Anaheim demolishes crime-ridden motel for housing

Teardown of 70-room Covered Wagon Motel part of plan to redevelop Beach Boulevard

Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken and the Covered Wagon Motel at 823 South Beach Boulevard in Anaheim (, Loopnet)
Anaheim Mayor Ashleigh Aitken and the Covered Wagon Motel at 823 South Beach Boulevard in Anaheim (, Loopnet)

The City of Anaheim has bought and bulldozed a crime-ridden motel as part of a campaign to redevelop Beach Boulevard.

Last month, the city paid $6.6 million to buy the red-tagged Covered Wagon Motel at 823 South Beach Boulevard, which is now being razed for affordable apartments and townhomes, the Orange County Register reported.

“We made a commitment to the residents of West Anaheim,” newly elected Mayor Ashleigh Aitken told the newspaper. “This is Anaheim in action.”

The 70-room, mid-century motel, once a destination between Los Angeles and the coast, had become a haven for drug dealers, stolen goods and prostitution. The motel was red-tagged last spring because of water leaks, electrical problems, mold, filth and squalor.

City officials had described conditions there as “inhumane” and “deplorable.” The developer of future homes on the site was not disclosed.

The demolition of the Covered Wagon marks the third Beach Boulevard motel to be razed since 2017. Last month, Anaheim bought the neighboring Anaheim Lodge for an undisclosed price, with plans to tear it down for homes, according to the Register.

Such motels in recent years have become a last resort for poor seniors and families to avert homelessness, but are also a magnet for crime, city officials say. Anaheim police report responding to 4,800 calls along Beach Boulevard last year, more than 9,000 in 2021 and 6,500 in 2020.

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The city counts 15 motels left along Beach Boulevard. While officials see a future for those that serve tourists, there are more motels than the demand for budget travel options, leaving some to struggle, according to a city spokesman.

Beach Boulevard, once the main thoroughfare between Disneyland and the ocean, is home to a Googie-style carwash landmark. Anaheim has embarked on a $20 million effort to clean up the corridor with security cameras, license plate readers and property beautification.

Part of the cleanup includes trying to buy up the aging motels along the strip.

The revitalization of the historic corridor is anchored by the 39 Commons project underway at Beach Boulevard and Lincoln Avenue. The large-scale development will include for-sale housing and a Whole Foods supermarket.

Anaheim leaders see revitalizing the major corridor – in a campaign known as Rebuild Beach – as creating a mix of affordable and market-rate housing to support neighborhood businesses, City Manager James Vanderpool told the newspaper.

— Dana Bartholomew

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