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Delay of sober-living permit hearings stirs frustration at Costa Mesa commission meeting

A near-capacity crowd at Costa Mesa City Hall left the building frustrated Monday after the Planning Commission put off hearings on six permit requests for local sober-living homes.

The delays were necessary, commissioners and city staff said, because the attorney representing all the applicants was unable to make it to the meeting.

The lawyer, Steven Polin, originally told the commission he would be available to attend.

But in a letter to the city dated Nov. 23, Polin requested that the hearings be delayed because a member of his immediate family was scheduled for a medical procedure Monday and he had to remain in Washington, D.C., where his practice is based.

City staff and legal counsel recommended the commission postpone the permit discussions, citing possible due process concerns.

"I think we do the city a great disservice as far as the strategic responsibility we have as a commission if we move forward on an item that our staff and attorney recommends we not move forward on," Commissioner Colin McCarthy said.

That did little, however, to assuage dissatisfaction among some commissioners and audience members.

"I'm a bit outraged that we're ... seemingly kicking the can down the road," Commissioner Stephan Andranian said.

As the commission took a series of votes to put off the permit applications to an unspecified meeting, people who had come for the hearings trickled out of the chamber, with some voicing their disappointment.

"These guys have no guts," one man muttered.

"We'll just keep coming back," another said.

It was the second time the commission had delayed a sober-living permit hearing because Polin could not be present. Last week, it postponed discussion of a pair of applications from Windward Way Recovery until Dec. 12.

Commissioners said Monday that they won't entertain any requests for further continuances.

"Next time, make sure the attorney's here or get another attorney present so we can hear these things," Vice Chairman Jeff Mathews told the applicants. "I'm getting tired of the postponements, personally."

The permit hearings postponed Monday were for six addresses on four streets:

• Casa Capri Recovery, for up to 14 residents in three units at 166 E. 18th St.

• Northbound Treatment Services, for up to 20 residents in four units at 171 and 175 Rochester St.

• Northbound Treatment Services, for up to 24 residents in six units at 235 and 241 E. 18th St.

• Summit Coastal Living, for up to 13 occupants, including a resident manager, in three units at 2041 Tustin Ave.

The operators are seeking permits they need to remain open under a pair of city ordinances restricting how close sober-living homes can be to one another. The homes generally house recovering drug and alcohol addicts who are considered disabled under state and federal law.

The City Council adopted an ordinance in 2014 requiring that sober-living homes with six or fewer occupants in single-family neighborhoods be at least 650 feet apart. Last year, the council created similar rules for such homes in multifamily zones.

The goal of the ordinances, city officials say, is to prevent such facilities from clustering in residential areas. Some critics have claimed the restrictions discriminate against recovering addicts.

luke.money@latimes.com

Twitter: @LukeMMoney

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