City In Orange County Fights To Keep Sober Living Homes At Bay

By Victoria Kim 10/19/15

Costa Mesa is the latest city to try to stifle the proliferation of sober living homes.

Costa Mesa Sober Living Home
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The city of Costa Mesa, Calif., will consider a proposal that would expand rules restricting where rehab facilities can operate in an attempt to stymie the proliferation of sober living homes in the city.

According to the city, Costa Mesa houses nearly 30% of Orange County’s state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment facilities. City officials say the influx of sober living homes have turned residential neighborhoods into institutional settings, attracting “overcrowding, inordinate amounts of secondhand smoke and noise, increased parking demands and the clustering of group homes in close proximity to each other.”

The proposed ordinance would regulate sober living homes in the city’s multifamily residential zones, which include apartment and condominium complexes. Costa Mesa approved a similar ordinance in October 2014, which limits the number of sober living homes that can operate in single family residential zones.

The rules under the 2014 ordinance require sober living homes that operate in single family zones and lack a state license to apply for a special permit, keep 650 feet from other sober living homes, and perform employee background checks.

Last week, the city’s Planning Commission approved the proposed ordinance to expand regulation of sober living homes to multifamily zones.

Permit requirements under the new ordinance would include having a live-in manager, prohibiting alcohol and nonprescription drugs, and refraining from “loud, profane or obnoxious” behavior.

Throughout Costa Mesa, officials have counted 1,586 beds in about 150 sober living homes.

Some say the city’s attempt at reining in the amount of sober living homes is an act of discrimination, according to attorney Mary Helen Beatificato, former CEO of Morningside Recovery. Beatificato said the proposed ordinance discriminates against recovering addicts, a group protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act. But the city countered that it is a “zoning ordinance” and “not a discriminatory issue” according to Commissioner Colin McCarthy.

The ordinance will still need approval from the Costa Mesa City Council. It is expected to be up for consideration in November.

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