Seattle seeks to close or clean up five seedy motels on Aurora Avenue North
The cheap motels along Seattle's Aurora Avenue aren't exactly known for their ritzy accommodations, but the city says a Bothell couple who...
Seattle Times staff reporter
The cheap motels along Seattle's Aurora Avenue aren't exactly known for their ritzy accommodations, but the city says a Bothell couple who operate five motels on the strip made infamous by drug dealers and prostitutes have been taking seediness to a new low.
Since 2005, Dean and Jill Inman have been on the city's radar, their properties considered not-so-secret havens for criminals and other shady characters. After countless complaints from neighbors and hundreds of visits by Seattle police, the city announced Tuesday that it plans to use every tool at its disposal to force the Inmans to clean up their act or get out of the hospitality business.
Just as the city was preparing to cut the electricity to all five of their businesses on Tuesday, the Inmans — who'd racked up more than $11,000 in unpaid utility bills — came up with the money at the last minute and averted a power shutdown, said Alex Fryer, a spokesman for Mayor Greg Nickels. The payment came after city outreach workers went door to door Tuesday morning to offer motel residents vouchers and relocation assistance.
Though the Inmans remain in business, the heat is still on: The City Attorney's Office last week filed 152 criminal charges against the Inmans, alleging a variety of tax violations. And city officials are working to have their business licenses revoked, Fryer said.
Calls to the Inmans' Bothell home on Tuesday went unanswered. Their voice-mail system indicated that their in-box is full, so no message could be left for them.
The pimps, hookers, dealers and drug addicts who've made Robb Pierides' life a living hell every day for the last several years — ever since the Inmans bought the Seattle Motor Inn next to Pierides' restaurant, Robb's 125th Street Grill, he says — were absent Tuesday morning. In their place were police officers and city workers who flooded the parking lot Pierides shares with the Inmans' motel.
It was a nice change to Pierides' usual morning routine, when he and a dishwasher, armed with brooms and gloves, clear the parking lot of condoms, beer cans, smashed malt-liquor bottles and the occasional hypodermic needle.
"It was like a ghost town here. It was nice to see," Pierides said by phone Tuesday afternoon.
The motel clientele who usually roll up in their BMWs, Jaguars and Escalades were nowhere to be seen, he said. And the pimps — selling the bodies of women and girls — were long gone, too.
"They're very scary people. They really are thugs, every one of them," Pierides said of those seen around the Inmans' motel. "They're like cockroaches — when the lights come on, they scatter."
Though Pierides would like nothing more than to see the Inmans shut down, Fryer said the couple bought themselves at least a little more time.
But "people have lost their businesses for failure to pay taxes," and the Inmans are still in serious trouble, he said. City officials plan to have many more conversations with the couple, aimed at resolving not just their back taxes but the rampant crime that plagues their properties.
The city has yet to determine exactly how much the Inmans owe in unpaid taxes, Fryer said.
According to court records, Dean Inman, 38, is listed as a debtor in at least five tax-warrant civil cases in King and Snohomish counties since 1998.
Spencer Anderson, who lives across the alley from the Inmans' Italia and Isabella motels, called the two businesses "the nexus of crime and debauchery."
"They've been a huge problem, probably the only problem we have in this neighborhood," he said.
Last year alone, Seattle police were called to the Inmans' five properties at least 460 times for problems ranging from drug use to assault, according to the city. Those calls, broken down by motel, were:
• Wallingford Inn, 4453 Winslow Place N.: 82
• Fremont Inn, 4251 Aurora Ave. N.: 110
• Isabella Motel, 4117 Aurora Ave. N.: 31
• Italia Motel, 4129 Aurora Ave. N.: 80
• Seattle Motor Inn, 12245 Aurora Ave. N.: 160
In April 2008, Seattle police arrested 32 people at the couple's various motels and, during a 16-day period that month, seized 42 grams of cocaine, nearly 12 grams of marijuana, four drug scales and other drug paraphernalia, the city says. Robberies and assaults have also occurred on the Inmans' properties, the city says.
Despite ongoing conversations with the couple since 2005, Fryer said, the problems have persisted. "There were a lot of promises made but not a lot of promises kept," he said.
In fact, at the Isabella Motel last year, someone posted a sign in the office window "warning residents to not cooperate with police or the City Attorney's Office," a city news release says, noting the Inmans' behavior "stands in stark contrast" to relations between city officials and other motel operators on Aurora Avenue.
Though it's "difficult to ascertain" living conditions at the motels, Fryer said, police reports provide a grim picture: "Not a lot of hygiene, not a lot of care. It doesn't sound like the Four Seasons, no," he said.
Seattle Times staff reporter Charles Brown and news researcher Miyoko Wolf contributed to this report.
Sara Jean Green: 206-515-5654 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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