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Costa Mesa Planning Commission to take up 4 sober-living home applications

Costa Mesa Planning Commission to take up 4 sober-living home applications
A sober-living home at 2041 Tustin Ave. is one of four whose permit applications will be considered Monday by the Costa Mesa Planning Commission. (Daily Pilot)

After spending months in limbo, four sober-living home permit applications will go back before the Costa Mesa Planning Commission next week.

The applicants on Monday's agenda are asking the commission for conditional use permits to either keep their doors open or expand their operations.

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All the applications up for review were initially filed in the early part of 2016 and went before the commission late in the year — only to be delayed at the request of applicants who wanted to make sure their attorney could attend the commission hearings.

In December, the City Council froze hearings on group and sober-living home applications to take a closer look at local regulations, according to agenda documents.

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Council members adopted a host of new rules governing such facilities in May.

Sober-living homes typically house recovering alcoholics and drug addicts who are considered disabled under state and federal law.

First up on Monday's docket is a permit request to continue operating a sober-living home with as many as 13 men, including a live-in manager, in three units at 2041 Tustin Ave.

The home has operated since September 2013 under the name Summit Coastal Living.

The previous Planning Commission expressed concern with the intensity of the proposed use and directed staff in November to prepare a resolution denying the application, but never officially took action to reject it.

Virtually the entire commission has changed since then. Chairman Stephan Andranian is the lone holdover from the last hearing on the matter.

City staff is recommending commissioners approve the request, saying the use is consistent with city codes and that the applicant "has demonstrated an ability to operate this facility in a manner consistent with the neighborhood over the past three-plus years," according to Monday's agenda.

Staff is recommending the commission deny the other three applications as they run afoul of the city's requirement that group homes and licensed alcohol and drug treatment facilities be at least 650 feet from one another in residential areas.

City officials say that buffer requirement is meant to keep such facilities from clustering too close together in neighborhoods.

One operator, Casa Capri Recovery, is seeking a permit to house up to 14 women in three units at 166 E. 18th St. — less than a block away from a state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment facility at 209 E. 18th St., according to the commission agenda.

Casa Capri opened a 14-bed sober-living home at the property in July 2014.

In June 2016, Casa Capri obtained a state license allowing it to operate with up to six beds at the site and subsequently reduced its capacity.

Even if the commission denies the permit request, Casa Capri could remain open under the terms of its license, agenda documents state.

Another operator, Windward Way Recovery, is seeking permits for a sober-living facility housing up to 28 residents in eight units on adjoining parcels at 351 and 357 Victoria St.

There are four other group homes, residential care facilities or state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment facilities within 650 feet of the property — at 369 and 373 Ralcam Place, 316 Hamilton St. and 395 Victoria St., according to the agenda.

The issue of sober-living homes has long been a contentious one in Costa Mesa.

Supporters say the facilities strive to be good neighbors and give people a safe and secure place to maintain a lifestyle free of alcohol and drugs.

Critics, however, say the homes disrupt neighborhoods, increase crime, noise and secondhand smoke and can contribute to parking and traffic problems.

Detractors have also blasted some operators for evicting sober-living residents out onto the street — a practice known as "curbing" — and potentially pushing them into homelessness.

The new city rules adopted in May require operators in Costa Mesa to notify a resident's contact of record before he or she is involuntarily discharged from a group home or sober-living facility and make transportation available so they can get back to their permanent address or the one listed on their driver's license.

Operators also have to contact both the city's Network for Homeless Solutions and the Orange County Health Care Agency's OC Links Information and Referral Line to determine what services might be available and share that information.

Monday's commission meeting starts at 6 p.m. in City Hall, 77 Fair Drive.

Twitter @LukeMMoney

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