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Rise in maternity hotels across LA County sparks crackdown

January 29, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
County Supervisor Don Knabe is calling for tougher zoning restrictions in a push to stop the rise of maternity hotels across Los Angeles County.

Knabe wants a city ordinance to regulate maternity boarding businesses and will be requesting funding to help in his quest.

According to a report by the Los Angeles County Zoning Enforcement section, complaints of alleged maternity boarding houses are on the rise. There were 15 complaints filed from 2007 to Nov. 2012. In the last month alone, Los Angeles County residents reportedly filed 60 complaints from Dec. 2012.

The facilities are typically located in upscale residential neighborhoods near single family homes.

A so-called maternity hotel in Chino Hills was shut down a few weeks ago after city officials obtained a temporary restraining order for code enforcement violations. The house was illegally subdivided into 17 bedrooms and 17 bathrooms. Neighbors complained of the excessive traffic coming in and out of the house and of an overloaded septic tank that caused a massive sewage spill.

Birth tourism is a trend on the rise in Los Angeles. Women travel to the United States to deliver their babies whom can then obtain a U.S. passport and related documents as American citizens. The boarding hotel's clients then return home after spending months of their pregnancy in the facilities and giving birth.

Many of the hotels operate in violation of zoning and building codes which allow city officials to shut them down citing safety concerns.

The Planning Department plans to conduct joint inspections of these facilities with the Public Works, Child and Family Services, Fire, and Health departments. Since most often maternity hotel occupants don't speak English, a Mandarin or Cantonese translator will also aid the department in the inspection.

The county Board of Supervisors will explore the possibility of forming a multi-agency task force that would include inspections by federal and state agents.


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