California argues sober home ordinances are illegal, forcing cities to make expensive decisions – East Bay Times


The town of Encinitas watched, and waited, for 5 years as the town of Costa Mesa waged a fierce and dear authorized battle to control sober residing properties.

Then, final 12 months, when Costa Mesa clocked victories in state and federal courts, Encinitas sprang to motion, adopting sober living rules that had been remarkably just like Costa Mesa’s. The objective: To achieve a measure of management over the huge world of often-rowdy “restoration residences” that neighbors stated turned their backyards into noisy smoking lounges — or worse.

Anaheim, Huntington Seaside and different cities adopted Costa Mesa’s lead as effectively. The $7 million-plus Costa Mesa spent defending its guidelines appeared to clear the trail for all of them.

Some sober properties co-exist in relative peace with the neighborhood. On this 2017 picture, a younger man makes his mattress earlier than leaving his sober residing house in Orange for work at an internship in Laguna Hills. (Picture by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

Enter, now, the massive gorilla — the California Division of Housing and Neighborhood Improvement — and a potential reversal of these guidelines.

In March, the state despatched Encinitas a vaguely threatening 10-page “Notice of Violation,” saying its new ordinance discriminates towards the disabled — a bunch that, in its studying of the legislation, contains recovering drug customers and alcoholics.

The state demanded that Encinitas take speedy steps to repeal its sober residing legislation or face the lack of tens of millions in housing funds and maybe a authorized battle with the Lawyer Basic. Which may imply an costly lawsuit on prime of a price range smackdown.

Encinitas sprang to motion once more, and in April suspended enforcement of its sober living ordinance and promised to repeal it within six months.

“It is a deathblow to those discriminatory housing practices,” stated Pete Nielsen, president and CEO of the California Consortium of Habit Packages and Professionals, in a ready assertion.

Anaheim, with a similar ordinance adopted at an identical time, obtained a similar missive from the state earlier this month.

Anaheim, nevertheless, will not be racing to repeal.

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The “Letter of Technical Help” despatched to Anaheim by the Division of Housing and Neighborhood Improvement is outwardly the warning earlier than a proper discover of violation is lodged.

Dated Might 3, it says the the town’s sober residing guidelines “doubtlessly battle with statutory prohibitions on discrimination in land use by imposing separate, extra onerous necessities on housing for a protected class, limiting the use and delight of their properties, and jeopardizing the monetary feasibility of group properties.”

Anaheim’s response, to this point, is “Thanks!”

“We welcome the enter and share a objective of offering for neighborhood care amenities in Anaheim,” metropolis spokesman Mike Lyster stated. “The town’s guidelines and laws are a framework for group properties to not solely function however succeed with good neighbor insurance policies and different greatest practices. We sit up for working by means of any considerations there could also be on the state degree.”

Surprisingly, maybe, different cities and counties with sober residing ordinances — together with Newport Seaside, Huntington Seaside, Costa Mesa, Laguna Niguel, Yucaipa and Fresno, in addition to the counties of Orange, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Kern and Sacramento — haven’t but obtained related letters from the Division of Housing and Neighborhood Improvement. Many count on they are going to.

Some sober properties result in nice battle. Photographs of an affectionate couple within the yard of a sober house in San Clemente had been submitted as a part of a lawsuit. (Courtesy of Orange County Superior Courtroom case file of Hurwitz et al v. Scolari) 

“It is a fairly sturdy response from the state, and it doesn’t seem to depart cities a lot selection,” stated Sherry Daley, a vp for the California Consortium of Habit Packages and Professionals, which for years has been main the cost towards these ordinances.

What the principles do

The sober residing legal guidelines differ a bit from metropolis to metropolis, however they share the identical important components.

In Costa Mesa, individuals who’ve been convicted as intercourse offenders, violent felons and drug sellers are prohibited from working sober properties. The properties should present 24/7 supervision of purchasers, be separated from different restoration amenities by no less than 650 ft, and get a particular allow in sure circumstances. Metropolis guidelines additionally say that residents in such properties should be actively taking part in “respectable” restoration applications. And when folks go away these properties, operators in Costa Mesa should present transportation so their former prospects don’t wind up on the road.

In Anaheim, sober properties should get a allow and undertake a “good neighbor coverage, which, at minimal, requires residents to be thoughtful of neighbors, together with refraining from … excessively loud, profane, or obnoxious habits that might unduly intervene with a neighbor’s use and delight of their dwelling unit.” There additionally should be a written protocol for what do to when a grievance is obtained.

In Huntington Beach, the town will deny permits to sober house operators who themselves have been sober lower than a 12 months.

Timmy Solomon lit a glass pipe of crystal meth within the toilet of his sober residing house in San Clemente in Might 2017. Solomon struggled with habit for years, and died of an overdose in September. He was 31. (Picture by Mindy Schauer, Employees File) 

Why do cities consider such guidelines are wanted?

