To address concerns about addiction treatment homes changing the character of residential neighborhoods, San Jose plans to join a host of California cities in lobbying for greater local control over where to allow the facilities.
The proposal will come up for discussion at the League of California Cities annual conference in San Jose next month, where member cities will vote on which policies to endorse in the coming year. San Jose’s City Council will vote on whether to support the measure when it meets Tuesday.
If the resolution passes, the league of cities would call on Gov. Jerry Brown and state legislators to address the over-concentration of alcohol and drug abuse recovery homes.
Malibu, home to one of the highest concentrations of recovery homes in the nation, originally asked the league to prioritize the issue. Clusters of sober living facilities take away from a neighborhood’s residential qualities by creating an institutional setting, according to leaders of the so-called “Rehab Riveira,” detox destination of the stars.
San Jose has just about the same number of sober living facilities but a much lower density. Business directories list more than 30 addiction treatment homes in San Jose, which has a population of more than a million. Malibu, home to only 12,000 people, claims just about a few-dozen.
According to the league’s resolution, state law supersedes local zoning rules for licensed drug and alcohol treatment centers. Cities have to treat them as single-family homes. But with more residents than the average home, these facilities generate more traffic and bustle, with shuttle vans, visiting hours, deliveries and other events.
City officials want to balance the interest of people who want to preserve the residential quality of their neighborhoods with the rights of patients to integrate into the community.
Already, most state-licensed facilities need a 300-foot buffer from each other. But facility owners often rent properties next-door or across the street under the same license, which creates an institutional setting. Many of these organizations pay homeowners above market rate. That 300-foot buffer doesn’t apply to privately run sober living homes, however.
Local governments have debated how to regulate group homes since their inception nearly four decades ago.
In 1977, a California law called the Lanterman Developmental Disabilities Act established the right of people with disabilities to live in the “least restrictive environment.” That meant placing people—not just addicts, but also those with any other disability—in residential neighborhoods instead of institutions.
When residential care facilities began to open up in neighborhoods, they triggered backlash from residents worried about overcrowding and crime.
Cities and counties responded with land-use regulations to control where to place these facilities. But federal fair housing laws and state regulations limit how much local governments can restrict their placement.
In 2002, the California Research Bureau noted in a report the many challenges of integrating residential care facilities into neighborhoods. Two years prior, Prop. 36, the Substance Abuse and Crime Prevention Act of 2000, diverted thousands of nonviolent drug offenders into the community and residential treatment facilities. The resulting influx of group homes raised concerns among city leaders about how to regulate the burgeoning industry.
“[T]here are no easy resolutions to the complicated ongoing issues around siting residential care facilities in the community,” according to the study ordered by then-Sen. Charles Poochigian. “Some goals conflict, like local control and federal/state protections. In addition, some ‘quality’ issues are hard to legislate. …Resolutions that address and balance the needs of neighbors, the needs of residents needing services and the needs of local government are difficult to identify and achieve.”
In 2008, a federal judge dismissed with prejudice a $250 million lawsuit brought by a citizens’ group against a major sober living provider. The lawsuit filed by residents of Newport Beach claimed that too many sober living facilities caused second-hand smoke, noise and traffic. But a judge ruled that the claim had no merit.
More from the San Jose City Council agenda for September 29, 2015:
- Interviews are underway to fill a seat on the city’s Planning Commission.
- The city plans to raise its parkland fees for new residential developments anywhere from 3 to 17.6 percent. Last year, San Jose collected more than $20.3 million in park fees from 64 residential projects, up from $8.8 million the year before and a record high of $23.5 million in 2012-13.
WHAT: City Council meets
WHEN: 1:30pm Tuesday
WHERE: City Hall, 200 E. Santa Clara St., San Jose
INFO: City Clerk, 408.535.1260