By Eric Heinz
Sober Network Properties (SNP), which owns and operates seven sober living facilities in San Clemente, recently filed a lawsuit in federal court against the city’s current zoning of such facilities.
The lawsuit alleges that the city’s regulations are out of compliance with state and federal housing regulations and discriminates against their practices.
In one instance, the lawsuit alleges residents of a home on Via Jacobea were verbally abused and harassed by groups of people opposed to sober living homes.
“Many of the Jacobea residents were fearful for their safety, and experienced anxiety and feelings of emotional distress as a result of the protestors’ actions,” the complaint stated.
SNP emphasized in the lawsuit, writing in bold, that they do not provide treatment for alcohol and drug dependency, just living quarters.
The lawsuit seeks to restrain the city from further actions that would be detrimental in the eyes of SNP representatives and to repeal the zoning ordinance that binds sober living homes to certain areas of the city, which include portions of South El Camino Real, around the Pier Bowl, spot locations in North Beach, and the hospital area.
These ordinances were finalized in 2016 with an 18-month lifespan, as city officials wanted to see if the zoning would be effective.
Dual Diagnostics, which does business as Sovereign Health, is also currently in a federal lawsuit as the plaintiff and the respondent in a county lawsuit in which the city is the plaintiff. The city has a lawsuit against Dual Diagnostics in Orange County Superior Court for what they allege are constant municipal code violations, and they are trying to establish various cease and desist orders.
Before the start of Tuesday’s City Council meeting, a gathering of sober living home operators protested the zoning ordinances outside City Hall. It wasn’t exactly clear which organizations they represented, but the apparent leader of the protest, Robert Noble, a substance and addiction treatment case manager, said he has operated in San Clemente for about five years and said he wanted to “prove that sober living homes work.”
“Communities are only safe when those with mental illness receive quality care,” Noble said to a small crowd. “We’re here to protest against ordinances that discriminate against our disabled residents within all neighborhoods of San Clemente.”