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Residents push for withdrawal of drug rehab facility from La Cañada neighborhood

Residents push for withdrawal of drug rehab facility from La Cañada neighborhood
A home at 915 Green Lane will soon open as a drug and alcohol detox center. Neighbors complained about the facility to La Cañada’s City Council Tuesday, only to learn state law preempts local governments from regulating or restricting such facilities. (Photo by Sara Cardine)

After learning a residential drug and alcohol detox center was being planned for a home on Green Lane, a group of neighbors complained to the La Cañada City Council Tuesday, only to learn the city's hands are tied by state law.

In a packed council chambers, residents expressed their concern with the opening of Ridgeview Ranch III, a six-client residential detoxification center leasing a property at 915 Green Lane. Many learned of the new arrival after reading crime reports in local newspapers last week describing a July 24 burglary that had occurred in the still-vacant house.

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Valley Crest Street resident Dan Khatchaturian was among a group of about 40 residents, many of whom shared in public comments worries about increased crime rates, addicts walking the streets and the potential depreciation of home values in the surrounding area.

"It's really going to mess up things for us," Khatchaturian said, publicly naming the owners and lessors of the Green Lane property as residents of a home on the 5100 block of Princess Anne and calling on them to evict the new tenants. "They've told us they are not aware of this drug rehab center — I don't believe them."

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Fellow neighbor Matthew Renshaw said the property owners, who used to occupy 915 Green Lane, told him they thought the group moving in was related to a church.

"If the operator misrepresented to the ownership what the use was, they could terminate the lease," Renshaw told the council. "I just find it hard to believe a family in our neighborhood would want to have that use in their own neighborhood."

Community Development Director Robert Stanley told residents Tuesday the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) oversees the licensing of such facilities. The state's health and safety code dictates treatment and recovery centers with six or fewer residents be considered a residential occupancy and not be subject to conditional use permits or zoning variances.

"The state does not require them to notify the city or any of the neighbors in the neighborhood that this facility is going in," Stanley added.

Anticipating Tuesday's discussion, city staff provided a handout of frequently asked questions about residential treatment facilities and their licensing and regulation. Councilman Greg Brown encouraged local residents to take their complaints to state lawmakers, who have the power to enact legislation requiring advanced notification or the creation of more restrictive city ordinances.

"They're the only ones who can change this," Brown said.

State Sen. Anthony Portantino (D-La Cañada Flintridge), whose office was contacted by some of the upset residents, turned out to Tuesday's meeting to share news of proposed legislation that aims to restore some measure of local control.

Currently stalled in the state's Senate Appropriations Committee, SB-786 would prohibit the over-concentration of recovery or treatment facilities in one geographic area and demand the DHCS or county planning department notify local planning agencies at least 45 days prior to approving applications for new facilities.

"I can't promise you something magical is going to get through the system," Portantino said. "But I will tell you that I'll work with the city attorney and my former colleagues and friends on the City Council to try to come up with some tool for the toolbox."

Ridgeview Ranch III will be operated by Ridgeview Ranch Drive, LLC, an Altadena-based company that describes itself and the services it provides on three separate online directories as "substance abuse disorder rehabilitation," "accounting and tax services," and "a small organization in the animal farms industry."

Ridgeview Ranch Drive currently runs two other residential treatment facilities in Altadena that, according to the company's website, offer therapies ranging from yoga to equine therapy for men and women ages 18 to 60.

Twitter: @SaraCardine

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