Tourist traps

  • By Jennifer Warnick and Krista J. Kapralos / Herald Writer
  • Saturday, August 27, 2005 9:00pm
  • Local NewsLocal news

EVERETT – More than two years ago, the city printed 10,000 glossy tourism brochures with the slogan “Everett: Be surprised.”

Well, it’s working.

Hotel or motel seekers might be surprised that a handful of the lodgings in the brochure have been closed or transformed.

A tourist who calls the Howard Johnson Plaza Hotel will get nothing but ringing – it’s closed for remodeling and will reopen in November as a Holiday Inn Express.

A visitor who drops by the Marina Village Inn will find beds, but the beds belong to a sleep disorder clinic.

Residents, too, are surprised – and disappointed – that the city promoted its troubled motels alongside its celebrated ones.

The Gaylord House Bed and Breakfast and its nicely appointed Lotus Room, decorated with a touch of Indonesian whimsy, is on the same list as the Topper Motel, which was forced to close earlier this year for what the state and city called dangerous health and safety violations.

At the Topper, inspectors found Room 112 smelled badly of urine and decay. In Room 115, approximately 20 pet birds were allowed to fly around freely, defecating everywhere.

The biggest surprise of all, perhaps, is how much Everett has changed in the short time since the brochure was printed.

Tourism brochures are supposed to have a shelf life of about five years, Mayor Ray Stephanson said. The two-year-old brochure is a testament to the city’s rapid change, he said.

“Clearly, it sounds like its time for a revision,” he said of the brochure.

But there are two problems with getting a new one.

The first is money. The 10,000 copies of the “Everett: Be surprised” brochure cost $14,500 to print, Stephanson said.

The next problem is that, like a kindergartner on picture day, the city just can’t seem to hold still.

Everett could print another one in six months, but with all the change on the horizon, it would quickly go stale, he said.

“Between the things that we know are happening and the things that we’re planning to make happen, the next one we print, we can’t look at a two-year shelf life even,” the mayor said.

The new brochure will surely include the Everett Events Center, a post-brochure addition to the city, and a new 102-room Hilton Garden Inn at Paine Field that is scheduled to open later this year next to the new Future of Flight museum.

It will also have updated information on the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce, which moved into the Everett Events Center, and the Imagine Children’s Museum, which also has moved.

Some neighbors hope that when the city does create a new tourism brochure, it will leave the troubled motels off the list.

Lombard Avenue resident Stephanie Larson said she and her neighbors have been fighting to get the Waits Motel shut down for 15 years.

Under their watchdog group, North Everett Citizens against Prostitution, the neighbors call 911 when they see suspicious activity and have lobbied to force the motel to build a higher fence around it. Larson said her home, which faces the side of the motel, has been used by police as a stakeout.

So when she saw the motel listed in the city brochure, she was furious.

“This neighborhood has bent over backward to help the city of Everett get enough ammunition to get this thing closed down, and nothing seems to be done,” she said. “When I saw that the city of Everett is also encouraging people to stay at these places, I couldn’t believe it.”

City Attorney Jim Isles said there is no law that specifically obligates the city to list every licensed establishment while creating a brochure or listing, but to do so is the fairest approach.

While the brochure lists any and all lodging that Everett has to offer, some of the city’s motels are not very appealing to visitors, said Lanie McMullin, the city’s executive director.

“And that’s a problem,” she said. “Because of the quality of some of our inventory, we’ve had a hard time attracting” new, higher-end hotels.

That all may be changing, she said. McMullin said she’s been talking to a couple of upscale hotel chains interested in locating in Everett, though she declined elaborate.

The city also needs to be careful not to squeeze out the good hotel providers by flooding the market with rooms, she said.

Resident Steven Combs understands why the city would include some of the vice-ridden, north-end motels in its brochure. Every legitimate place of lodging deserves a chance for business, Combs said, but he wouldn’t recommend the Waits Motel, which is within view of his front porch.

“Tear that place down,” Combs said.

Sarb Ghag helps her father, owner Jodh Ghag, run the Waits Motel. She said they improved conditions at the motel a few years ago.

“It was bad before then, but we cleaned it up,” she said.

But Combs said weekends bring police activity, and a patrol car is often parked just outside the motel’s entrance.

“It doesn’t surprise me that any motel or hotel is listed, because they all need to get a fair shake,” Combs said. “But I’d like to see that place get bulldozed.”

Dannette Enera was surprised to find something listed in the brochure: Her telephone number.

The south Everett woman set up a new phone line a few months ago, and immediately started receiving about four calls a day from people looking for the Everett Area Chamber of Commerce.

She inherited the chamber’s old number, which is listed in Everett’s tourism brochure and probably others as well.

She said it’s amazing how many different area codes have popped up on her caller ID, and sometimes people are even rude to her when they find out she’s not the chamber.

Still, she’s friendly to all that call her home, despite the fact that she gets so many wrong numbers.

“Oh well, I don’t want to get a new phone number,” Enera said. “I’ll just wait until they come out with a new book.”

In case that takes a while, the chamber of commerce is now at 425- 257-3222.

Reporter Jennifer Warnick: 425-339-3429 or jwarnick@

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