Newport council weighing Morningside agreement

Newport Beach is considering axing an agreement that allows a recovery home operator to do business in the city, but the move wouldn't automatically shut down any of the company's controversial group homes, city officials said.

The City Council is slated to review how Morningside Recovery has responded to a 30-day warning period during which it accrued 20 violations against its zoning agreement with the city.

The council could vote to pass an ordinance revoking Morningside's development agreement, which would leave its facilities out of compliance under the city's 2008 group-homes law, but the facility would still have options to stay in Newport Beach, said City Attorney David Hunt.

"It's really going to depend on what Morningside wants to do," Hunt said.

Morningside operates seven drug- and alcohol-rehabilitation group homes in Newport Beach: three on Lido Isle, three in West Newport, and one in Newport Crest.

City staff recommended going forward with the ordinance, according to the staff report.

Continuing with the agreement would have been the best scenario for the city if Morningside had stayed in compliance, but monitoring and enforcing the agreement became too expensive and too difficult, Hunt said.

Morningside founder and President Jeff Yates agreed that the agreement is too expensive and time-consuming for the city, but said the zoning agreement is enforced in a way that makes it impossible for Morningside to fairly follow it.

Yates said the residents' group Maintaining Our Residential Neighborhoods, or MORN, watches everything one of the Lido Isle facilities does and then reports it, even if it's not an issue, or is an issue without a permanent solution.

Despite the complaints, Yates said Morningside has done its best to comply. He plans on attending Tuesday's council meeting to show the group homes' good-faith efforts, adding that he wants the council to continue the zoning agreement.

But if the council decides to go forward with the ordinance, Morningside would fall under the purview of the 2008 ordinance that restricts group homes in the city, Hunt said.

Hunt said Morningside could apply for state license, ask for special accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, or close its doors.

Morningside has already started the process of licensing all its Newport Beach facilities, Yates said.

"We're prepared for the development agreement to go away," he said.

The council is considering severing the agreement with Morningside, because it has accumulated 82 violations since the agreement's inception, according to the staff report.

The report shows 20 of those violations happening after Morningside received a written warning last month from the city. The violations include continuing to have deliveries made to the Morningside facilities outside permitted hours, parking staff vehicles illegally and a failing by staff members to keep clients from using profane and abusive language in public.

The city is still investigating reports of second-hand smoke and loud noise during quiet hours, according to the report.

Mayor Mike Henn said he has received a considerable amount of feedback from residents about Morningside — problems with group homes have been issues he has been dealing with since he ran for election.

"It's pretty clear to me that residents are unhappy about them as an operator," he said.

Resident Tom Billings, a member of MORN, said in an email that the main issue is that Morningside facilities should be in commercially zoned areas.

"The overriding problem was to allow a commercial business operator like Morningside to operate in a 100% residentially zoned, family-oriented community like Lido," he said. "Their commercial operations are clearly not compatible with the surrounding single-family home setup where families and young children reside."

Yates, though, had a different idea of what the real issue is.

"It's intolerance toward people in recovery," he said. "They can say it's about a commercial business in a residential neighborhood all they want, but it has nothing to do with it."

If You Go

What: Newport Beach City Council meeting

When: 7 p.m. Tuesday

Where: City Council Chamber in City Hall, 3300 Newport Blvd.

Information: Check out the entire agenda at

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