Costa Mesa planning commissioners voted unanimously Monday to reject a sober-living operator’s petition for relief from a city permitting requirement.
The decision, which is final unless appealed to the City Council within seven days, turned away a request from The Ohio House for “reasonable accommodation” to continue running its facility housing up to 12 clients in two units at 2175 Tustin Ave. without filing for a conditional use permit.
Costa Mesa requires operators of sober-living homes — which typically house recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, who are considered disabled under state and federal laws — to seek such approvals if they have seven or more beds on a parcel.
As a city staff report put it, “the requested accommodation does not appear to be actually ‘necessary’ to provide one or more individuals with a disability an equal opportunity to use and enjoy a dwelling, because this facility can be conditionally permitted under the existing procedures of the zoning code.”
“Tonight, for me, it’s not about the substantive issue of whether or not we should allow sober-living homes — I think we’ve discussed that exhaustively,” said commission Vice Chairman Jeffrey Harlan. “It’s as simple as, ‘Did you follow the process?’ ”
Commissioner Jon Zich said he’s generally supportive of the service that sober-living homes provide, “but we’ve got rules. They’re fairly straightforward. They’re fairly simple to follow.”
Representatives from the Ohio House, however, took issue with some of the city’s required findings for granting a reasonable accommodation request. They pointed to the requirement that the city determine “whether the existing supply of facilities of a similar nature and operation in the community is sufficient to provide individuals with a disability an equal opportunity to live in a residential setting.”
“There’s really no way for us to ever demonstrate to you all that the existing supply is insufficient to convince you to grant our reasonable accommodation request,” Garrett Prybylo, an attorney who represented the operator, told the commission. “So long as we have one other home in the community, it seems that there would be a basis to deny this.”
“It’s really hard to believe that this is actually set up for us to have a chance,” said Brandon Stump, co-founder of the Ohio House.
Costa Mesa has approved 17 applications for sober-living and group homes, according to the latest city figures. Another 73 such facilities are licensed locally through the state Department of Health Care Services.