SCSQUARED halfBy Eric Heinz

In order to provide more time for city staff and council members to examine the issues regarding sober living commercial facilities and residences, San Clemente City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to extend the moratorium already in place for another 10 months and 15 days. The previous moratorium that prohibited the establishment of sober living homes and commercial facilities was set to expire at the end of the week.

Cecilia Gallardo-Daly, the city’s community development director, said the city staff has been examining individual complaints and violations reported since the first moratorium was put in place July 7.

“Some of the things we’re looking at and continuing to work on are consulting with other cities to see how they’re addressing the issues of evaluating noise, operational characteristics and some (residences) that appear to be operating as collective commercial uses,” Gallardo-Daly said. “We’re also looking at the municipal code in the areas of businesses licenses and home occupation ordinances.”

Code compliance staff has been looking at the different complaints and identifying violations, and some people have already been stopped from establishing sober living homes, Gallardo-Daly said.

As the city continues to investigate the residual parking noise, smoking violations and “un-neighborly” behavior, Gallardo-Daly said identifying violators helps “build a case” against anyone who breaks the law according to the moratorium.

The city reported in July that for the past year it has received multiple complaints from various neighborhoods in regard to sober living residences and facilities. One of the main topics of discussion among neighborhood groups has been the number of residences that have been established in a small area. Because of decisions recently rendered in the courts from nearby cities, such as Newport Beach, San Clemente City Council has been reluctant to put a complete ban on sober living facilities, as judges have ruled in some circumstances cities cannot completely prohibit them.

No one spoke during the oral communication period, which is open to the public.

City Attorney Scott Smith said the urgency ordinance moratorium can last a total of two years before the city would have to establish some kind of regulation or code or drop the ban altogether.

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  • Our City Council has demonstrated their willingness to be in the forefront of an issue that is beguiling literally hundreds of other cities in California. The problems associated with explosion of sober living homes into residential neighborhoods operated by “for-profit” corporations is not only adversely impacting residential neighborhoods but is a great disservice to the recovering patients housed in these facilities.

    When too many facilities are located within one neighborhood, when there is a disproportionate number of facilities in a city for its population, when these facilities do not provide adequate off street parking for their patients, when there is overcrowding of homes not built to house more than six people, then neighborhoods lose their residential character to the detriment of the homeowners and to the detriment of the recovering addicts.

    The problem faced by communities, particularly attractive beach communities, is that this program to assist recovering addicts has been co-opted by big corporations intent on making money at the expense of residents of the city. San Clemente houses over 85 such homes with many more planned. Our City Council has declared a moratorium on new facilities while they find ways to control the excessive growth and deal with the very significant increase in police and emergency responses brought about by these homes and their residents.

    Your Council should be applauded for moving so decisively in this matter!

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