Biz Buzz: Historic Motel Inn slated for auction

In 1925,Ê Los Angeles architect Arthur Heineman built the first motel in San Luis Obispo, now owned by Rob Rossi only portions of the original property still stand.
David Middlecamp
In 1925,Ê Los Angeles architect Arthur Heineman built the first motel in San Luis Obispo, now owned by Rob Rossi only portions of the original property still stand. David Middlecamp 2-3-2010

The Motel Inn — an 85-year- old Highway 101 icon north of San Luis Obispo famous for reportedly being the first overnight stop to use the term motel — is slated for the auction block on April 1.

Motel owners John King and Rob Rossi who in 2001 also bought the Apple Farm Inn, adjacent to the Motel Inn, planned to renovate the latter as part of a larger Apple Farm hotel complex, Rossi told The Tribune Thursday.

“We have a fully approved re-creation of a historic location,” Rossi said.

The plans never moved forward and the hoteliers are now in default of more than $5 million owed on the property, according to the notice of trustee’s sale filed March 4 with the county Clerk-Recorder’s Office.

The county Assessor’s Office has valued, for property tax purposes, the two parcels comprising three acres and the defunct Motel Inn at about $2.6 million.

“We wanted to build it,” Rossi said. “Obviously the bigger issue today is a collapse in the financial system. ... This thing you’re talking about is far beyond one or two trust deeds. The whole structure has evaporated.

“When one of these mortgages comes up, it’s difficult to find a replacement mortgage,” Rossi added. “My other choices are to pay off the balance or sell it.”

Or, as it may be in the Motel Inn case, to have to let a dream project go.

Right now, a three-tiered bell tower and a couple of walls are all that’s left of what’s often credited as the world’s first motel.

Pasadena developer Arthur S. Heineman, who coined the term “mo-tel” name, opened the Spanish/Mission Revival-style inn on Dec. 12, 1925, as part of a plan for a string of such inns from San Diego to Seattle.

Each inn would be a day’s car ride apart — just as the Spanish missions were laid out a day’s march from one another. But Heineman’s plan ended when The Depression began four years later.

Rossi said they are still trying to work out something to avoid the auction.

— Melanie Cleveland

Benefit Saturdayfor homeless effort

Huckleberry’s Restaurant in Pismo Beach will host a fundraiser on Saturday to benefit the 5Cities Homeless Coalition.

The organization aims to create a one-stop center for South County’s homeless that would provide a permanent location for People’s Kitchen as well as services including drug and alcohol counseling, a veterans affairs office, a health clinic, help finding a job, showers, phones, washing machines, computers and a mail drop.

People’s Kitchen provides daily hot meals at the Shouts of Grace Church at Seventh Street and West Grand Avenue in Grover Beach.

Huckleberry’s will donate its staff time and all of the food for the evening; two dinners will be served at 5 and 7 p.m.

There will also be live music and a raffle. To purchase tickets, call 710-4370. Tickets are $25 each. The restaurant is at 300 Five Cities Drive. Donations can also be made online at

— Cynthia Lambert

Pixar book author in Tuesday seminar

Bill Capodagli, co-author of “Innovate the Pixar Way: Business Lessons from the World’s Most Creative Corporate Playground,” will speak at an Atascadero Chamber of Commerce workshop Tuesday.

He has used what he’s learned about the corporate structures of The Walt Disney Co. and Pixar Animation Studios to help businesses boost productivity, according to Joanne Main, chamber president and chief executive. The program runs 7:30 to 11 a.m. at the Pavilion on the Lake in Atascadero and includes a light breakfast. Admission is $40 for chamber members and $45 for nonmembers. Call 466-2044 to register.

— Melanie Cleveland