Friday, referring questions to his attorney. Residents defended the owners, saying they have worked to correct the problems. A worker was repairing equipment in the motel’s lobby, and there were signs of recent work in a couple of vacant units. The inn has also hired a building inspector to look over the repairs.
Greg Lapp, owner of Lapp Automotive next door to Royal Delta, called it a “tough situation.” The inn’s owners are his customers and nice people, he said. But he’s also had problems with some of their tenants.
“We’ve had cars broken into over the years. It’s petty theft, but it still costs me money,” Lapp said. “(The tenants) aren’t all bad, but there’s a few.”
Outside, an abandoned car sat on jacks in the nearly empty motel parking lot. A hand-painted sign tells tenants the swimming pool is closed, the water a murky green at the bottom of the pool.
But the latest news from the city rattled residents. Many are long-term tenants who had fallen on tough times, making homes out of modest rooms with little more than a bed and toilet.
“We’re kind of victims of circumstance. It’s not our fault they’ve got code violations,” Spolar said.
Later, Lisa Howze filed through city correspondence, documents and presentations with slogans such as “Creating Economic Vitality through Strategic Initiatives,” in her tiny room. The papers sit on the bed next to the day’s groceries from a Walmart and a clutch of books from the public library.
Howze said she and her husband, Ken, moved into the inn a year ago after a series of major setbacks. Her husband’s heating and air-conditioning business failed, they lost their home and then Howze was diagnosed and successfully treated for breast cancer. Howze is a nurse but hasn’t been able to work. The pitfalls left them in a motel room off the highway in Galt.
Howze said she and a neighbor have closely followed Galt’s plans for the Royal Delta and are trying to work with local agencies to help fellow tenants relocate. It’s a frustrating job.
After weeks, they found a legal-aid nonprofit to take on their case. The next stop, she said, is to contact Sacramento County Supervisor Don Nottoli, who represents Galt.
“We’re kind of stuck here because it takes money to move,” she said.
The problems at Royal Delta are very real, but Howze wondered if other motives were behind the city’s actions and what that might mean for the inn’s residents.
Howze pointed to the city’s economic development strategy and its stated priority to expand and locate industrial and retail business in the small town. She looked out at the large, vacant lot next to the motel and the plans for the land across Highway 99 near Walmart. She believes the city wants to turn the motel property into an industrial park.
“If they’re going to do it, they need to do it properly. There’s a right way and a wrong way.”
Call The Bee’s Darrell Smith, (916) 321-1040.