ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque police have been called over and over again, and residents are now calling for the place to be shut down.
“They spend a lot of time… APD spends a lot of time over here,” said JoAnn Stafford-Chaney, a resident in the Elder Homestead Neighborhood near Gibson and San Pedro.
“Our neighbors are very afraid that they are gonna get shot,” said Carmen J. Pennington, secretary of the Elder Homestead Neighborhood Association.
Concerns about crime keep Pennington busy. She is editor of the neighborhood association newsletter and a long-time resident.
“We have been here 40 some years, and a lot of people have been here that long,” she said. “It used to be a young neighborhood, and now we are getting older.”
She’s heard lots of complaints over the years about the Sahara Motel on Gibson near San Pedro, where police have responded to multiple shootings and thefts. It’s been the scene of SWAT standoffs and the arrest location for wanted suspects.
The Safe City Strike Force has also found health and safety violations after inspections of the property. Tenants have reported bed bugs, and neighbors say mice infestations have spread to surrounding properties.
City Councilor Pat Davis has heard from residents who are fed up, and he’s seen some of it himself. In fact, when KRQE News 13 arrived at the Sahara Motel to discuss it, Davis was actually calling the police.
An officer showed up to check out suspected stolen cars on the property.
“We worked with the owner here for two years now to address problems, but it just doesn’t seem like the management or ownership is willing or able to do the work,” Davis said. “It’s a sore spot, and it’s creating a lot of crime and a lot of problems and quite frankly, our patience is just done.”
Davis wrote a letter earlier this month, asking the Albuquerque’s legal department to file a complaint in District Court to deem it a public nuisance and shut it down.
The letter shows APD got at least 193 calls to the motel in the first eight months of the year. It says it averages about five calls a week, and in some weeks APD got as many as ten.
“We, the citizens, have to pay for this, and I think we’re all pretty tired,” Stafford-Chaney said.
Sahara Motel Manager Lisa Gong said her family has owned the Sahara Motel for more than 15 years.
“Yeah, we understand. We have a problem here, but we are working on it now,” she said.
Gong chalks it up to a couple of problem tenants, and she said the law makes it difficult for her to evict them.
She added that she’s halfway done with a total remodel to make the motel safer and cleaner.
When reminded of neighbors who say the problems have existed for far too long and they are tired of waiting, Gong said, “They still have given us a chance, you know. Because, I’m sorry, you know, for the people that bring the trouble here.”
The city’s legal department confirmed with KRQE News 13 that it does plan to ask a judge to declare the Sahara Motel a public nuisance, leaving it up to a judge to decide if it should be closed, sold or torn down.
Below is the full statement from Friday, Oct. 13 from the City of Albuquerque Legal Department and Planning Department:
The Safe City Strike Force supervisor, along with representatives from several City departments, conducted inspections on the Sahara Motel property located at 5915 Gibson SE on Thursday, Oct. 12. During the inspections, several of the City departments did find some violations which they will work with the property owner to correct over the next few weeks. In addition, because of the violations found yesterday, and the community concerns, the City’s Legal Department will be filing paperwork in District Court to request that a judge allow us to deem the property as a public nuisance. Doing so could allow the City to more effectively correct any future or ongoing issues.
“I’ll believe it when I see it. It’s been too long,” Pennington said.
She is skeptical, but she hasn’t lost hope.
“I don’t give up. I’ll fight ’till the bitter end, I guess, but you just can’t give up. You have to keep pushing and pushing until something is done.”
The city said it hasn’t officially filed a complaint in court yet.
If the motel is declared a public nuisance, a judge would decide if the owner should pay for the cost of demolition and relocation for the current tenants.