Oakland moves to shut crime-riddled motel

Oakland City Attorney Barbara Parker said Thursday that her office has filed a lawsuit seeking to shut down an East Oakland motel it alleges has been an epicenter of criminal activity, including a shootout and a homicide.

Parker said the public nuisance suit filed in Alameda County Superior Court by her office’s Neighborhood Law Corps alleges that the Starlite Motel at 10000 MacArthur Blvd. has been the source of more than 335 calls for service to Oakland police over the past five years. Many of the crimes have been related to drug sales and prostitution at the motel, according to the suit.

Parker said in a statement:

“This motel is not just a nuisance to neighbors – the high volume of calls for service also consumes an extraordinary amount of police resources. … With this lawsuit we hope to disrupt the pattern of violence emanating from this one property and thereby free up precious police resources to provide vital services to our community.”

The lawsuit calls for the Starlite Motel to be closed for one year, the maximum closure allowed under state law. The complaint also asks that a court issue an injunction to prevent the motel’s owners from operating and maintaining their business in a way that begets criminal and nuisance activity and seeks $25,000 in civil penalties from each defendant.

The suit says the Starlite Motel is owned by the Kalyan family through two revocable trusts. It names the trustees of the trusts as Rajendra Kalyan, Pushpa Kalyan, Bhupendra Kalyan and Bhartiben Kalyan. The family’s attorney, Frank Weiser, said the family “strongly denies” the lawsuit’s allegations and is “very upset” about the suit.

Weiser said Rajendra Kalyan, also known as Ron Kalyan, told him today that he’s been “very cooperative” with Oakland police and has allowed undercover officers to come to the motel to use it as a lookout for criminal activity in the area. Weiser said Kalyan told him he’s “absolutely shocked” by the lawsuit and thinks it might have been sparked by a developer who wants to buy the motel property.

Weiser also said Kalyan said the city’s allegation that there have been 335 calls for service in the last five years is highly exaggerated. According to Weiser, Kalyan said there have been some domestic disputes at the motel but he has called the police himself to report them.

Weiser said cities usually give motels some notice before they sue them for alleged problems but he said Kalyan told him the city didn’t give him any notice before it filed the suit. Tianna Leui, a 19-year-old San Leandro woman, was fatally shot at the Starlite Motel at about 3 a.m. on July 12, 2012, according to Oakland police.

In March 2014, Andre Moncrease, described by prosecutors as a pimp, was sentenced to 40 years to life in state prison for his conviction for second-degree murder for killing Leui. Prosecutor Laura Passaglia said Lieu had been working as a prostitute for Moncrease but had been trying to leave him. Passaglia said Moncrease shot Leui in the face as she was lying defenseless on a bed at the motel.

The Oakland City Attorney’s Office said in May 2014 there was a shootout between a motel guest and three other people and in September 2013 officers arrested a motel guest for assault with a deadly weapon after a woman was shot in the arm in one of the rooms.

The lawsuit also says in June 2012 officers arrested an ex-felon at the motel who was in possession of several guns, including at least one stolen gun.