State law allows some group homes with six or fewer residents to be treated as single-family residences and limits local agencies' regulation of their locations and operations.
Neighbors of some group homes in Laguna have expressed concerns about smoking, noise, trash, increased deliveries and additional traffic generated by the occupants, who are often recovering abusers of alcohol and drugs.
In May, the Laguna Beach City Council asked staff to review efforts made by Newport Beach to regulate the facilities and on June 21 unanimously passed a resolution of certification of the amendments by the California Coastal Commission.
City Manager John Pietig held meetings with Newport's Deputy City Attorney Catherine Wolcott and former Newport City Attorney Robin Zur Schmiede, a Laguna Beach resident and a member of the city's Design Review Board, to learn how Newport coped with the issues,
The meetings resulted in the preparation of an ordinance recommended for approval by the Planning Commission and subsequently approved by the council which includes definitions of extended-care facilities, residential care facilities, special residential housing and other uses either permitted or allowed with a conditional use permit in specified zones of the city.
Regulations were added that target impacts of the facilities, such as maximum occupancy, fire and building code compliance, outdoor smoking and over-concentration of the facilities in an area.
"John did a good job of adapting … (Newport's) legal concepts to Laguna and avoiding the problems Newport had," Zur Schmiede said.