Costa Mesa reaches ‘landmark’ agreement with sober-living operator to shut down recovery homes

Solid Landings Behavioral Health, one of the most prolific operators of sober-living homes in Costa Mesa, has agreed to shut down all of its live-in facilities in the city and end its legal fight to overturn an ordinance aimed at curbing the proliferation of such homes, officials announced Tuesday.

The company will immediately close 15 sober-living homes under terms described by city officials as a “landmark” settlement agreement.

The news was announced during Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

Eighteen other homes that Solid Landings operates will be closed over the next two to three years, per the terms of the agreement.

The company has also agreed to drop its lawsuits against the city. One filed last year in Orange County Superior Court challenged the city’s denial for Solid Landings to host group counseling sessions in a West 19th Street office building.

The second, filed in federal court, alleged that a city ordinance approved in 2014 was discriminatory to recovering addicts. The ordinance attempted to curb the proliferation of sober-living homes in single-family neighborhoods, among other regulations.

Addressing the audience in the council chambers, Councilman Gary Monahan said, “You know how we always complain about people clapping? You can clap.”

Many in attendance did.

The Solid Landings settlement was approved with a 3-0 vote in closed session, with Councilwomen Katrina Foley and Sandy Genis absent.

The planned closures will put a dent in the number of group and sober-living homes, as well as related treatment facilities, in Costa Mesa. As of January, city officials have estimated there are about 300 of them citywide, an amount believed to be among the highest for any city in Orange County.

“This is a major victory both for the residents of Costa Mesa and city officials who worked diligently on this issue for several years,” Mayor Steve Mensinger said in a statement. “We have invested considerable resources in legal, law enforcement and code enforcement efforts to ensure a balance between our residents who deserve neighborhood peace and tranquillity and those who seek facilities to battle their addiction problems.”

Settlement discussions between City Hall and Solid Landings started about a month ago. Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, who negotiated on behalf of the city, said the agreement marks “the beginning of neighborhoods getting their neighborhoods back.”

Solid Landings will continue operating two counseling facilities in town, but they will be relocated to commercial and industrial areas, said city spokesman Tony Dodero.

Costa Mesa officials and residents have in recent years raised concerns over the growing number of sober-living homes. Many have argued that the homes, which house recovering drug and/or alcohol addicts, have been disruptive to their neighborhoods, contributing to undue amounts of noise, parking problems and second-hand smoke, among other ill effects.

Reached for comment on the agreement prior to Tuesday’s council meeting, Solid Landings spokeswoman Jemellee Ambrose confirmed that the company was “in active discussions with the city,” but wrote in an email that she could not comment on specifics.

Ambrose could not be reached for follow-up comment after the agreement was announced.