The third time ended up being the charm for a sober-living operator Tuesday as the Costa Mesa City Council officially awarded a required permit for its facility on the Eastside.
However, in granting the sought-after approval, the council lowered the maximum occupancy for the Summit Coastal Living home — located in three units at 2041 Tustin Ave. — from the requested 12 residents to eight, plus a live-in manager.
The hope, council members said, is that fewer residents will lessen possible effects on the neighborhood.
Mayor Sandy Genis joined with Mayor Pro Tem Allan Mansoor and Councilmen Jim Righeimer and John Stephens to overturn an earlier denial from the Planning Commission and approve a conditional use permit for the facility. Councilwoman Katrina Foley dissented.
Tuesday’s hearing was the third time the council has taken up the application in recent months.
In March, Foley, Genis and Stephens voted to approve the permit. At that time, they said there wasn’t sufficient evidence to deny the request and pointed out that the property complies with Costa Mesa’s requirement that group homes, licensed alcohol and drug treatment facilities and sober-living homes — which typically house recovering alcoholics and drug addicts, who are considered disabled under state and federal laws — be at least 650 feet from one another in residential areas.
When it came time to finalize that approval in April, council members hesitated, saying they wanted to further discuss issues residents had regarding requests for police, fire, paramedic and code enforcement services at the facility.
A city staff report prepared for Tuesday’s meeting showed that, since September 2014, there have been seven calls for police service at the property. Five came either from those living in the facility or the property owner, and the others were requests to check on the welfare of the residents.
The report added that city code enforcement hasn’t received any complaints or requests for service regarding the property since Summit Coastal Living began operating in 2013.
Keith Randle, the facility’s owner, said those figures show his operation isn’t a burden to the city and that residents’ claims of regular police activity are “a big ‘nothing burger.’”
“You spew this narrative out about all this negative stuff about my house and people start believing it, and it’s just not true,” he told the council.
He characterized Summit Coastal Living as “a supportive, safe and clean home for those who are starting out on the road to recovery.”
Some of the facility’s neighbors, however, said the city’s official records don’t come close to reflecting all the problems they believe the sober-living home has brought to their neighborhood.
As has been the case throughout the permitting process, several residents turned out Tuesday and blamed the facility for creating or exacerbating problems with noise, litter, parking and crime and having an overall negative impact on their quality of life.
Others expressed concern about children and families having to walk by the property on their way to and from the nearby Woodland Elementary School.
Another common complaint was that Costa Mesa already has too many of these kinds of operations. According to recent figures, there are 18 additional city-approved sober-living and group homes in Costa Mesa and 101 others licensed through the state Department of Health Care Services.
“Under state and federal law, we can’t just not have sober-living homes,” Genis said. “Unfortunately, the state has willy-nilly approved an awful lot in our city — way too many, probably — but at the same time we cannot deny a sober-living home where we don’t have clear and convincing evidence that there’s something really horrible happening.”
Though Mansoor and Righeimer voted against the permit application when it went before the council in March — citing concerns about the proposed occupancy — both said Tuesday that a lower limit made more sense for the property.
Foley said she wanted to deny the permit outright, citing residents’ opposition.
“I’m not convinced that there isn’t an impact on the residential community,” she said Wednesday. She added that she thinks the facility is “not a very good neighbor.”
The council’s approval also comes with other strings attached, including that sex offenders and people on probation or parole cannot be allowed to live in the home and that the city can inspect the facility on weekdays with 24 hours’ notice.
Additionally, the council specified that no more than two residents can be from out of state at any given time and that the conditional use permit will expire if the property’s ownership changes.
2:55 p.m.: This article was updated with Katrina Foley’s comments.
This article was originally published at 10:35 a.m.