My partner and me had a similar experience in Marina, California last summer, though less grave. A local friend of us had booked a last-minute hotel via an Amex Travels program he was part of. That program’s site had quoted good reviews for the place.
Upon arrival, we similarly didn’t feel safe, with the hotel looking very dingy, and most of the cars in the parking lot being damaged. When we went to complain about the heavy smoke odor in our room, the receptionist told us the hotel had been partly a homeless shelter since COVID, to cover costs with government subsidies. When he learned Amex had overcharged us 2.5x on the value of the room, he transferred us to a better property nearby. Still, not a fun experience!
The conclusion at the end is interesting: extract what value you can from aggregators like booking.com, but then drop them when making the actual booking. This basic attitude of freewheeling things online is a part of what brought us to surveillance capitalism.