Armed with a court order, Ukiah officials entered the decaying, vine-covered Palace Hotel this week to investigate potential hazards inside the historic building that sits, vacant and boarded up, in the heart of downtown.
The building's Marin County owners initially refused to give permission for the inspection, prompting city officials to obtain a warrant, said Ukiah Planning Commissioner Judy Pruden. Forced entry was averted when a representative of the owner showed up Thursday to unlock the doors.
The results of the inspection — a routine check because of prior health and safety problems, like a leaking roof that needed to be repaired — were not available Friday.
The inspection is another step in the city's efforts to convince Eladia Laines, and her husband, Mike Leddy, to rehabilitate the 120-year-old, three-story building or sell it.
"After 20 years, we've hit the end of the road with the current owner or owners. I don't think there's any more we can do to work with them," said Pruden, who also is a member of a group formed to promote and assist with the hotel's rehabilitation.
Laines and some business partners purchased the hotel in a bankruptcy sale in 1990 for $115,000. It's now worth less than it would cost to tear it down, but Laines has said she wants more than $1 million to sell, city officials said. It's unclear whether Laines is the sole owner or has clear title to the building, city officials said.
Over the last two decades, the city has spent thousands of dollars on at least five studies for the hotel, including feasibility studies and an appraisal, efforts aimed at nudging the owners to take action.
More recently, frustrated city officials have been working toward reinstating the redevelopment agency's ability to purchase the hotel through eminent domain.
Those efforts have resulted in periodic repairs and announcements by Laines and Leddy of grand plans for the hotel.
In 2009, they hosted a wine and cheese open house at which they displayed plans for a building with shops and offices on the ground level and condominiums on the top levels. Yellowing plans and newspaper accounts of the proposal remain on display in the windows of a dusty office next door to the hotel.