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Code officers kept busy with sober home complaints

Costa Mesa code enforcement officers kept busy responding to more than 100 complaints connected to the sober-living industry in 2015, according to a report that will be presented Monday to the Planning Commission.

Teams handled 117 cases and processed more than 50 applications from sober-living companies seeking permits to operate in residential neighborhoods, according to the report filed by Fidel Gamboa, the city’s acting neighborhood improvement manager.

Gamboa said the 117 cases originated from calls to City Hall. Some dealt with reports that the homes existed, so the teams would then investigate, logging verified facilities into city records. Others were in response to nuisance complaints, such as parking issues, transient activity, excessive second-hand smoke or group counseling sessions not sanctioned by the city.

Most of the applications were for single-family zoned neighborhoods, but the city’s law regulating sober-living homes in those areas is currently unenforceable because of injunction from an ongoing federal discrimination lawsuit, Gamboa wrote.


As of late January, Costa Mesa had an estimated 300 sober-living facilities citywide, Gamboa said.

Also of note, Gamboa wrote, were a host of illegal group counseling sessions taking place at sober-living centers in commercial and light industrial zones. City Hall requires special permission for that activity, based on parking demands and other requirements.

Staff identified 34 centers suspected of hosting the group counseling without having proper permitting.

Gamboa pointed to two facilities in the 3100 block of Airway Avenue cited in November. They subsequently left Costa Mesa.


In August, the city cited a facility in the 200 block of E. 17th Street for hosting group counseling. The operator converted the sessions to one-on-one counseling and took the group gatherings to another city.


Bradley Zint,

Twitter: @BradleyZint