From time to time, the City receives inquiries from residents regarding sober living homes.
Sober living homes are intended to help those recovering from alcohol and substance abuse. Usually, they are owned and operated by private companies. These facilities provide an alcohol and drug-free environment where residents can transition from rehabilitation to independent living without addiction. While the goal of these facilities is well intended, they sometimes raise concerns among residents when tenants do not follow the rules and engage in behavior that is disruptive to the neighborhood.
Sober living homes are not new to Laguna Niguel. They have been in our community since at least 2002. Currently, there are approximately ten of these homes in the City.
In Orange County, the cities of Newport Beach, Costa Mesa and San Clemente have, or have had, as many as 50 to 100 of these homes located within their boundaries, many of which are in very close proximity to each other. This has resulted increased and excessive traffic, late night noise, littering, second hand smoke and other adverse impacts on the neighborhoods.
The courts have held that the Federal Fair Housing Act (FHA) and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) prevent cities from prohibiting such facilities. Some cities, including those listed above, have attempted to regulate these facilities by enacting ordinances that would require a separation of the homes from each other and limiting the number of residents. Such action has led to significant litigation between the owners and operators of the homes and the cities.
The City of Laguna Niguel can, and does, enforce applicable provisions of the Municipal, Zoning and Building Codes, and State Penal Code statutes regarding disorderly conduct, excessive and late night noise, littering and other actions that are disruptive and negatively affect a neighborhood. Historically, the City has been successful in addressing these issues by:
This approach has resulted in a resolution of the problems caused by residents of the homes with the residents being more sensitive to the living conditions of the surrounding neighborhood.
City staff continues to monitor sober living homes in Laguna Niguel and responds to calls for service. The City also continues to monitor the enactment of ordinances and resulting litigation in Orange County cities as well as State legislation that pertains to the authority of the City to regulate such facilities.
For concerns regarding any alleged criminal activity or emergencies, call 911. For non-emergency activities and nuisances, such as night-time noise complaints and illegal street parking, please call O.C. Sheriff Dispatch at (949) 770-6011.
General questions or concerns regarding sober living homes and/or concerns regarding alleged property maintenance, zoning or building code violations, may be directed to the City's Code Enforcement office at (949) 362-4360.
Residents may also submit inquiries to the City online via the city's E-Trakit system.
The Laguna Niguel City Council on August 1st, 2017 unanimously extended the temporary moratorium on the opening of any additional congregate living facilities in the community that was initially adopted on August 2, 2016. The moratorium will be in effect through August 1, 2018. Due to the breadth and complexity of the topic, the preparation and consideration of a draft Zoning Code Amendment simply could not be completed within the initial 45-day moratorium. This action was necessary to provide City staff the necessary time to study, review and draft ordinances regarding such facilities.
The Planning Commission will now have the necessary time to study the matter and draft the proposed ordinance for the City Council to consider in the future. Consideration will be given to reviewing distance requirements between homes, a code of conduct, nuisance definitions, a registration process including a fee component, among others, in regards to congregate living facilities.
City Council Staff Report 9-6-2016
City Council Staff Report 8-2-2016
City Council Staff Report 8-1-2017
Congressman Darrell Issa has introduced HR 6070, the Safe Recovery and Community Empowerment Act. The bill seeks to amend the Fair Housing Act to carve out sober living homes (SLH) from certain housing protections by creating the term “Residential Recovery Facility” (RRF) which is intended to stop the bad actors from taking advantage of unintended protections currently provided through the Fair Housing Act. HR 6070 would empower local communities to strengthen their regulatory options by reinforcing their authority to properly zone for RRFs in residential areas to preserve the character of their residential neighborhoods.
The City of Laguna Niguel has sent a Letter of Support for HR 6070.
Federal Legislation Information
Congressman Darrell Issa | California's 49th District