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Rehab home finds a victory

Judge says Newport Beach’s ordinance nullified the previous ban. Attorney for Morningside says company wants to be friends with city and residents.

August 05, 2009|By Brianna Bailey

An Orange County Superior Court judge has sided with a local drug and alcohol recovery home after Newport Beach sued the center for allegedly violating a 2007 citywide ban on opening new rehabilitation homes.

Superior Court Judge William Monroe ruled Tuesday that the city couldn’t win a lawsuit against Morningside for violating the moratorium because it had already passed another ordinance to curb the spread of rehabilitation homes in the city, thereby invalidating the previous ban.

“I think the city was hoping particularly against Morningside to have us declared as illegal from the get-go,” said attorney Ron Talmo, who represents Morningside. “That’s not going to happen now. I would hope settlement talks could start up again now.”

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Newport Beach filed the lawsuit in November 2007 against Morningside Recovery, claiming the home violated a city moratorium on new sober living homes in the city.

Newport Beach subsequently passed an ordinance in 2008 that strictly regulates drug and alcohol recovery homes in the city. The ordinance requires most recovery homes to go through a public hearing process and obtain use permits to stay open.

“I think going down the road, people are going to continue to realize that Newport Beach is in the wrong and in violation of the Fair Housing Act,” said Jeff Yates, founder of Morningside Recovery, on Wednesday.

“We want to be friends of city and the residents of Newport Beach.”

Morningside shelters its clients in several houses and duplexes in Newport Beach.

Founded in 2002 by Yates, a recovering alcoholic, Morningside Recovery began as a 17-bed sober-living house in Costa Mesa, according to the company’s website.

Today, Morningside offers 90-day treatment programs for men and women dealing with addiction, including recovering addicts with other psychiatric illnesses, such as depression and bipolar disorder, according to the company’s website.

City officials counted 72 beds at homes run by Morningside in 2007, making it the second-largest drug and alcohol rehabilitation home operator in Newport Beach at the time.

Morningside Recovery chose not to file for use permits for any of its 14 homes in Newport Beach before the city’s deadline in May 2008.

The drug and alcohol recovery home has instead chosen to circumvent the city’s rehabilitation home ordinance by trying to get licenses for its homes through the California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs.

A state license for one of Morningside’s homes in Newport Beach has been granted, and the company is waiting to hear back on its other applications, Talmo said Wednesday.

The Newport Beach City Council could still decide to appeal the judge’s ruling after some procedural matters in the case are wrapped up, Newport Beach City Atty. David Hunt said.

“While I respect the court, I disagree with its decision,” Hunt said. “We will take appropriate action as directed by the council.”

The judge’s ruling has no legal bearing on Newport’s rehabilitation home ordinance and how the city is enforcing it, Hunt said.


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