Letters to the Editor: Responsible sober-home operators are being erroneously scapegoated
Re: “Commentary: Debates over sober-living homes often turn into bullying sessions” by former Councilwoman Wendy Leece: I would like to think Ms. Leece would have wanted to get her facts correct before writing her opinion.
In 2013, when residents received a cease and desist order, it was from a businessman/property owner who was being bullied and having his character besmirched by this same group of residents who now say they are the ones being bullied. This businessman (who has never had any connection to the sober-living industry, other than as a landlord) had and still has every right under federal fair housing laws to rent his properties to sober residents. The cease and desist order was his only legal remedy, under the law, to stop the harassment against him.
This same group is now harassing and bullying me. As a property owner I too have the right to rent my property to sober occupants, per federal fair housing laws. It was not until this small group of Costa Mesa residents, through the public notification process associated with the application for my conditional use permit, found out that one of my properties was a sober residence.
At that time, we started experiencing resident surveillance. We have had letters written and public comments made against us at council hearings, where this group makes false statements with no supporting evidence to back them up. Among other broad-stroke blaming for unrelated problems, I have been falsely blamed for the decrease in property values in the neighborhood.
I have a right to call you out if you make false statements. I, personally, have been taken to court by the ringleader of this group. In both cases a restraining order was sought, and both times the order was denied. -
I have been accused by these bullies of an excess of calls to service to my property, again without any facts to back it up. This bullying needs to stop. In full transparency, I was the first to submit an application for a conditional use permit in accordance with the city ordinance. Both of my applications fit perfectly, per the city ordinance. Yet it has been a constant, time-consuming witch hunt by this small group.
The City Council proved to me what I said at the April 3 hearing: If you continually hear something without any rebuttal you will probably believe it. I am sick and tired of the constant lies being spread about me and sober living in general.
I am the first one to say that the city of Costa Mesa should do everything in its power to shut down or fine sober homes that are creating havoc to their neighbors. I have been a Realtor in the area for 30 years, long before I became involved with sober housing. This is a case where codes have not been enforced dating back 20 years, which in my opinion has led to responsible operators like myself being unjustly and erroneously scapegoated, demonized and harassed.
Home operators are not the ‘bullies’ in this fight
This kind of letter is hard to write, but I feel it is necessary to answer the opinion letter written by Wendy Leece, with regards to “bullying” by “representatives of the sober-living industry.”
I am one of those representatives and am deeply offended by the context of this letter. While I can appreciate and understand the concerns that citizens of Costa Mesa have about sober-living facilities, I do not appreciate being considered a “bully.” Anyone wishing to come to an informed opinion regarding this matter need only put in the time (many hours) to witness the City Council meetings online to determine who the bullies really are in this matter.
I am not a public figure. I have never previously experienced having to go in front of a Planning Commission or attend City Council meetings. These have been both disturbing and enlightening experiences, to say the least. Apparently, the public is allowed to go before the council and say whatever they like or feel, regardless of fact.
It is their right to say whatever they like. But it should be noted that the many untruths, misrepresentations and inaccuracies that have been presented without evidence, repeated over and over, only served to incite emotional escalations, which were, in fact, bullying. I have sat and listened to these untruths being spoken about my husband, myself and our family.
It has made me literally ill listening to it while at the same time not being allowed to address each and every untruth, opinion and/or defamation of our character. It deeply saddens me that this is allowed to occur.
Can we all take a look in the mirror? We all respond to fears and injustices, whether real or imagined, but to be called “bullies” as we listen to a litany of unsubstantiated, untrue accusations only adds insult to injury. It is simply unacceptable.
Ms. Leece, can you honestly say that you and your friends have not been incredibly unfair and cruel from the podium? The public is allowed to be rude and cruel, yet we have made every effort to be transparent, addressing every legitimate concern. We have been more than willing to conform to the regulations C.M. is putting into order, only to be further demonized.
We have been bullied in front of our homes by passersby taking pictures while enduring rude personal remarks from random strangers in the neighborhood.
Though we have been friendly and open to people, no one has made the effort to talk to us, to see what we are about or who we are as individuals. It seems to me there is something wrong about that. They confront us from a public podium, never having made an effort to learn the facts or learn more about us as responsible neighbors.
We all have a cause and a passion. Can we not respect one another with common decency? I am certainly willing to bridge this gap if others are willing (and even if they are not).
Also, just as Ms. Leece implored the neighbors of Costa Mesa to speak up and not be “intimidated,” as if anyone has been intimidated for speaking up, I would like to ask the same of persons who have been positively impacted by our sober-living facilities (and other responsible operators of sober-living facilities as well), to please speak up.
Though anonymity is certainly your right, if you are in a position to do so, I would hope you will not be afraid to share your stories of hope and courage.
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