The owner of the beleaguered Best Western hotel at Eddy and Polk streets in SF's Tenderloin would really like the city to just buy the place already and turn it into homeless housing, because he says it's not doing much business as a hotel.
The Best Western Red Coach Inn was one of dozens of San Francisco hotels that were commandeered — and fully leased — by the city at the start of the pandemic in order to provide emergency shelter for the homeless. Owner Sam Patel bought the property with several co-owners in 2016, and he tells the Chronicle that they invested around $6 million in updates and renovations to the property.
To be clear, that part of the Tenderloin was pretty beleaguered, and drug-filled, in 2016, so surely the owners knew what they were getting into. But fast-forward to 2023, a year after the Best Western Red Coach Inn was removed from the shelter-in-place program, and the alley behind the hotel, Willow Street, had become a popular homeless encampment.
Patel was called out this fall after homeless advocates found that sprinklers had been installed along the exterior of the building, along Willow, seemingly intended to soak the campers on the sidewalk there and deter them from camping. The management quickly removed the sprinklers, as SFGate reported, after receiving a notice from the city that they were installed without a permit.
Now, Patel is speaking out to the Chronicle and asking for the city to acquire the hotel, saying that business is down about 12 percent, and the hotel gets consistently bad Yelp reviews based only on the street conditions outside, which he can not control.
"It’s not like the olden days, where people just saw the name [Best Western] and they would come in," Patel tells the paper. "Nowadays, everybody reads the reviews before they tend to book anything. And a lot of them are like, 'Well, why do we want to book here?'"
After having the property leased by the city during the pandemic — and thus likely doing better, financially, than a lot of hotels in the city — Patel is hoping the Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing (HSH) will acquire the property or enter into a long-term lease, to get more homeless people off the street.
Unfortunately, HSH doesn't have any more budget for acquisitions, or long-term leases, and the city is already facing a budget deficit next year. Also, the department's head, Emily Cohen, tells the Chronicle that they are "trying to identify properties outside of the Tenderloin to help diversify the locations of our housing portfolio," so this wouldn't be a high-priority location for them.
Patel has lived in the city since 1976, and he certainly knew what the Tenderloin was and has long been. But he tells the Chronicle that things have gotten "terrible," and much worse than they were — and the hoped-for clientele from the new CPMC hospital on Van Ness hasn't materialized.
And in a time when even the city's nicer hotels are struggling, you can see why he might regret this investment and look for lifelines from the city.
But surely there's still a market for $100/night rooms in SF?!
Photo: Google Street View