Group would look into solutions to rehab home concerns

Costa Mesa is forming a special task force with the goal of examining the negative effects of sober-living homes on city neighborhoods.

The group of 10 to 12 members, dubbed the Preserve Our Neighborhoods Task Force, would hold public meetings on the topic, said Mayor Jim Righeimer on Tuesday.

The mayor said he will choose its membership, based on input from fellow council members and the public.

"We're asking concerned residents to help us form this task force to study the issue and come up with lawful and nondiscriminatory solutions to preserve our neighborhoods as family-friendly communities," Righeimer said in a prepared statement.

Interested applicants are asked to contact the council's secretary, Sharon Rodelius, at (714) 754-5107.

Righeimer is expected to talk more about the task force during the Dec. 3 council meeting.

City officials said in a news release Tuesday that they have received increased numbers of complaints about rehabilitation home tenants, who have altered "the character of Costa Mesa neighborhoods."

The alleged behavior includes excessive smoking, increased traffic, parking problems and noise, intimidation, the discarding of illegal drug paraphernalia and the use of the homes as pick-up and drop-off points.

Officials have called the problems surrounding rehab homes complex. The homes generally are sober-living situations for people with disabilities, including those suffering from drug or alcohol addiction, whom state and federal law protects against discrimination.

City officials noted, however, in a news release Tuesday that the law does not "immunize nuisance conduct, irrespective of whether a group home's residents are disabled."

The City Council has taken several steps recently to help combat the problems.

In November, the council gave preliminary approval of an ordinance that could help the city in its enforcement effort. If given a second council approval, the law would provide more robust language in the city's zoning code, helping city attorneys in court.

In October, the council unanimously approved the Public Nuisance Abatement Ordinance, which would levy fines of up to $1,000 in an attempt to address "chronic" and long-term quality-of-life issues. The ordinance may be applied to rehab homes.

City officials said Tuesday that 124 rehab homes containing at least 1,000 beds are operating in Costa Mesa.

In August, during a Meet the Mayor session, a code enforcement officer said there were 104 known rehab homes within the city limits, about half of which had state licenses.

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