Fountain Valley officials are looking to place stricter regulations on sober living homes after resident concerns that the facilities are too close together and need more oversight.

Council members have discussed creating restrictions a few times, but haven’t made a final decision. That’s largely because of a lawsuit against the neighboring city of Costa Mesa over similar restrictions.

The item is scheduled to return to the council in January for further discussion.

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The Fountain Valley City Council unanimously approved the first reading of a proposed ordinance at its Sept. 19 meeting that would prevent addiction-recovery centers from operating within 650 feet of another sober living home in residential neighborhoods. 

The ordinance also calls for a 24-hour house manager to be present in the home, transportation for residents who must leave the facilities and existing facilities to obtain permits within 90 days, according to the city’s staff report

But the item was tabled for 90 days during its second reading on Oct. 3 due to neighboring city Costa Mesa’s ongoing litigation regarding sober living homes.

Fountain Valley’s action is modeled after an ordinance passed by the Costa Mesa City Council in 2018, which is currently in a legal battle for allegedly violating the California Fair Housing Act by discriminating against the vulnerable population of recovering addicts. In the Costa Mesa lawsuit, the plaintiffs argue that recovering addicts should be categorized as disabled people — a protected class. 

The item was first brought to the council in early March when officials chose to wait 90 days for developments in Costa Mesa’s litigation. 

But during the mid-September meeting, council member Patrick Harper said they needed to move forward with the ordinance to address community concerns. 

“If we wait till the court decides, it will be here forever,” Harper said. “These homes are popping up in the city, and residents are complaining about it. So, let’s get the ordinance on the books. ”

Council member Glenn Grandis said it might cause problems to approve the ordinance without knowing the outcome of the Costa Mesa lawsuit. 

“I would still like this to be settled before we start putting it in an ordinance that we may or may not be able to enforce, and if we do enforce, we could put our city at risk for being sued,” Grandis said at the Sept. 26 meeting. 

During the public comment portion of the meeting, some residents said that sober living facilities affected their ability to fully enjoy their neighborhoods. 

Jill Tanner, a Fountain Valley resident, expressed her concerns about the businesses being run in residential neighborhoods. 

“I would strongly suggest enforcing the ordinance now as soon as possible,” Tanner said during the meeting. “Courts move very slow, and my kids are growing up quickly… and now I don’t feel comfortable telling my daughter to ride her bike to school.” 

Some residents who spoke at the meeting said they strongly favor more regulations of these homes and pushed the council to approve the ordinance before the issue gets bigger.

Grandis — who initially approved the item — emphasized his concern on Oct. 3 about enacting the ordinance and potentially putting Fountain Valley up for litigation.  

“It’s too great of a risk at this time,” Grandis said. 

Harper pushed for final approval of the item because of the number of sober homes and concerns that continue to grow.

“In order to fight for our residents,” Harper said. “We need to act now to get these regulations in place.”


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