Judge shuts down problem Oakland motels for a year


lameda County Superior Court Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte's rulings on Tuesday were virtually identical to tentative rulings that she issued on May 29 against the Economy Inn at 122 E. 12th St. and the National Lodge at 1711 International Blvd.

Harbin-Forte's rulings came after a series of hearings at which community members, police officers and neighborhood advocates testified that the businesses had long histories of allowing and profiting from prostitution, including child prostitution.

The motels are located along "the track," an area along and near International Boulevard that authorities say is known for prostitution and the sexual exploitation of minors.

The city of Oakland sued the motels in December 2010, alleging that under state law, hotel and motel owners are responsible for preventing prostitution on their properties.

The judge issued preliminary injunctions against the motels last October requiring them to make improvements to security but police and neighbors said prostitution and crime continued.

Harbin-Forte said in her rulings that the motels present a severe nuisance to the community and the nuisance likely would continue unless they are closed.

Her rulings close the motels for one year, the maximum amount of time allowed by state law.

Harbin-Forte ordered the National Lodge's owners and operator to pay a total of $45,000 in fines and the owners of the Economy Inn to pay $30,000 in fines. She also ordered the owners of both motels to pay the city's legal costs and police investigations related to the cases.

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement, "The court's decision to close these hotels will make a tremendous difference for residents and businesses in these communities."

Parker said, "Both hotels have an appalling record of supporting and profiting from this criminal industry -- an industry based on horrific abuse of women and girls in our community. This decision sends a clear message that we will not allow businesses in Oakland to make a living from abuse and exploitation of women and girls."

City Councilwoman Patricia Kernighan, who testified in the cases, said, "These hotels have been a significant blight and a magnet for serious crimes in our neighborhood. I hope they will be replaced by lawful businesses that benefit the economy and quality of life in the community."

City of Oakland officials said they will hold an "Anti-Nuisance Workshop" for owners of hotels, motels and liquor stores from 10:30 a.m. to 12 noon on August 31.

They said the workshop will give information to owners about their responsibilities under the law and what they can do to prevent crime and nuisance activity on their properties.

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