The Waits Motel in Everett, Washington on Thursday, June 22, 2023. The motel is under new management. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

The Waits Motel in Everett, Washington on Thursday, June 22, 2023. The motel is under new management. (Annie Barker / The Herald)

Everett City Council votes 5-1 to condemn Waits Motel, despite turnaround

The city has said it plans to develop housing on the north Everett site. The motel’s manager said “they’re breaking up a community.”

EVERETT — After a passionate public hearing, the Everett City Council voted Wednesday to condemn the Waits Motel despite a recent push to turn around the north Everett property.

The city will plan to buy the property. Future plans will come down to a council vote, but may involve selling it to a developer.

Acquiring the property may take months, depending on whether the city can reach an agreement with the owner.

The vote was 5-1, with City Council member Liz Vogeli as the lone vote in opposition.

Neighbors have long complained about pervasive crime at and near the motel, 1301 Lombard Ave. But new manager Emily Simpson, who has poured her energy into transforming the Waits since she took over in March, said the city is snatching away her chance to reform the motel’s reputation.

Most public commenters at the council meeting opposed the condemnation, though a number supported it.

“I never thought I would speak on behalf of the Waits Motel,” one neighbor said, adding “there’s been radical change over there.”

The city will help long-term residents find “decent, safe and sanitary” replacement housing, City Attorney David Hall told the council, as they are required to do.

That will “almost certainly result in improved living conditions for the people who currently reside at the Waits” given legal standards for the replacement housing, he said. Those standards include a kitchen area, “sufficient bedroom and living space” and “functional and safe utilities.”

Everett City Attorney David Hall speaks on the condemning of the Waits Motel on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

Everett City Attorney David Hall speaks on the condemning of the Waits Motel on Thursday, Aug. 3, 2023 in Everett, Washington. (Olivia Vanni / The Herald)

“The goal is not to have people homeless,” said council member Mary Fosse. “The goal is to have living conditions that everyone deserves.”

The city plans to hire an outside relocation specialist to handle that process, Hall said in an interview.

It’s “almost unheard of that you can’t find somebody comparable housing,” he said. As for the possibility that people will be evicted, “that’s just not gonna happen.”

Simpson had intended to buy the motel and dreamed of rebranding it, calling it Rain Haven and making it into an attractive destination for visitors.

Under her leadership, the motel has undergone significant change.

The number of 911 calls from the property dropped significantly, from 147 all of last year to 47 in the first half of this year, according to police data. More than half of those calls came before March.

Among other measures, Simpson brought in private security to deter illegal activity and started enforcing a policy barring motel guests from having visitors at night.

In an interview, Simpson said she intended to take the city’s decision to court.

She doesn’t believe there are “magical places” to put the motel’s elderly residents.

She has been trying to help people get into a Rapid Rehousing program, but it’s “excruciatingly hard.”

“They’re breaking up a community,” Simpson said.

Sophia Gates: 425-339-3035; sophia.gates@heraldnet.com; Twitter: @SophiaSGates.

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