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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.

Robert Noble, center, leads a protest against the city’s zoning ordinance regarding sober living homes. be Photo: Eric Heinz
Robert Noble, center, leads a protest against the city’s zoning ordinance regarding sober living homes. be Photo: Eric Heinz

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.”

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comments (7)

  • I live in Dana Point. I wish they had some kind of city ordinance to keep these “sober” living homes out of my area. There are 3 on my street and I can tell you from experience, there’s nothing “sober” about most of the “sober” living residences.. I live in an upscale neighborhood. I moved from an area in California that was on the decline because of gangs and violence. I now have those gang members and seedy characters living amongst me. Parents in the neighborhood won’t let their children play outside. The police are out to one of the houses on a daily basis. It is a travesty that people who could not afford to live in my neighborhood (unless they are in a sober living home) have the ability to destroy the neighborhood and lower property values.

  • why don’t you stop forcing us to notice you….we do not need or want or can even handle any more facilities like these….this town 3 years ago were homes occupied by families…not recovery asylums

  • why don’t you stop forcing us to notice you….we do not need or want or can even handle any more facilities like these….this town 3 years ago were homes occupied by families…not recovery asylums…i apologize for my sarcasm…but, i was visiting an elderly friend of mine at 105 avenida to the council hall….and i spoke with a few of the “protesters”…these folks do not understand that this is a zoning issue….and not discriminatory in any way. I began to get into my car to leave…and I am guessing, that it was no coincidence that the photographer, and the super-hyped cult-leader…well, i thought that he was a wedding-planner…but definitely a solo performing-con-artist. He had these poor folks holding up signs that read, ‘SHAME ON YOU SAN CLEMENTE !!!the group of 20 stood at the entrance of the council parking lot which faces the casa de seniors,,,where this group yelled and screamed inaudible chants out into the street. the tenants at the casa de seniors said that they were very upset with this :childish behavior, and from this behavior, they would not listen to childish demands from the angry mob-like protestors

  • An Orange County Superior Court judge determined in a tentative ruling on Monday, June 27 that a sober living home in Talega was not operating as a business, but did violate the homeowners’ associations rules regarding nuisances. Judge Craig Griffin ruled the sober living home could continue to operate as long as it requested a property management license from the city and adhered to the neighborhood’s noise, smoking and conduct regulations.

    Lawyers for the co-plaintiffs—the city of San Clemente and David Hurwitz, a Talega resident next to whom a sober living home is operating—asked Griffin to order an immediate injunction that would’ve required the sober living home (run by Sober Network Properties LLC, the defendant) to stop operating. Griffin denied that request.

    The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had not yet proven that Sober Network Properties are violating homeowners’ association codes by operating a business out of their Talega residence. Court records indicate the plaintiffs argued that because the home’s manager had received payment from Sobertec (a partner group of Sober Network Properties), that it was operating a business. However, the judge ruled that it would be unjust to qualify the home as a business just because rent is paid or tenants have special living arrangements—many other homes in Talega are leased, or those “types of restrictions are frequently imposed by parents, roommates and other ‘family’ groups who may permissibly live in the neighborhood.”

    “Payment for use of a home is not sufficient to establish operation of a business. Homeowners are free to lease their homes to tenants and receive compensation for that rental. It does not make the home, itself, a ‘business,’” the ruling continued.

    However, the judge ruled that Sober Network Properties must file for a business license within 15 days. The key is that the home itself is not a business, but SNP is managing property in the city, including the sober living home. For that, it needs to get a license.

    “They need to apply for a business license because they’re operating a business in the city. I don’t think there’s any question about that,” Griffin said.

    A lawyer for Joseph Scolari argued that because SNP is based in San Juan Capistrano, all it needs to file for is a property manager’s license in San Clemente.

    A second hearing is schedule for August 15 to determine further regulations and living arrangements. Many were looking to this case as a harbinger for how cities regulate sober living homes. Those recovering from alcohol and drug abuse are considered “disabled” and because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, cities and neighborhood associations cannot ban them from living in their area. As many sober living homes operate out of multi-room luxury homes in Southern California, it has caused their neighbors to complain about what they perceive as negative impacts—smoke, noise and safety issues.

    The city of Dana Point filed two lawsuits last week against treatment facilities, including one owned by Sobertec. Their justification is that the homes are creating an undue nuisance, and do not have necessary state licensure.

    The judge acknowledged in his ruling that the issue of regulating sober living homes is very delicate.

    “The question of when and how a ‘group home’ crosses over from a home to a business is complicated and cannot, at this point, be determined as a matter of law,” the ruling read.
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  • If I lived in SC (I’m in neighboring Capo Beach), I’d be PISSED at the zoning as it is. Why is it ok to have sober living homes in some neighborhoods, but not in others? The people who live in the pier bowl, by the hospital, etc., should have the same consideration as the people who live in Forster Ranch, Talega, etc.. It seems more fair – all around – if the homes are spread throughout the city, and not concentrated in certain neighborhoods. The neighborhoods zoned to “allow” sober living homes are no less worthy of protection from an over-abundance of these businesses.

    People need help transitioning to productive lives. We are all, most of us, so fortunate, the least we can do is welcome some folks who have maybe not been as fortunate as us. But that burden should not fall disproportionately on some neighborhoods.

  • If these so called “sober living” businesses really care about their customers and the community they would do the right thing to properly take care of the disabled in their care. For example they should be providing 24/7 on site medical staff and security officers in all sober living homes. The question these businesses don’t like answering is, what is their policy and procedure when monthly payments stop, Do they simply escort the guest off the premises, making the customer someone else’s problem?

  • i just copied and pasted the previous comment i posted from a past issue on this same issue…WE AS A COMUNITY ARE SATURATED WITH THESE UN-LISCENCED DRUG-ADDICT BROTHELS…PLEASE STOP TRYING TO RAPE OUR HOME-TOWN

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