Costa Mesa files suit against three sober living homes it alleges are operating illegally

posted by: Amed Realty in Uncategorized



COSTA MESA – The city is seeking a court injunction against three sober living homes, alleging the facilities are operating illegally without the necessary permits.

The city filed a lawsuit in Orange County Superior Court on Tuesday, Jan. 2, asking a judge to grant a preliminary and permanent injunction and nuisance abatement against Morningside Recovery, at 1798 Pomona Ave., True Recovery at 2558 Orange Ave. and Discovery House at 2964 Peppertree Lane, according to court documents.

The city is accusing the operators of failing to obtain — or even apply for — a conditional use permit for the facilities, which are all in multi-family areas.

“We are done cowering to abusive rehab operators who snub our rules and permit procedures,” Councilwoman Katrina Foley said in a statement.

Also listed as defendants are the owners of the homes, Newport Beach-based Barry Saywitz Properties, and its principal, Barry Saywitz, the documents said.

Ronald Talmo, attorney for Morningside, said Tuesday that his client “has virtually no presence in Costa Mesa anymore.” He declined to comment further.

Saywitz declined to comment.

Morningside leases the properties from Saywitz and subleases one of the sites to True Recovery. Discovery House is associated with Morningside, according to the complaint.

The city is asking that the recovery homes be declared a public nuisance and that operations be temporarily or permanently halted. The Pomona Avenue property houses up to 16 residents while the other two each consist of four two-story condominiums that house those recovering from alcohol or drug addiction.

Morningside and Saywitz Properties have been issued a combined 20 citations for violations that remain unpaid, the complaint said.

“We filed this legal action to compel compliance with our ordinances and to protect the residential character of our neighborhoods for the benefit of all Costa Mesa
residents,” Mayor Sandy Genis said in a statement.

Orange County — and to a larger degree, Costa Mesa — has become the epicenter for recovery homes in the state.

In an effort to regulate the facilities, Costa Mesa officials have adopted a series of ordinances that require operators to obtain permits, create spacing requirements between facilities and require operators to adhere to protocols when evicting sober living residents, many of whom come from other states.

Foley recently spoke with federal leaders in Washington, D.C. about the industry and the unintended consequences they bring to residential neighborhoods.

City leaders have also pushed for the passage of Assembly Bill 572, which would move a state-paid inspector of addiction treatment centers from Sacramento to Costa Mesa to investigate complaints in Orange County. The bill has faced stiff opposition and been amended. No hearing has been scheduled.

“We will continue to promote the strictest regulatory schemes allowable, and advocate for state and federal reforms to give us local control of this issue,” Foley said.

News reports of drug-addicted residents who are evicted from sober livings homes and end up homeless on Orange County streets once their health insurance runs out have accelerated in recent years.

Critics of sober living homes say the industry is loosely regulated. A pair of reports from the Senate Office of Oversight and Outcomes four years ago detailed California’s weak regulation of addiction treatment.

The report found that state regulators were failing to catch life-threatening problems, including rapists and pedophiles serving in positions of authority in state-licensed treatment centers.

“It’s no longer a model of recovery but a model of rehab intended purely for profits,” Foley said. “Someone has to stand up and stop the abuses.”