Nearly a century old, the well-worn Curben Hotel, located on Summit Avenue between Harris and Olive, is squeezed between a quaint duplex and the Summit Inn apartment building. The cream-colored four-story Capitol Hill building is also sandwiched in a dispute over how to clean up the crime that plagues the street.

Seattle Police Department representatives met with neighborhood property owners and managers about a year ago to address concerns of drug activity in the area. Randy Wiger, who chairs the Pine-Olive Way-Harvard Avenue Triangle community organization, says the area has been cleaned up a lot since then--but problems still remain with the Curben Hotel.

"The police have had to spend a large amount of time and energy on that one building over the past year," he says.

The police have worked with Curben Hotel owner Karl Neiders to create a "good neighbor agreement," a document that would outline specific policies and practices for the building, in a mutual effort to clean up crime. That agreement hasn't been finalized because there's a debate over whether the Curben is legally a hotel.

Though the floor plan is similar to a hostel or boarding-room facility--rooms with shared baths start at $140 a week, those with private baths start at $165--neighbors contest that the Curben operated as an apartment complex until last year. They aren't happy about its hotel status, because they don't want weekly hotel tenants in their neighborhood. Many in the area believe that the week-to-week stays makes the Curben a hotbed for drug activity.

The neighborhood is not currently zoned for hotel use, according to Seattle's Department of Design, Construction, and Land Use (DCLU). But if the Curben has always been a hotel, it can remain a hotel under the current zoning. Wiger and the neighbors would prefer that it was an apartment building so landlord and tenant laws apply.

Neighboring property owners and managers say that the building was a month-to-month rental apartment complex for years, and the "Curben Hotel" sign that currently swings in front of the main entrance went up as recently as a year ago. However, there are documents in the Curben building's DCLU file that indicate past inspectors have determined that the property is a hotel. The DCLU has gotten involved too, issuing a notice of violation to Neiders on July 2, questioning the status of the building.

Neiders and his attorney, Christopher Howard, have until August 31 to submit any evidence supporting their claim that the Curben has always been a hotel. A DCLU director's review will then decide the case.

"A clear ruling is important--it needs to be one thing or another," Wiger says.

Although Neiders was unavailable for comment at press time, his attorney says that he has the same goals as Wiger in cleaning up the neighborhood.

"It would be nice to get the DCLU review done so we can continue our work with the police department," Howard says. Amy Baranski contributed to this report.

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