“The town of Huntington Seaside has seen a pointy improve within the variety of Sober Dwelling Properties, which has generated secondary impacts together with, however not restricted to, neighborhood parking shortfalls, overcrowding, inordinate quantities of second-hand smoke, and noise; and the clustering of Sober Dwelling Properties in shut proximity to one another,” the town’s ordinance says, summing up the complaints of many.

That, in flip, has result in concentrations of properties full of “extraordinarily transient” populations, turning metropolis blocks into “restoration campuses” that look extra like establishments than common neighborhoods, critics have stated. Grieving mother and father have additionally mourned the deaths of their youngsters from drug overdoses in sober properties.

“At the least some operators of sober residing properties and group properties are pushed extra by revenue fairly than intent to offer recovering addicts a practical potential of sobriety,” Huntington Seaside’s ordinance continues. With out regulation, there’s no method to make sure that the folks within the properties are really disabled or that the properties are professionally operated, it says.

“In its actions, the Metropolis Council intends to strike an applicable steadiness between the pursuits of the Metropolis and its residents to protect residential neighborhood character, and the necessity to present housing lodging to disabled individuals,” it says.


Encinitas’ now-aborted guidelines had been lower from near-identical fabric.

Wendy McEntyre’s son Jarrod  died at age 23 of an overdose in a sober residing house within the San Fernando Valley. She based the nonprofit Jarrod’s Legislation to push for greater requirements for habit remedy in California. (Picture by Mindy Schauer, Orange County Register/SCNG) 

The state objects to these guidelines for quite a lot of causes.

First, within the state’s view, Encinitas’ ordinance explicitly targets disabled folks and imposes completely different necessities on a protected class than it does on others.

It additionally creates what the state phrases “an onerous allowing requirement that jeopardizes the monetary feasibility of group properties and sober residing properties by necessities together with, however not restricted to, 24-hour on-site administration.” And the town’s so-called good neighbor coverage requires sober house operators to tell neighbors inside 500 ft, which might stigmatize sober house sufferers and assumes they’ll be dangerous neighbors, metropolis staffers stated in recommending the ordinance’s demise so shortly after it was adopted.

The state’s tackle the legislation, nevertheless, doesn’t sq. with a federal decide’s conclusion in Costa Mesa circumstances.

A history of addiction does not automatically mean a person is disabled in the eyes of the law, U.S. District Courtroom Decide James V. Selna stated final 12 months. As an alternative, in Selna’s opinion, folks should show their incapacity on a case-by-case foundation to be protected by federal legislation.

Selna’s take seems to undercut the state’s place. The choice is on enchantment, but when upheld, it might permit cities to maintain their sober residing house laws.

The Southern California Information Group requested the state about its actions in mild of Selma’s opinion. In an announcement, the California Division of Housing and Neighborhood Improvement (HCD) stated it’s “conscious of the personal disputes in Costa Mesa and the courtroom’s opinions in these circumstances. Nonetheless, HCD stays dedicated to its mission to advertise protected, inexpensive properties for all Californians, together with those that are recovering from substance abuse.”

Whereas Costa Mesa views the decide’s choice as a significant win, Daley, of the California Consortium of Habit Packages and Professionals, thinks that’s been oversold. She factors to the expertise of Newport Seaside, which greater than a decade in the past grew to become the primary metropolis to draft guidelines for sober residing properties.

In 2008, Newport established quiet hours, parking guidelines, smoking areas and particular van routes associated to sober residing properties — and operators shortly sued, saying that was discrimination towards the disabled. In 2011, a federal decide dominated that the town couldn’t be sued, however later a majority of the ninth Circuit Courtroom of Appeals disagreed, saying there was sufficient proof to argue discrimination. The town requested the U.S. Supreme Courtroom to evaluate the case in 2014, however the courtroom declined. And in 2015, after seven years of combating, the city and the operators settled. The town paid the operators $5.25 million, however the metropolis’s guidelines remained in place.

“This story that Costa Mesa is successful is a false narrative,” Daley stated. “It’s going by means of the identical steps as Newport Seaside did. My thought is, the state weighing in because it has will make it tougher for the courtroom to weigh within the metropolis’s favor.”

Cities have already got quite a lot of uncontroversial zoning guidelines they’ll use to handle problems with concern, she stated. “If somebody is noisy, loitering, making the neighborhood not clear — the town already can cope with that by means of code enforcement.

“They don’t want these ordinances, that are clearly discriminatory,” Daley added.

“They ask folks in restoration residences to do issues that individuals who don’t stay in restoration residences don’t need to do. An affordable metropolis supervisor would have a look at this and say, ‘Let’s lower our losses’.”

The state is tying the repeal of native sober ordinances to approval of every metropolis’s “housing element.” The state is pushing to broaden inexpensive housing, and native governments depend on tens of millions in funding to assist obtain these targets.

“October would be the massive showdown — that’s when the housing components need to be authorized,” Daley stated. “I don’t see any metropolis retaining these ordinances. It’ll crash budgets.”

Anaheim, and different cities, are bracing for what comes subsequent. If its sober house ordinance wants updating, the town will handle that, spokesman Lyster stated. “Whereas we don’t consider litigation is important, it might be speculative to remark right now,” he stated.


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