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Costa Mesa sober-living home wins approval for permit to stay open

Costa Mesa planning commissioners Monday night approved a permit allowing a local sober-living home to remain open, despite disagreement about whether the property is too close to other such facilities.

The commission voted 3-2, with members Stephan Andranian and Isabell Kerins opposed, to grant a conditional use permit for a sober-living home operated by RAW Recovery LLC at 268 Knox St.

The permit is required under a city ordinance adopted in 2015. Sober-living homes typically house recovering alcoholics and drug addicts.

The commission’s decision is final unless appealed to the City Council within seven days.

RAW — which stands for Recovery and Wellness — had sought approval for up to 10 people to live in the facility, but commissioners opted Monday to set the maximum number of residents at eight.

RAW’s application was originally scheduled to be heard at the commission’s meeting Feb. 12. However, commissioners held off on a decision at that time after receiving conflicting information about whether the property complies with Costa Mesa’s requirement that group homes, licensed alcohol and drug treatment facilities and sober-living homes be at least 650 feet from one another in residential areas.

City staff originally determined there were no similar facilities within that distance. However, some residents noted that the state Department of Health Care Services website lists licensed facilities operated by Safe Harbor Treatment Center for Women Inc. less than 650 feet away at 236 and 240 Knox St.

According to Costa Mesa staff, those facilities can house up to eight residents each. As a result, the city requires them to obtain conditional use permits, for which the operator has yet to apply.

From staff’s perspective, those facilities don’t constitute a separation conflict because they require action to bring them into compliance with local rules. Code enforcement is investigating the matter, according to the city.

“I don’t know what the finding is to deny it,” commission Vice Chairman Byron de Arakal said of the RAW application. “There’s no separation issue as of right now.”

Commissioner Carla Navarro Woods agreed, saying she didn’t “see any findings that would support a denial.”

Approving the RAW permit, commissioners pointed out, establishes a 650-foot separation buffer around that property.

However, Andranian, the commission chairman, said he didn’t understand why certain facilities shouldn’t count when it comes to enforcing the distance requirement. The city’s ordinance, he said, stipulates “the measurement is from a state-licensed drug and alcohol treatment facility — it does not specify what type, how many people.”

“A plain reading of the ordinance would tell me that any state-licensed facility would count as far as that 650-foot radius is concerned,” Andranian said.

luke.money@latimes.com

Twitter @LukeMMoney


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