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2 Huntington Beach council members seek new ordinances to regulate sober-living homes

Two Huntington Beach City Council members are proposing that the city draft new ordinances to help regulate sober-living homes in residential areas. They suggest drawing inspiration from Costa Mesa, where this sober-living home was pictured in 2016.
(File Photo)

With an increase in sober-living homes in the city, two Huntington Beach City Council members are seeking legislation that could help regulate such facilities concentrated in residential areas.

Mayor Erik Peterson and Councilman Patrick Brenden suggest looking to the city of Costa Mesa, which adopted two ordinances in 2014 and 2015 that created new rules for sober-living homes. To operate in Costa Mesa, such facilities must obtain conditional use permits and be at least 650 feet from one another in residential areas. Officials have said the buffer requirement is intended to keep the facilities from clustering in neighborhoods.

The Huntington Beach council on Monday will consider directing the city attorney to draft one or more ordinances by Oct. 21 that would “strike an appropriate balance” among the interests of the city, residents and those who receive assistance from sober-living homes. It would mark the first time the city has addressed such facilities in residential zones with an ordinance, according to City Attorney Michael Gates.

“Recent court successes by the city of Costa Mesa invite our council to consider a stepped-up approach to addressing the secondary effects of sober-living homes in our community where the homes can become overconcentrated,” according to a memo from Brenden and Peterson to other council members.


Sober-living homes typically house recovering alcoholics and drug addicts who are considered disabled under state and federal laws and must be provided with certain accommodations for housing. Generally, such facilities that are providing treatment require a license from the state, but city officials have said little can be done about sober-living homes with six or fewer residents that don’t offer treatment, are zoned residential and don’t require a license because they’re classified as “regular households.”

In 2018, Gates teamed with then-Orange County District Attorney Tony Rackauckas to crack down on illegal in-home businesses in residential areas.

“It’s still going well, but the difficulty is it’s on a case-by-case and lawsuit-by-lawsuit basis, so we can only file a handful at a time,” Gates said. “We can’t take on every single one in the city at the same time.”

Monday’s council meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 2000 Main St.


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