City files lawsuit to force shut down, sale of Sahara Motel


ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A southeast Albuquerque motel that’s widely known for crime and other emergency calls is now being targeted for shutdown.

The City of Albuquerque has officially filed a promised lawsuit against the owner of the Sahara Motel on Gibson Boulevard near San Pedro, seeking to shutter the property and force its sale to a new owner.

The civil lawsuit, filed in Bernalillo County District Court, is seeking a judge’s approval to declare the property a nuisance.

While the case is playing out through court, the city is also hoping a judge will grant the city permission to vacate the property and surround it with a fence.

KRQE News 13’s Special Assignment team first reported on problems at the Sahara Motel in October 2017. The property is notable for a high number of calls for service for police, fire, code enforcement and others.

“It’s taking up far too many city resources and it’s not safe for someone to live in,” said Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis, who says he and others have been trying to address the property for years.

“We haven’t seen a change at this property,” said Davis.

Neighbors say they’re familiar with the problems, too.

“They’ve had so many calls, we’ve seen dead bodies out there we’ve seen drug deals, prostitution,” said Gary Fritcsh.

According to court documents, the city has responded to more than 400 emergency calls from the motel since 2016.

The lawsuit seeks to end those issues immediately. If a judge declares the building a nuisance, the owner, Lisa Gong, could be forced to sell the hotel to a new owner.

The nuisance ordinance also allows the city to ask for the building’s demolition, however, the city doesn’t appear to be seeking that option in its lawsuit.

“I think this problem is just too big, this property is just too big for her to manage,” said Davis of the hotel’s owner.

Councilor Davis says city’s efforts to get the owner to fix various problems have failed. He and the city administration want the motel closed immediately before someone else gets hurt.

“(We) don’t want to worry about them being caught up in another shooting, and they can’t have bedbugs and they have to have heat,” said Davis.

Monday, KRQE News 13 spoke to a motel resident named Jerry who said he was helping the owner fix up the place.

“She’s in a really hard spot,” said Jerry of the motel owner.

The motel’s owner and manager is the same person who was involved in a deadly domestic dispute in February that ended with the death of the woman’s estranged husband. He was shot by a person who saw the man attack her.

Motel resident Jerry hopes the judge will give the owner a second chance, noting some of the work he’s been doing around the property.

“I painted everything, all the doors, I put in a new one that was falling down and broken,” said Jerry.

So far, a judge has not set a court date for the case.

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