Tighter rules for sober-living homes in apartment, condo areas up for Costa Mesa planners’ OK today

A proposed ordinance that would regulate sober-living homes in Costa Mesa’s multifamily-zoned neighborhoods will face the Planning Commission on Monday.

The law would require operators of the properties, which house people recovering from drug or alcohol addiction, to seek special permits that city officials contend would help keep the companies in line with best practices for their industry.

The city’s multifamily residential zones include apartment and condominium complexes, though they contain many single-family homes as well.

Permit requirements would include having a live-in manager, prohibiting alcohol and nonprescription drugs, following “good neighbor” policies including refraining from “loud, profane or obnoxious behavior” and having written protocols for the manager when a complaint from a neighbor is received.

The proposed ordinance follows a similar one approved last year to regulate sober-living houses in neighborhoods zoned for single-family residences. Sober-living operators have challenged that law, alleging discrimination against a class of people protected under state and federal law.

Both ordinances are intended to rein in what city officials say is an unduly high proliferation of alcohol and/or drug addiction treatment facilities in Costa Mesa. City Hall believes Costa Mesa contains nearly 30% of Orange County’s state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment facilities.

According to staff estimates, the city experienced a 25.4% increase in such facilities in multifamily zones between January 2014 and September this year, when City Hall counted 84 such homes containing a total of 831 beds. Many of them are in stretches of Costa Mesa’s Eastside, between Newport Boulevard and Orange Avenue.

In all areas citywide, officials have counted 1,586 beds in about 150 sober-living homes.

“The sharp increase in numbers of group homes has generated community outcry and complaints, including overcrowding, inordinate amounts of secondhand smoke and noise, increased parking demands and the clustering of group homes in close proximity to each other,” according to city staff. "[It] has changed the residential character of the neighborhoods to one that is far more institutional in nature.”

Monday’s Planning Commission meeting begins at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.