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Council passes nuisance ordinance

Those who violate the rules could be fined; attorney warns against targeting sober-living homes.

October 01, 2013|By Hannah Fry

The Costa Mesa City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday designed to allow city officials to levy fines up to $1,000 in an attempt to control nuisance behaviors such as loud noise and drifting smoke in residential areas.

The Public Nuisance Abatement Ordinance, which had its first reading Sept. 17, will take effect in 30 days.

Those who violate the ordinance face a fine of $250 for the first violation, $500 for the second and $1,000 for all other repeat offenses, according to city documents.

The ordinance, which the Planning Commission recommended that the council adopt in May, provides the city with a more streamlined approach toward fixing "chronic and long-term problems" that spill over and are detrimental to other properties, according to city staff.

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Currently, the city's code limits its nuisance abatement ability to property maintenance issues, according to city documents.

Now, a nuisance property might be a home that is in disrepair, overflowing with possessions and debris or the source of constant noise or drifting smoke. Blighted properties that attract squatters or areas where a "disproportionate amount of criminal offenses are being committed," such as motels, would also fall under the ordinance, according to city documents.

Under the new ordinance, if a property is identified as a nuisance, city code enforcement officers make contact with the property owner in person or in a letter detailing the concern. City officials then have the discretion to either meet with the property owner to discuss the issue or initiate fines, said Rick Francis, the city's assistant chief executive officer.

Those found to be in violation of the ordinance could be fined and forced to remedy the problem within 30 days, but they would also have the opportunity to appeal.

The Costa Mesa action comes in the wake of a recent court decision that revitalized lawsuits against Newport Beach by sober-living home owners over a 2008 zoning ordinance that drove many group homes out of the city and forced others to limit services.

Newport Beach passed the ordinance after residents complained that dozens of group homes had created parking, traffic, noise and secondhand smoke problems in residential neighborhoods.

A key difference with Costa Mesa's ordinance is that the city isn't concerned with where the properties are located, only that they are negatively affecting the rest of the community, said Mayor Jim Righeimer.

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