No settlement talks in 2nd lawsuit over sober-living law

Costa Mesa officials celebrated last week after one of the largest operators of local sober-living homes, Solid Landings Behavioral Health, agreed to shut down all of its live-in facilities in town and end its legal fight with City Hall.

But the legal battle over a city ordinance aimed at stemming the proliferation of sober-living homes could still go another few rounds, according to an attorney representing plaintiffs in another lawsuit against the city.

Yellowstone Recovery, a sober-living home operator, joined with two other plaintiffs in 2014 to file suit against Costa Mesa in an attempt to strike down an ordinance requiring that such facilities in single-family neighborhoods obtain special permits and be at least 650 feet from one another.

Like Solid Landings, which also turned to the courts to fight the ordinance, Yellowstone claimed the restrictions discriminated against recovering drug and alcohol addicts.

Unlike Solid Landings, though, there have been no recent talks to settle that legal bout, said attorney Steven Polin, who represents Yellowstone and its co-plaintiffs, which include the Sober Living Network, a nonprofit advocacy group.

“Yellowstone has had no negotiations with the city,” Polin said Thursday. “As far as the city is concerned — until a court tells them otherwise — the ordinance is perfectly valid, so there are no discussions with the city.”

City Hall spokesman Tony Dodero confirmed Thursday that there have been no settlement talks in that case.

The Yellowstone case has been effectively on hold since December, when the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction in the Solid Landings case barring Costa Mesa from enforcing its ordinance.

Should Solid Landings drop its lawsuit, as the company agreed to do as part of its pact with the city, “things will get cranked up again,” Polin said.

Federal Judge James V. Selna has previously dismissed Yellowstone’s lawsuit, but the plaintiffs have filed an amended complaint for his consideration, Polin said.

When asked if he had any idea about the timeline for the case moving forward, Polin responded, “Nope.”

City officials have estimated that, as of January, there were about 300 sober-living facilities and group homes in Costa Mesa. About half of those are thought to be related to the drug and alcohol rehabilitation industry.

Under its pact announced at last week’s City Council meeting, Solid Landings agreed to close 33 of its sober-living homes in Costa Mesa within three years. Fifteen of those will close immediately, according to the city.

The move supports Solid Landings’ “long-term and transformative plan that will shift our treatment services to a more efficient and centralized delivery model, one that will allow us to focus on standardizing and maintaining quality care,” Steve Fennelly, the company’s chief executive and president, said in a statement last week.

Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer, who negotiated with Solid Landings on behalf of the city, last week called the development “a landmark, watershed moment” for Costa Mesa and, based on the agreement, said he expects more operators to leave.


Twitter: @LukeMMoney



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