Costa Mesa backs new regulations for sober-living homes

The Costa Mesa City Council took another step this week toward addressing the city's sober-living industry with the approval of a new regulatory ordinance.

The law, which unanimously passed its first reading early Wednesday, requires sober-living facilities, including those that house recovering drug and alcohol addicts, to obtain special permits if they're located in multifamily-zoned neighborhoods.

The homes and facilities must also be 650 feet from one another to avoid clustering.

Representatives from recovery operators and advocates, including Solid Landings Behavioral Health, which operates several facilities in Costa Mesa, testified against the law.

Employees from Solid Landings, which filed a lawsuit on an unrelated matter last month against the city, urged to city to open a dialogue and work together on solving issues.

Paul Dumont with the Sober Living Network called Costa Mesa's law "blatantly illegal."

Other Costa Mesa residents supported the council's action, contending that the recovery industry's proliferation in Costa Mesa has transformed neighborhoods into institutional settings, with short-term residents moving in and out.

City staff noted that many sober-living homes have reportedly detrimental effects, creating parking problems, excessive noise and second-hand smoke.

City Hall estimates nearly 1,600 beds for drug and recovery addicts are in Costa Mesa. About half of those are in multifamily-zoned neighborhoods.

They also note that Costa Mesa contains just under 30% of Orange County's state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment facilities.

Councilwoman Sandy Genis said with many property owners renting their homes out to sober-living companies, whose tenants come in from other parts of the country, there are, in turn, fewer units available for locals.

"It really affects our ability to house Costa Mesa families," she said.

The new ordinance is similar to another adopted last year that regulated sober-living homes in single-family neighborhoods.

That law has faced, and thus far withstood, legal challenges from sober-living companies, who called it discriminatory toward a class of protected and disabled people.

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Helicopter pad approved

The council approved a private helicopter pad in a business park adjacent to John Wayne Airport.

The 40-by-40-foot pad will be on the roof of a building at 3132 Airway Ave. and used solely by Mike Manclark, CEO of Leading Edge Aviation Services, for his personal helicopter.

Once built, it will be one of about five throughout Costa Mesa and the second along Airway Avenue.

Manclark is permitted to have two takeoffs and two landings each day. No refueling or repair work is permitted on the pad.

The city of Newport Beach has twice contested the plan, calling it an expansion of JWA's operations.

"We respectfully disagree with the people of Newport that this is expanding the airport's footprint. It doesn't do it," said Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer.

Genis and Councilwoman Katrina Foley dissented on the approval, contending that Costa Mesa should be a good neighbor and not approve something that Newport opposed.

Genis also expressed concern about the noise impacts of the helicopter.

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