Costa Mesa council cites neighbors’ complaints in denying permit for drug and alcohol treatment facility

The Costa Mesa City Council denied a permit for a drug and alcohol treatment facility Tuesday, citing concerns of nearby residents who said it has had detrimental effects on their neighborhood.

In a 4-0 vote, with Councilman Jim Righeimer absent, the council rejected the permit request from Northbound Treatment Services, which was seeking approval to serve up to 21 residents in six units at 2417 Orange Ave.


Though Northbound has run a state-licensed drug and alcohol recovery facility at the property since 2009, a 2015 city ordinance requires the operator to obtain a conditional use permit because it has more than six residents and is in an area zoned for multifamily residences.

City rules also stipulate that group homes, licensed alcohol and drug treatment facilities and sober-living homes be at least 650 feet from one another in residential areas.


The buffer requirement came into play when the city Planning Commission reviewed Northbound’s permit application in January. At that time, the property was within 650 feet of three state-licensed treatment facilities on Orange Avenue, which prompted the commission to deny the application.

Northbound appealed to the council.

According to a city staff report, the other licenses on Orange are no longer active, which would resolve the separation conflict.

But council members said the concerns of several nearby residents — including disruptive noise from the facility, a steady stream of passenger vans to and from the property and excessive cigarette smoke — were enough to deny the permit.

Legal contract maximum increased

With no discussion Tuesday, council members increased the maximum compensation for a law firm defending the city in litigation challenging its sober-living ordinances.

The 4-0 vote raises the value of the city’s contract with Keller/Anderle LLP to an amount not to exceed $1.4 million — up from the previous $249,000 cap approved in May.

Costa Mesa retained the firm in March to defend it against a 2014 lawsuit from Yellowstone Recovery, a sober-living home operator, and two other plaintiffs seeking to strike down the city’s permitting and distance requirements for such facilities.

The lawsuit alleges the restrictions discriminate against recovering drug and alcohol addicts, who are considered disabled under state and federal laws.