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Costa Mesa working on rehab home ordinance

Morningside Recovery being forced out of Newport Beach adds to neighboring city's concerns about sober-living client influx.

August 28, 2013|By Beau Nicolette and Bradley Zint

Costa Mesa Mayor Jim Righeimer said the city has been working for months on an ordinance that would address rehabilitation homes.

Righeimer did not provide specifics, though he said city staff, in conjunction with the city attorney's office, may have a draft ready for the council's consideration by next month.

The announcement comes after Morningside Recovery's rehabilitation homes in Newport Beach were forced to shut down after Orange County Superior Court Judge Sheila Fell's Aug. 19 ruling.

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Fell wrote that Morningside's seven facilities throughout Newport residential neighborhoods were not operating as a "single housekeeping unit," which she defined as a function equivalent to a traditional family. A company representative has said the group plans to transfer its 36 clients in Newport to Costa Mesa and other nearby cities.

The judge's decision ends a six-year legal battle between Newport and Morningside.

"I'm more than concerned about it," Righeimer said of the development. "It's not just Newport Beach. We have people from all over the country … and they're basically coming to Southern California for treatment and moving into our neighborhoods.

"It's not just Morningside's 36 people; we have hundreds of people here already."

He said many legal issues surround the crafting of such an ordinance, making the process all the more difficult.

"The basis for all this is you cannot discriminate [against] people based on where they live, especially if they have disabilities," he said. "Drug and alcohol addiction is, by law, considered a disability."

Costa Mesa officials are examining their options, he said, noting there is no blueprint for knowing how to "legally to handle this." He compared the situation to "walking a tightrope."

Councilwoman Sandy Genis suggested that Costa Mesa's ordinance be similar to Newport's.

"Why don't we just adopt whatever Newport Beach has, because clearly it's had an effect," she said. "If somebody has a wheel that works, why reinvent the wheel?"

Genis said she understands the need for the homes but that too many of them can alter the nature of a neighborhood, be a burden on public services and harm residents' quality of life.

"There's a place in our community for some facilities," she said, "but we want them to be good neighbors, not to disrupt the neighborhood."

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