The derelict and abandoned structures of the former Rosalinda’s Gentlemen's Club and motel are going down.
The demolition effort, which began Monday morning, will be the largest code compliance structure abatement project undertaken by the county in recent history, said Tuolumne County chief building official Doug Oliver.
“”The only time we generally have to get involved is when it is this bad,” Oliver said, standing outside of the nightclub on Monday morning, while the iron claw of a massive excavator bashed at piles of wooden debris inside the motel.
“When this happens it’s unfortunate but at the same time it’s necessary for the public welfare,” he said.
As temperatures approached 90 degrees Fahrenheit Monday morning at the Highway 108 property outside Jamestown, an excavator driver smashed at heaps of wood, metal and concrete debris with a metal claw, and occasionally drove over the piles to flatten them.
The various building materials were organized into mounds beside the dilapidated motel, where seven of nine units were incinerated during a March 13 fire.
A big-rig truck set with a 40 foot garbage bin returned at intervals to be filled, then sent off again to the dump or recycling center. My midday, the excavator had plowed through the retaining walls separating the two remaining units, and over the mattresses, clothes, homewares (and even a large jug of pickles) left behind.
Only portions of the outside wall and the raised concrete foundation remained. The entire motel structure and foundation would be leveled to the ground soon, Oliver said, with the demolition of the nightclub building set to begin on Tuesday.
“You never know what you find once you get into it,” he said. “We have to make sure we’re correcting violations and we don’t create new ones.”
The violations — served on the nightclub and hotel properties on March 2, the day after a cooperative law enforcement raid by Tuolumne County law enforcement and Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control officers seeking out evidence of drug sales, violence, and prostitution — were extensive, and deemed the buildings as “unsafe for human occupancy.”
Multiple fire and safety violations including blocked fire exits, no exit lighting, a non-functioning fire alarm system and numerous electrical safety violations were found at the nightclub, and the hotel registered several substandard housing violations related to lack of heating and boarded up windows, structural and roof damage, as well as illegal electrical modifications.
The inside of the nightclub was less damaged by fire, but bore a disposition of prolonged neglect.
Fresh human feces and toilet paper were in an outlying room inside the nightclub on Monday. Shattered glass, abandoned furniture and trash lined the floors beside paintings of scantily-clad women on the walls. Tiles and wall mounts had been uprooted or removed. White supremacist symbols, including a swastika and lighting bolts recalling the Nazi-era SchutzStaffel stormtroopers, were written beside the letters "DWB" next to stickers peeling off the wall.
Karl Rodefer, supervisor for District 5 where the property is located, said on Monday “I think we’re all glad to see it come out.”
“I’m always glad to see when garbage gets cleaned up. No matter what you thought about the property beforehand, after the fire it was definitely garbage. We’re doing it because the owner isn't doing it and at some point it becomes an imminent health and safety issue.”
Rodefer said he had “never been in favor of the operation of the establishment,” but the county was limited in how they could regulate privately-owned businesses.
“California is increasingly taking a laissez faire attitude towards lifestyle issues and absent Ordinance Code violations the County is limited in what we can require of establishments,” he said in the email.
Both Rodefer and Oliver cautioned that the county was not exercising an act of eminent domain to take ownership of the property.
Oliver explained that the owner had up to 30 days to correct the violations or file an appeal to the initial notice. An appeal never materialized, and a final abatement order was issued to the owner to correct the violations by leveling the structures, he said.
“With them waiving their rights, the county has the right to act,” he said.
On March 2, the property owner was ordered to pay $1,552 for the violations, which included $1,452 for abatement costs. The teardown, which included the cost of the contractor and the hauling and disposal of debris, would likely be between $60,000 and $70,000, Oliver said. On Tuesday, the abatement team would begin by removing floor tiles made with asbestos from the nightclub before demolishing the structure.
Like the motel, the raised portions of the nightclub — including a wooden bartop and a centrally located and elevated stage — would be demolished to “sidewalk level.”
Oliver said he planned to have the project completed by Friday.
Rodefer expressed that it was an “appropriate action” to undertake due to the imminent public health and safety issue at the site.
“I don’t think anyone’s really enjoyed having that business operating there but again we have to follow the laws,” he said.
Rodefer said he was aware of at least “one entity” interested in the “high profile piece of property at the stoplight,” and a “nice business” could supplant the strip club as one of the first structures visible to eastbound highway travelers into Tuolumne County.
“Eventually i think the property issues are going to sort itself it. Hopefully somebody takes ownership of it and were all happy about it,” he said.
About two weeks ago, a “For Sale” sign was posted along the unburnt edge of the motel building, facing Highway 108. On Monday morning, that sign was gone.
According to county parcel documents, the owner of the nightclub and motel is Aponte Property Management. Aponte is the middle name of Rosalinda San Martin, 78, who was charged with maintaining a place to sell narcotics, allowing a place for the storage or sale of a controlled substance, transport or sale of methamphetamine, possession of methamphetamine for sale, transport or sale of LSD, possession of LSD for sale, and misdemeanor charges permitting a person to solicit alcohol following her surrender to authorities on March 27.
San Martin, her daughter Marlinda Beth Russo, 47, and multiple other suspects arrested during the March 1 raid have preliminary hearing setting conference on Friday. A preliminary hearing scheduled for July 6 was vacated.
The Tuolumne County Assessor’s Office assessed the value of the 2.896 acre property, which does not include the structures, at $401,000 in 2018.
Guy McCarthy contributed to this report.