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The Political Landscape:

Failed bill raises the bar for Newport

Bill on recovery homes failed with health committee, but it’s the furthest a Newport- sponsored bill has traveled, assistant city manager says.

July 08, 2009|By Alan Blank and Paul Anderson

Sen. Tom Harman’s most recent bill on residential recovery homes failed, but Newport Beach officials found some solace in the progress it made.

This time, Harman’s legislation — Senate Bill 268 — actually made it out of the Senate and to the Assembly’s Health Committee where it failed on an 11-2 vote against it. Assemblywoman Audra Strickland (R-Thousand Oaks) and Assemblyman Nathan Fletcher (R-San Diego) voted for it.

“One of the goals of residential recovery is allowing for the full integration of genuine treatment homes into neighborhoods,” Harman said in a news release. The bill “was a compromise measure that would have smoothed that process while preserving the character of the neighborhoods. It is a shame the committee failed to pass it.”

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The bill would have given Newport Beach more oversight of recovery homes. Basically, it would encourage recovery-home operators to come to the city first for a permit so they’d know whether their proposal is up to the city’s zoning code. Now they can go to the state for the permit, and the state does not know the city’s zoning and doesn’t care, either. This leads to recovery-home operators finding out after the fact that there’s a zoning problem and then the legal problems ensue as the city pushes for compliance, Assistant City Manager Dave Kiff said.

The bill also would make the operators get a permit from the city’s fire department every year. Now all they have to do is get the permit from the city and then each year mail in the same permit to the state, which rubber-stamps it, meaning there’s no annual inspection or update.

“We were disappointed in the vote [Tuesday], but, actually, this bill got farther than any other group-home bill we’ve ever sponsored,” Kiff said.

Harman was at least heartened that the health committee allowed for the legislation to be retooled and brought back for reconsideration.

In other recovery-home news this week, city officials are taking aim at Newport Coast Recovery. City officials allege, among other things, that the recovery home has had underage patients. A hearing on the allegations was held Tuesday, but the hearing officer has asked for more information before making a decision on whether to deny a use permit, Kiff said.

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