Wow. I love news reports like this. It shows has low our country continues to dive when it comes to civility and intelligence.
The LA Times reported yesterday about a meeting which took place in Costa Mesa, California, about the ongoing sober home “problem” which is “plaguing” this tiny beachfront community.
Now, federal elected officials have taken 4 steps back rather than another step forward.
The main protagonists – U.S. Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Costa Mesa) and U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa (R-San Diego).
The effects of sober-living homes on Orange County communities took center stage in Costa Mesa on Monday evening, with a panel of area politicians giving their opinions and lawyers explaining the complicated legal framework surrounding the issue.
Rep. Issa introduced HR 6070 back in September, and cutely named it the “Safe Recovery and Community Empowerment Act.”
The San Diego County Republican’s proposed law aims to give state and local governments more regulatory controls over sober-living homes through zoning and licensing measures by allowing them to discriminate.
The summary of the bill sounds reasonable. But as with all legislation, the devil is in the details.
On Monday, about 150 people attended an ongoing series of town hall meetings co-sponsored by the Assn. of California Cities-Orange County and the Orange County Assn. of Realtors.
Another held in May in Laguna Hills attracted approximately 600 people.
Costa Mesa is aghast that it has the reputation of being “an epicenter of the addiction treatment industry.”
Some Costa Mesa estimates have at least 150 sober-living homes and related facilities, though local anti-recovery residence activists have argued that the figure is considerably higher.
150 homes? Sounds like an over-concentration to me, considering the population of Orange County is 3.114 million (as of 2013) and 112,174 in Costa Mesa (with 39,946 households).
Officials at Monday’s meeting noted Costa Mesa’s recent laws regulating the homes. Those efforts are currently being challenged in federal court.
Assuming the parties don’t settle in advance, we are making the prediction that Costa Mesa will lose this one.
Not because the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) or the Fair Housing Act (FHA) are all powerful. It’s because the law is actually based on common sense.
Don’t treat people differently simply because they are different. Attack the problem.
Is parking a problem? Then deal with parking.
Second-hand smoke a problem? Then deal with the smoking.
Too many black people in your neighborhood for your liking? Sorry. Need to move.
With regard to regulation of recovery residences, the law dealing not only with the ADA and FHA, but Equal Protection (enshrined in our U.S. Constitution) requires that any law that treats any group of people differently must be based upon the protection of that protected class, unless there is an imminent threat to the safety of the community.
Therefore, the way to weed out shady “sober homes” is to hold such homes to a standard of care which protects those in recovery who need such recovery residences to sustain their efforts towards stability, self-responsibility, and self-empowerment.
In what is likely a gift to civil rights litigators, U.S. Rep. Rohrabacher criticized the Americans with Disabilities Act definition of recovering addicts as disabled and therefore a protected class of people.
“This is not about bad operators,” Rohrabacher said. “This is about drug addicts and drunks being put right in our residential neighborhoods. … What we have here is a basically bad idea that has led to a bad policy that has led to a bad outcome. Surprise, surprise.”
He also criticized the notion of addiction as a sickness and argued that treating it as such takes away “the idea of personal responsibility and [makes] the situation worse.”
Rohrabacher said he supports a bill by U.S. Rep. Darrell Issa, HR 6070, introduced in September. The San Diego County Republican’s proposed law aims to give state and local governments more regulatory controls over sober-living homes through zoning and licensing measures.
Rep. Lois Frankel (D-West Palm Beach, Fla.) is philosophically aligned with Rep. Rohrabacher and Rep. Issa, all of whom pushed the Department of Justice and HUD to redraft their “Joint Statement” on Recovery Residences, which statement was recently issued.
We have read, and re-read that statement, and believe it has not fundamentally changed at all. In fact, the City of Boca Raton City Attorney, who represented that City when sued by DOJ for housing discrimination, appears to agree.
Not surprisingly, Delray Beach feels differently. Though, in Delray Beach’s defense, the City has had repeated and significant turnover at the City Attorney’s Office and the Planning & Zoning Department, hindering the ability to formulate a cogent and useful regulatory scheme to stop the predatory actions of unscrupulous marketers posing as sober home operators.
That said, the answer is not the Costa Mesa scheme. Or the Newport Beach scheme (which was struck down by the 9th Circuit and upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court as being overtly discriminatory).
The answer to deal with bad sober homes is to actually invite and support good operators into your city and then collectively ward off the bad players.
But if the only rallying cry is that “we don’t want those people in our city,” let me introduce you to a 227-year-old piece of parchment sitting on display at the National Archives.