Monday, August 29, 2005

Fairfield to study older motels occupying city

Article Last Updated: Saturday, Aug 27, 2005 - 11:12:14 pm PDT

Fairfield to study older motels occupying city

Frequent readers may recall our recent column on the market for new motel and hotel construction. Projects in the planning pipeline include: Staybridge Suites and Homewood Suites in Green Valley Corporate Park; a hotel in the proposed expansion of Fairfield Corporate Commons now under review, a new motel at the Howard Johnson's site on Lyon Road; Comfort Suites (under construction) near Central Way in Cordelia; and a new 300-room hotel at Travis Air Force Base opening in November.

With all the new motel and hotel rooms coming on line, what will happen to the older motels, particularly those concentrated along North Texas Street? Many of these older structures will have more difficulties in attracting travelers, especially given the availability of new motels and hotels right off the freeway.

As part of the "80-to-80 Corridor" revitalization efforts, staff this fall will begin a study of the older motels along West Texas and North Texas streets. The corridor contains seven facilities that were, with one exception, all built before 1980 to serve military personnel during the Vietnam War era. Some are aging and suffering from declining occupancy but others appear to be in good condition.

The study will include a survey of existing physical conditions, economic issues, and occupancy trends, as well as a review of criminal activity and health and safety code violations.

In addition to the survey of existing conditions, city staff will analyze the potential to reuse motel sites for other land uses. Over time, some of these motels may no longer be viable.

Given their location in the heart of Fairfield, it is important to work with the property owners to determine if potential new uses exist for these relatively large parcels. Some of these uses might include new housing (particularly homeownership opportunities), commercial developments such as office or retail, mixed-use projects, or even public uses.

In some cases, redevelopment of the motels may be possible for use as affordable housing. One example of the kind of project that may come out of the study is the former motel on Auto Mall Parkway. The Fairfield Redevelopment Agency's pending acquisition of the 83-room Economy Inn Express motel will assist in redeveloping an aging problem property for other commercial uses.

The city will also look at strategies and programs to assist in redeveloping or improving motel sites. For example, the city may determine a prudent option would be to provide design aid to property owners interested in exploring alternative uses of their motel sites. The city could help property owners in marketing their property for redevelopment. Loans or grants could be used for site cleanup or other pre-development activities.

There are also specialist developers interested in working with cities in the conversion or redevelopment of older motels for affordable housing purposes. As some of the motels are already used by social service groups as "last chance" housing, it may be preferable to redevelop motel units under strong management to reduce the negative impacts of residential uses on these sites.

Finally, the city has initiated an overall review of zoning ordinance regulations governing motel and hotel development. One goal for the upcoming changes will be to ensure new motel development minimizes the negatives of "planned obsolescence." The city may limit the zoning districts where motels and hotels can be developed, and the conditional use permit may ensure smaller motel sites can be more easily redeveloped or converted to other uses.

Economic Notes is an update from Fairfield City Hall written by Brian Miller and Karl Dumas of the Fairfield Planning and Development Department. They can be contacted at 428-7461 or e-mail at or

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