SAN DIEGO COUNTY, Calif. (KGTV) - San Diego County officials have condemned a North County resort saying the property is unsafe to occupy.
On Jan. 22, the county placed a “Do Not Enter” notice at the Bellafonte Resort entrance saying the building has been condemned as being unsanitary and unfit for human habitation because an immediate health hazard exists.
According to the county, "On January 8, 2021, the property owner was issued a Notice of Violation to make necessary repairs to the substandard conditions. On January 13, they were told that the property will be condemned if water and electricity are not immediately restored. As of January 21, it was not restored, so the County proceeded with the condemnation of the property. The official notice was provided to the owner and tenants on January 22. This began a 72-hour period to vacate the property."
The move comes after more than a year of complaints from people living near the hotel, which is located in an unincorporated area north of Escondido.
"We were very concerned about the progression of what was going on up there," said Joe Strafaci.
Strafaci's lived in the Castle Creek neighborhood for about 10 years. He said things have been mostly quiet for that time. Then in 2019, they got a new a neighbor. A company called NSI Services, LLC bought what was then the Tuscany Hills Resort, a hotel that sits at the edge of the neighborhood.
"Immediately, the shift from the hotel had taken place almost immediately," Strafaci said.
State records showed in 2018, NSI Services listed itself as a drug rehab business. In paperwork filed in November 2020, the type of business changed from a drug rehab business to hotel and resort.
Strafaci said no matter what type of business the company says it's doing, the people staying at the property had become a problem.
"We could see the Sheriff’s Office was responding to multiple requests a week for intervention on minor crimes, substance abuse issues," Strafaci said. "We've seen an escalation in the previous three months of burglaries where weapons were involved."
According to records obtained by Team 10 from February 2020 through Jan. 16, 2021, deputies responded to calls for service at the property almost 150 times.
In January 2021, records show there were 26 calls for service in 16 days.
"A lot of the calls for service were telephone calls or arguments, if you will, disturbances with regards to some issues that were going on with the resort," Sergeant Aloha Peters with the San Diego County Sheriff's Department.
But it's not the law enforcement activity the county ultimately had its sights set on.
The county's Department of Planning and Development Services said it's been addressing community concerns and working to resolve county code violations since August 2019.
A spokesperson tells ABC 10News, "After receiving a community complaint about solid waste on the property, the County's Department of Planning & Development Services has been addressing community concerns and working to resolve County Code violations at the Bellafonte Resort & Hotel. Unfortunately, while some violations such as the first solid waste violation was resolved, new ones developed and repeated attempts to work with the owner to remedy various violations were not successful. The County also issued multiple citations.”
Throughout this time, county staff kept the local home owners association and neighboring property owners apprised of the situation. Most recently, this included a Jan. 11 community meeting with the Sheriff's Department to discuss their concerns. Among the concerns was a new complaint received by the Department of Environmental Health and Quality on Dec. 31 that there was no water or electricity at the property. Under state law and local ordinances, property owners are required to make water, electricity, and heat available to tenants."
The county said on Jan. 8, 2021, the property owner was issued a Notice of Violation to make necessary repairs to the conditions. Three weeks later, the county said power was not restored, so the county proceeded with the condemnation of the property.
Team 10 went to the property to try and talk to someone in charge. A person who answered the phone provided a number for the owner. When we called, no one picked up.
A man wearing a shirt that said “security” on it was circling the hotel while we were there. He came and took pictures of us and our vehicles but wouldn't tell us what he was doing or answer any questions.
A day after ABC 10News visited the hotel, we got a phone call from a man named "Jeff" who said he's the new manager and the resort has a new owner. Jeff wouldn't give his last name or say who the new owner is, only that ownership was in a trust.
ABC 10News checked with the county, and they have no records of any change of ownership. They still list the owner as NSI Services LLC.
Jeff claimed the sale is in process and new ownership is currently working to restore the property to open once again as a hotel.
If that's true, it's what neighbors were hoping for.
"The way property had been run and managed could not continue," Strafaci said.
The county said in a statement, "To help Bellafonte residents find new housing, the County worked with 2-1-1 in advance to establish a direct phone line that will help them find relocation or legal aid services. The dedicated phone number established for tenants will stay active through January 27. In addition to the phone line, several County departments worked together to provide information on available programs and services and were on site to answer questions when the notice was provided on January 22. These departments followed up with remaining tenants on January 25, 2021 to find out their relocation and housing plans and, if needed, connect the displaced residents to eligible housing programs."