City Council issues formal warning against rehab home

NEWPORT BEACH — The City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night to issue a formal warning to Morningside Recovery.

The operator of group drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation homes has committed "a high number of violations" of its zoning agreement with the city, according to a first annual review by city staff.

From the period of Sept. 28, 2010, through May 27, 2011, Morningside received 21 written warnings, 17 notices of violations, nine administrative citations and two parking citations, according to the report.

The home operator now has 30 days upon receipt of the notice to come into compliance with the zoning agreement. If it does not come into compliance, it will be found as defaulting on the agreement.

Dozens of residents filled the City Council chambers Tuesday night to ask the city to oust Morningside Recovery, a group-home operator accused of repeatedly violating a zoning agreement.

Morningside runs seven facilities in Newport Beach, including three on Lido Isle, three in West Newport and one in Newport Crest.

Residents and business owners Tuesday complained of problems like second-hand smoke, cigarette butts, late-night deliveries and loud noise.

"Let's be crystal clear: You already gave them notice," said Tom Billings, a Newport Beach resident and member of MORN, or Maintain Our Residential Neighborhoods. "No more kicking the can down the road by the City Council."

Billings and others asked the Council to terminate the agreement struck in September that specifies how the company can conduct business. It limits how many people the company can house in the city and sets "quiet hours," among other conditions.

But the city is legally obligated to give a 30-day warning to the company, according to City Attorney David Hunt.

Connie Shyning, managing director of Newport Beach-based Morningside, referred questions to the company's attorney, Mary Helen Beatificato. Beatificato refuted the claims against the company at the meeting Tuesday.

She said Morningside acted in "good faith compliance" with its agreement, and argued that the notices of violations received were based only on resident complaints, not a full city investigation.

City officials said investigations were completed, while residents argued that the notices represented only a small percentage of the actual problems they have encountered. Some said the group-housing setup is not compatible with the surrounding single-family home setup, while others expressed concern about raising their children near a drug-rehab home.

— Staff Writer Mike Reicher also contributed to this report

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