Sober-living business is taking city to court

A Costa Mesa sober-living operator is challenging the City Council’s decision that banned the company from hosting group-counseling sessions within a Westside building it rents.

Solid Landings Behavioral Health and two of its subsidiaries filed a writ of mandate in Orange County Superior Court on Friday, contending that they didn’t have a fair trial when the city denied their request in July to host the sessions at 657 W. 19th St., a 6,710-square-foot office building across from the California Department of Motor Vehicles office.

The council contended that the building didn’t have enough parking for the group sessions.

Solid Landings argued that it didn’t need the number of spaces the city was requiring because its clients arrive in vans, not their own cars.

In court documents, John Peterson, Solid Landings’ attorney, said the city relied on “unsupported, hearsay statements” and “unsupported testimony lacking foundation with respect to alleged building and code violations.”

Solid Landings is asking the court to overturn the council’s denial and reinstate a city zoning administrator’s decision that permitted the counseling sessions.

“We have briefed the City Council on this lawsuit, and we will be taking the appropriate actions to protect the interests of the city,” Costa Mesa CEO Tom Hatch said.

Costa Mesa resident Ann Parker is also named in the case.

Parker, a critic of the sober-living industry’s influx in Costa Mesa, paid $690 for a review of the administrator’s decision in April, about a week after it was reached.

Her request brought the topic to the Planning Commission in June, which then overturned the administrator’s approval.

Solid Landings then took its next available recourse by bringing the matter to the council, which upheld the commission’s earlier denial.

Parker, at the advice of an attorney, declined to comment Wednesday.

In September, city officials said they were considering taking their own legal action against Solid Landings, which reportedly has continued having group-counseling sessions at 657 W. 19th in defiance of the council’s decision. The company has received three citations as a result.

Solid Landings sued the city in an unrelated matter in November, alleging that an ordinance regulating sober-living homes was discriminatory. A federal judge twice has dismissed it.

The case is now pending on appeal.

Solid Landings operates between 20 and 30 sober-living facilities throughout Costa Mesa, according to city staff estimates earlier this year.