The Newport Beach City Council gave partial support Tuesday to a congressional bill that could grant more local control, and more federal restrictions, over sober-living homes.
The council unanimously agreed to submit a support letter to some aspects of a bill by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) — namely, a proposed amendment to the federal Fair Housing Act to allow a city to limit placement of, or even ban, such drug and alcohol recovery facilities, and a prohibition of federal funds being used for facilities or services that aren’t in compliance with local laws.
The council declined to take a stance on another element of the bill that would remove “substance use disorder” treatment services as an “essential health benefit” under the Affordable Care Act, meaning insurance carriers would no longer be required to cover such services.
The actions followed a recommendation by City Manager Dave Kiff, who advised the council that the city’s legislative platform supports greater local control over the placement and management of sober-living homes and other group accommodations in residential areas. But stripping substance abuse treatment from Affordable Care Act requirements is “not consistent with the platform or the city’s role in advocacy for or against issues,” Kiff said.
Resident Ruth Kobayashi agreed with a city’s right to regulate sober-living home placement.
“While we respect the need for reputable, regulated, accountable facilities, we also insist that cities have the ability to regulate their locations and provide appropriate oversight to protect our communities,” she said.
Council opposes needle exchange plan
The council also agreed to oppose a proposed needle exchange service that would operate in neighboring Costa Mesa.
The Orange County Needle Exchange Program has submitted an application to the California Department of Public Health to operate a mobile needle exchange in four cities. The program, which formerly operated at a homeless encampment at the Santa Ana Civic Center, shut down early this year after Santa Ana denied it a permit.
The proposed mobile service would stop in Costa Mesa, Santa Ana, Anaheim and Orange. The Costa Mesa site would be bound by West 18th Street, West 16th Street, Monrovia Avenue and the outer border of the Armstrong Petroleum building in a light industrial area that borders Newport Beach on its northwest side.
Parents from Newport’s Carden Hall, a private school about a half-block outside the proposed boundaries, asked the city to oppose the service in the area. Pacifica Christian High School and Coastline Community College also are in the immediate vicinity.
The council agreed to the opposition with no discussion, allowing Newport Beach Police Chief Jon Lewis to send a letter to the state outlining public safety concerns.