Supervisor Don Knabe
Supervisor Don Knabe will ask his fellow supervisors Tuesday to get behind AB 192, state legislation that would make it a crime for hotels to violate local building codes.
The point is to crack down on “birthing hotels,” aka, “maternity hotels,” where illegal immigrant women rent rooms and give birth so their children will have automatic United States citizenship.
The bill by Assemblyman Curt Hagman, R-Chino Hills, would make it a misdemeanor, punishable by fine or imprisonment or both, for any person to operate a hotel in an area zoned for residences.
“These so-called maternity hotels cut into legitimate hotel business, evade taxes and cause a nuisance to residents,” Knabe says in his motion. “They also pose serious health and public-safety hazards since basic health, fire and safety regulations are flagrantly disregarded.”
According to a report from county administrator William T. Fujioka, the “hotels” are often simply houses in residential communities – and that’s where local officials might be able to have an impact.
“The establishment of maternity boarding houses seems to be expanding in Southern California, particularly in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties,” Fujioka writes. “Between 2007 and November 2012, zoning enforcement inspectors investigated complaints and confirmed 16 alleged maternity boarding houses operating in the unincorporated communities of Los Angeles County within the San Gabriel Valley. From December 2012 to mid-January, Regional Planning received approximately 60 complaints regarding alleged maternity boarding houses. The Department indicates that with the exception of one parcel, all of these properties are located in a zone where boarding/rooming houses are prohibited.”
AB 192 would define a “hotel” as a “building containing 6 or more guest rooms offering transient lodging accommodations to the general public.”
But Fujioka says it’s unclear whether the term “hotel,” and thus the bill in its present form, would cover what’s happening in Los Angeles County.
“(The county attorney’s office) notes that because AB 192 proposes to criminalize only the operation of a ‘hotel,’ some ambiguities may arise in the county regulatory context,” Fujioka states. “Some maternity boarding house uses may fall within the county’s definition of a ‘rooming/boarding house,’ but not a ‘hotel.’ It is unclear whether these uses will be included within purview of AB 192.”
Fujioka also questions whether the bill would cover a residential use that’s allowed by a county permit in a commercial zone.
He said he’ll work with Hagman’s staff for clarifying language in the bill.
It’s not the first time the supervisors have addressed the issue. In February they approved another motion by Knabe, instructing Fujioka and the various county departments to investigate the public complaints and conduct multi-agency inspections of suspected birthing hotels.
Fujoka’s report back to the board is pending. Meantime, Fujioka said in his report on AB 192, “There is no existing board-approved policy relating to the imposition of criminal penalties on an individual who operates a hotel in a residential area in violation of local building and zone codes. Therefore, support of AB 192, which would specify that operating a hotel in violation of local building and zoning codes is illegal within state law … is a matter for board policy determination.”