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Police arrest a young girl suspected of engaging in prostitution on 20th Avenue and International Boulevard in April, 2010. The girl's face has been blurred to protect her identity.

City Attorney sues hotels in effort to reduce prostitution

on December 22, 2010

Oakland City Attorney John Russo announced a new strategy in the city’s struggle to halt the sex trade Wednesday: his office is suing three hotels he called “hubs of prostitution.”

The city is suing The National Lodge at 17th and International in Fruitvale, The Economy Inn at East 12th Street and 1st Ave, and The Sage Motel on MacArthur near High Street in East Oakland. Two of the hotels are located near a stretch of International known as “the track” — a high traffic area for pimps and prostitutes.

The city lawsuits seek up to $25,000 in civil penalties from the owners of the three hotels, and may also seek to shut the businesses down for up to a year. The suits are based on a 1914 state law that allows authorities to seek damages from the owners of buildings where prostitution takes place. “The owners of these hotels cannot turn a blind eye to what’s going on in their rooms,” Russo told reporters during a press conference.

But the manager at one of the hotels said he doesn’t turn a blind eye. “We do our best,” said Hiral Patel of The National Loge. “We do more than we are supposed to.”

Patel said he turns away nine to 10 customers a day, and that he has called the OPD and dialed 911 when he has seen prostitution across the street from the business.

Patel, who was recently interviewed by The Bay Citizen as he turned away customers, told the Citizen‘s reporter, “we’re getting blamed, but the whole city is known for prostitution.”

Prostitution is a well-known problem in Oakland. Last year, the OPD’s Child Exploitation Unit made 640 arrests—mostly for solicitation—and more than 10 percent of those arrested were minors. Oakland North profiled the members of the unit as they arrested several young women, including one at the National.

OPD spokesperson Holly Joshi said the victims can be children from 11 to 17 years old “persuaded or forced by pimps or predators into a life of selling their bodies for the pimp’s profit.”

Russo told reporters that the hotel operators being sued could do more to prevent prostitution, like enclosing their parking lots and looking at IDs from their customers.

No one answered the phone at the Economy Inn and the clerk at the Sage Motel declined to comment on the suit. Messages for the owner were not returned.

Note: this article has been updated. An earlier version incorrectly listed the location of The Economy Inn.


  1. Dave C. on December 22, 2010 at 3:17 pm

    The city is suing The National Lodge at 17th and International in Fruitvale, The Economy Inn at 12th and International, also in Fruitvale…

    Yikes. Neither the National Lodge nor the Economy Inn are in Fruitvale. The Economy Inn isn’t even close — it’s a block from Lake Merritt at East 12th and 1st Avenue (not International and 12th Avenue as the article says; I don’t think there’s any motel at Intl and 12 Ave).

    • Kate McLean on December 22, 2010 at 3:37 pm

      Good catch, Dave C. I’ve made a correction. Thank you!

      • Dave C. on December 22, 2010 at 4:09 pm

        Glad to help. I don’t think many people would consider 17th and International to be in Fruitvale either, but I’ve done enough cavilling for the day, so I won’t belabor the point…

  2. […] A public nuisance lawsuit seeks $25,000 from each hotel owner and could shut them down for one year, Oakland North reports. […]

  3. […] Hundreds of youth in Oakland (hundreds of thousands nationally) have been caught up in the sex trade. Oakland City Attorney is suing 3 motels that he says support youth sex trafficking. Named: Economy Inn (E. 12th), Sage Motel (MacArthur Blvd.), Natl. Lodge (Intl. Blvd.) Economy Inn on E. 12th is among the hotels Russo sued. It’s been the scene of rapes and kidnappings. source: Adithya Sambamurthy/The Bay Citizen A prostitute waits for clients outside the National Lodge on 17th Avuenue and International Boulevard on Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2010 source: […]

  4. Gabriel Gilberto on December 24, 2010 at 3:26 pm

    17th Ave. is in the San Antonio District. Most locals would more or less consider “Fruitvale” to be 27th Ave. out to 38th Ave or if you stretch it, maybe High St and between San Leandro St. and a few blocks above Foothill Blvd. The heart of Fruitvale would be 35th Ave. and International, right smack dab in the middle of the Fruitvale shopping district.

  5. Doublethink « The Honest Courtesan on January 4, 2011 at 8:37 am

    […] farms in flagrant violation of both federal and state law, it has also recently decided to attack streetwalkers by suing the hotels which they use for their dates: Oakland City Attorney John Russo announced a new strategy in the […]

  6. […] In a lawsuit filed last December, Oakland City Attorney John Russo accused three motels — The National Lodge, The Economy Inn at East 12th Street and 1st Avenue, and The Sage Motel on MacArthur near High Street — of being hubs for prostitution. If a judge rules in favor of the city the motels could be forced to shut down for up to a year and their owners made to pay fines and civil penalties up to $25,000. […]

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