Ukiah council a step away from razing historic hotel

  • 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 on Wednesday night declared the historic Palace Hotel a public nuisance and initiated abatement proceedings.

Owner Eladia Laines, a Marin County real estate agent, has 30 days to make improvements or the council could take the next step: ordering staff to repair or tear down the building and charge Laines for the costs.

City Council members agreed that the city has given Laines plenty of time — 21 years — to keep her many promises to rehabilitate the three-story, 120-year-old landmark in the heart of downtown Ukiah.

"We've asked nicely. Now we're in a position where we can compel them," Councilwoman Mari Rodin said.

Laines this week asked the city to delay its vote but the council said the appeal fits a pattern of delay tactics. Over the years, the city had nudged, cajoled and threatened Laines with punitive action if she did not take steps to keep the building safe. She would make repairs, including fixing the sprinkler system and boarding up the broken windows, but did not keep up the efforts, officials said.

In 2009, she announced grand plans for a building with shops on the ground level and condominiums on the upper levels but the plan went nowhere.

The building already had sat vacant for several years when Laines and some business partners bought the hotel in a bankruptcy sale in 1990 for $115,000.

The city has spent thousands of dollars on at least five studies for the hotel, including feasibility studies and an appraisal in efforts to help Laines move forward or sell the hotel.

But Laines wants more than $1 million for the hotel, according to city officials. The property was appraised at $309,000 in 2006, but a study commissioned by the city in 2001 determined it would cost $4.5 million just to tear it down.

The city can no longer ignore the problem because the building is bordering on being structurally unsound, Planning Director Charley Stump told the council. An inspection earlier this year revealed unsafe conditions, including mold, broken windows and deteriorated ceiling and floor supports, he said.

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