When it comes to sober-living homes, it seems there is a reflexive urge to throw the baby out with the bathwater. In Costa Mesa, home to the second-highest number of licensed drug rehabilitation centers per capita in the state, residents’ exasperation with the industry is understandable, but, as in all things, some flexibility is important.
The Costa Mesa City Council, therefore, made the right decision last week when it exercised discretion in regulating the city’s sober-living homes.
“Citing a good track record and good standing in the community, the council voted 3-2 on Tuesday, June 20, to exempt Gregg Ohlhaver, owner of Keystone Sober Living at 2152 Raleigh St., from a city ordinance that requires a 650-foot buffer between sober-living homes,” the Register reported.
Ohlhaver has operated since 2004, but was denied a special use permit because of his proximity to two state-licensed facilities, which are outside the city’s control, that opened after him.
It is true that bad actors, and their proliferation under Obamacare, have given the industry a bad name, but good sober-living homes are an important stop on the path to sobriety. And, by all accounts, Ohlhaver seems to run a good facility.
“Most of the speakers during the public comment portion of the meeting spoke in support of Ohlhaver, saying he is an anomaly in an industry full of operators only interested in the bottom line,” the Register reported.
There is a strong parallel here with short-term rentals. As with short-term rentals, it is important that residents who live near these facilities have their property rights respected. But that doesn’t grant neighbors a blanket veto on other property owners, especially when those owners are operating in good faith, as Ohlhaver seems to have done.
And, while attempting to thwart the oversaturation of neighborhoods may be a necessary response to the explosion in sober-living homes in recent years, driving the good out with the bad is not.