Merchants who deal with this every day say it is scaring away business and traffic, while at the same time hurting the city's push for redevelopment. Business owners say that B and Main streets' many empty storefronts will not be filled until the city makes the streets feel friendlier and safer.
They say that while the homeless seem to be a factor, the presence of several nearby hard-drinking bars such as the Stein Room, Roy's and the Funky Monkey have contributed to public drunkenness in the daytime.
And they say the biggest contributor on the block, or at least the most obvious, is the Green Shutter, a residential hotel on Main Street, stretching south from B Street. It is home mainly to low-income people in transition some for a couple of weeks, others for many years.
After an outcry from downtown residents and businesses at a July meeting of the City Council, Mayor Mike Sweeney said that in a September work session thecouncil would look into the problem of homelessness, which seems to be overlapping with downtown area development issues.
"We are hopeful that the owners of the Green Shutter and the owners of the Stein Room get the message that we'd like to see substantial improvement on how they do business downtown," Sweeney said after the meeting.
Even with Foothill Boulevard's high traffic volume, some people are skeptical
"Downtown is not a family-friendly environment," said JoAnne Gross, a resident of downtown Hayward, who was born a block away, on A Street. "My concern is that this project is going to be doomed to failure unless the city takes firm steps to clean up."
She said she has been told there is open drug use at the Green Shutter Hotel and believes that the owner does not care what his place looks like.
"He is merely collecting his rents," she said.
Inside, however, the hotel is clean, and the exterior has benefited from the city's facade improvement program.
Sanjay Bakshi, the owner of the Green Shutter, at 22660 Main St., as well of several storefronts below on B and Main streets, which are mostly full, defended the hotel at the meeting.
"I have to deal with your homelessness, with your crime. These all don't come from the Green Shutter property. We've done improvements to it. I'm the one being penalized for what you guys are not looking at," Bakshi said.
But the mayor was not impressed and sided with downtown residents and merchants, telling Bakshi, "No way you are going convince anybody in this room that the Green Shutter is not part of the problem. And you are going to have to do your part to clean it up."
Later Bakshi said, "This is a stigma that has taken us years to clean. I'm shocked the mayor used those words. I can't believe the mayor got away with that."
"They just don't like the way our people look," he later added.
Robert Flores, general manager of the hotel, said that if the city were ever to try shutting it down, there would be a rush of aid from low-income and housing advocacy groups.
The hotel rents out about 80 units, ranging from $185 weekly for single rooms to $1,600 monthly for apartments, of which there are four. Proof of income is required, and Flores checks that the tenant has not been evicted from the hotel before.
Thumbing through a pile of eviction notices hung on his office wall, he says that in his past four years as manager, the eviction notices have decreased. Out of kindness, Flores said, the hotel does not charge new residents a security deposit or a last month's rent deposit because many are on fixed incomes from Social Security or disability.
"It's a place where you catch yourself and dust yourself off until you put together enough for first and last months' rent," Flores said.
Most rooms have a refrigerator and microwave oven, and several have kitchenettes. Many residents eat carry-out food, canned food or free meals served at various sites within blocks of the hotel several days a week. Most residents also share the restrooms and showers in the hall.
Flores said the hotel used to advertise, but now people mostly know about it through word of mouth.
"A lot of cab drivers drop them off here," he said.
It is one of the few options because the other hotels in the area Casa Blanca, Ramada and Super 8 on Foothill Boulevard cost from about $65 a night to about $400 a week.
Aware that its image is offending some of downtown, the hotel held a group meeting for residents to discuss the matter late last year.
Bakshi, who grew up on the Peninsula, said there are a handful of residential hotels in downtown Palo Alto, San Mateo and Mountain View, and that these downtown business districts are thriving, so a residential hotel cannot be solely to blame if Hayward's downtown is not.
Many of the Green Shutter's residents say there has been a problem with homeless people waiting by doors and sneaking in to take showers or lock themselves in a restroom for a warm night's sleep.
Flores said the hotel has two internal security guards who dress in street clothes, and that he opposes making them wear uniforms. He also said video cameras could be rigged at the hotel's various entrances but would not likely make much difference.
The city's redevelopment office recently called a meeting to address how to create a clean and safe environment downtown. Six business owners, two property owners, including Bakshi, and the city's directors of redevelopment and economic development attended.
"(The Green Shutter) is not the only problem, but it's a contributor. Some are trying to make their lives better.
"A lot of the people you see down here on B Street are perfectly content living off the government," said Erika Knowlmayer, owner of the Wags and Whiskers pet boutique. "If you're going to own property, you have a moral obligation to the residents of the city."
A printout of calls for service from the Hayward Police Department found that the Green Shutter Hotel made seven calls for service in April, 10 in May, 13 in June and 12 in July. This is excluding 9-1-1 hang-up calls, traffic stops, and welfare and security checks. They mostly involve disturbances.
"It is an entity in itself, no different from the Ramada or Casa Blanca. It's just where it is located on a thoroughfare," acting Lt. Keith Bryant said. "There's not an alarming amount of calls."
Bryant, who has been with community policing for the past three years, added that the police recently compiled a report to find out if addresses for witnesses, victims and suspects linked to the Green Shutter Hotel came up over the past year. Of the five that showed up, two were witnesses and two were victims.
"None were real drastic or concerning, and half would be nonsuspect-involved," he said.
He said four, maybe five, parolees are staying at the Green Shutter Hotel. They were required by the state to register with the local police department when released from prison. Bryant said one has been there for more than two years, the others for several months.
Most were convicted of theft, and no registered sex or drug offenders stay at the hotel, he said.
Hayward police have one officer Sherwin Martinez assigned to downtown Hayward full time. Others volunteer to work the area on Saturdays, and someone is always on the downtown beat.
For a multimedia presentation of Green Shutter Hotel residents telling what life is like there, visit http://www.insidebayarea.com/dailyreview.