Owner of historic Ukiah hotel gets another chance to renovate

  • 5/4/2006: B1: Teenage pedestrians pass in front of the boarded up Palace Hotel in downtown Ukiah in this July 2005 photo. The historic hotel has sat dormant and rotting for more than a decade.
    PC: Yvonne Welsh, 15, on bike and Tammy Norris, 17, both of Ukiah pass in front of the closed and boarded up historic Palace Hotel on North State Street in downtown Ukiah. The historic hotel has sat dormant and rotting for more than a decade.

The Ukiah City Council threatened Wednesday night to wrest control of the historic Palace Hotel from its owner, saying that restoration of the decaying structure is insufficient.

But after three hours of debate, a slight majority voted to give Eladia Laines one more chance before seeking a court order that would put a receiver in charge of restoring or tearing down the once-grand hotel.

"I just don't think this is the time," Councilman Doug Crane said prior to the 3-2 vote in favor of another reprieve.

He agreed with other council members that progress has been much slower than they'd hoped for when they initially threatened Laines with forced abatement two years ago. But the latest holdup was caused when a state regulatory agency stepped in, ordering the work to stop because of asbestos concerns.

It is the latest chapter in a saga that dates back nearly a quarter-century.

Laines, a Marin County real estate agent, has been promising to restore the 122-year-old landmark since she and former partners purchased the hotel in a 1990 bankruptcy sale for $115,000.

The nearly 60,000-square-foot, three-story building takes up more than half of a city block and has been a scourge on downtown improvement efforts.

Laines periodically has made small repairs and promises of larger-scale renovations to the council.

Councilwoman Mary Ann Landis, who voted to move forward with the receivership, called the promises "stories."

"It's still a mess," she said.

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