Marina’s shadier side beginning to see the light

The bustling row of motels along Lombard Street has gained a reputation for being the seedier side of the Marina district, but police say a little help from the neighborhood is turning that around.

Drugs, prostitution and theft have plagued the commercial corridor for years. One example is from June, when a man checked into the Chelsea Motor Lodge and blasted a gunshot through his room’s door at police after they knocked.

“Over years we’ve had various problems, code enforcement, prostitution and drugs,” said Capt. Al Casciato, who supervises Northern Police Station, which encompasses a swath of land between the Western Addition and the northern edge of The City. “The biggest issue is the high turnover of night clerks. They’re the first line of security for any motel or business.”

Police have been trying to reach out to motel management, telling them to watch out for patrons who can’t provide identification, who pay in cash or who won’t leave a credit card for the room.

Casciato says he’s noticed a recent change. Community groups are now keeping an eye out for suspicious activity, and what’s more, they’re calling police about it.

On a recent Saturday, two young women and two men were loitering in a motel parking lot, Casciato said. Some neighbors thought something didn’t seem right and they called police. When officers responded, they talked to the men, who were apparently about to engage in prostitution, and they changed their minds.

“We are being told a lot and we’re able to prevent things ahead of time,” Casciato said.

Police hope to encourage more of the community at a 7 p.m. meeting Oct. 6 at Silver Clouds Restaurant.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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