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Gateway Area Business Association president represents seedy property


Alan Sanchez, future president of the Gateway Area Business Association, hits father Fred Sanchez, then GABA president, with a cream pie at the 2001 Gateway Community Fair. Alan Sanchez has been suspended from Portland Mayor Tom Potter's visionPDX Committee until Sanchez resolves the many issues and concerns neighbors along with police have of the motel Sanchez owns in the Eliot neighborhood of inner Northeast Portland.
Outwardly, and as far as his associates can see, Alan Sanchez is a pillar of the Gateway Community. The son of longtime Gateway Area Business Association leader Fred Sanchez (owner of 111th Square and host of the annual Gateway Community Fair), he is a realtor in his own right, and the current president of GABA. He is also a member of Mayor Tom Potter’s visionPDX committee, one of a few handpicked leaders who are examining and reforming Portland’s citizen involvement process.

Sanchez, owner of Postal Place in Gateway is also the owner of the Portland Pensione, the former Coliseum Budget Inn at 109 N.E. San Rafael St. in the Eliot neighborhood. Sanchez said a pensione, in France, is a lodging that provides simple and basic but clean and functional services at a cheap price, and that is his vision for this property. Sanchez junior and senior said it provides good housing for the poorest of the poor. While acknowledging some early problems, in mid-January Sanchez told the Memo, “Things are going great. The place is clean, safe and quiet.”

His neighbors do not agree. They say the motel is a haven for drug dealers and prostitutes, a threat to neighborhood livability and even their safety.

Public safety officials tend to agree with the neighbors. At a recent meeting, City Crime Prevention Specialist Celeste Cary said that the city is preparing to pursue a Chronic Nuisance process against the Pensione. Under this process, if a property owner fails to take adequate action to abate persistent livability problems, the city can order the property vacated for up to a year. If the process reaches this stage with the Pensione, it would be the first time in memory it has occurred with a commercial property.

Last month also, Sanchez’s Eliot neighborhood landlord problems spilled over into his Gateway image. In a January 16 e-mail to Pensione neighbor Abby Christopher, Potter’s aide, Jeremy Van Keuren, wrote, “Until Mr. Sanchez signs an abatement agreement, the mayor has suspended Mr. Sanchez from VisionPDX.”

The site,, has been a livability and public safety problem for decades. At one point it rented rooms by the hour. One previous owner renamed the place the Fantasy Motel. He issued business cards that featured a little boy looking into the diapers of the little girl sitting beside him, and included the motto: “Where all your fantasies come true.” Neighborhood police officers were pleased when Sanchez, unlike his predecessor, signed a Trespass Agreement with them, allowing police to enter the property and act if they saw suspicious activity without first obtaining a warrant.

However, neighbors were uneasy when Sanchez hired a longtime motel resident as resident manager without doing a background check on her. When this woman complained that the police had busted her boyfriend, Sanchez rescinded the agreement. Now, according to longtime neighbor and former Eliot Neighborhood Association Chair Tyrone Hines, the situation is as bad as it has ever been.

Even Sanchez acknowledges that he has made mistakes. He discovered that his manager had defrauded him for more than $10,000. He said his lawyers are crafting a modified version of an agreement with the police that he would feel comfortable signing. Asked if he would attend a city-sponsored training session for commercial landlords, he said he might, “if my budget allows it.”

However, he also said, “I feel the need for this is long past. If anyone took the trouble to come over and see the Pensione, I think they’d find it a model for the way things should be done.” When told that police officers who patrol the area don’t agree, Sanchez said, “I think this is based on memories of the past. However, there’s a new sheriff in town.” To showcase his work, he held an open house on Christmas Eve and invited the media.

Nearby neighbor Ashley Wilson said this is typical of Sanchez. “He’ll be friendly and he’ll say whatever he thinks the person in front of him wants to hear, but at the end of the day he won’t do anything,” he said at a meeting last month.

Multnomah County Deputy District Attorney Jim Hayden told the Memo that he had participated in discussions with Sanchez and indicated to him that renewing the trespass agreement in some form would be the “most efficacious way” to deal with local problems. “We left the decision to him, and the ball is in his court,” Hayden says — but not indefinitely. Cary said that she and other City officials have tried to work with Sanchez and develop a cooperative relationship, “but we’re not seeing the kind of action we want to see.”
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