Costa Mesa council extends moratorium on needle-exchange programs to avoid potential gap

A dog-walker holds a hypodermic needle he found near the mouth of the Santa Ana River in Newport Beach in 2016. Neighboring Costa Mesa extended its moratorium on needle exchanges Tuesday and will soon consider a permanent ban.
(File Photo)
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Costa Mesa’s ban on needle-exchange programs will last for another year, or until the City Council codifies a permanent prohibition — whichever comes first.

The council unanimously agreed Tuesday to renew its temporary block on such programs until a proposed long-term one can take effect, assuming it’s also approved.

The permanent ban, by way of a city code amendment, has already been endorsed by the Costa Mesa Planning Commission, but isn’t expected to come before the City Council until Aug. 6 at the earliest. However, the existing moratorium the council adopted last year was set to expire Aug. 5, possibly creating a gap.


Costa Mesa Planning Commission backs making local needle exchange ban permanent »

“Due to the timing necessary to process this code amendment, staff recommends an extension of the urgency ordinance to allow the internal review process for needle-exchange programs to be completed, thereby preserving the status quo and allowing the current moratorium to remain in place until the proposed code amendment would become effective,” said Barry Curtis, the city’s economic and development services director.

The council agreed to the extension with no discussion.

Costa Mesa’s moratorium was originally put in place in response to the California Department of Public Health’s approval last year of a proposal from the Orange County Needle Exchange Program to distribute clean syringes and other supplies on West 17th Street between Whittier Avenue and the city boundary near Armstrong Petroleum Corp., as well as in parts of Anaheim, Orange and Santa Ana.

Advocates of such programs say they are intended to help prevent the spread of diseases like HIV and Hepatitis C by providing clean needles and supplies to intravenous drug users.

The city has said the ban is necessary to protect public health, welfare and safety, out of fears that free needles could draw illicit drug users to the city and jeopardize the sobriety of clients in Costa Mesa’s large addiction recovery industry.