Discrimination lawsuits piled up, however the metropolis of Costa Mesa waged a lonely, costly battle, defending its controversial guidelines on sober residing properties in a single courtroom after one other.
To the shock of many, Costa Mesa stored successful. And on Monday, April 18, town’s proper to control sober properties was confirmed as soon as once more by a federal jury — a verdict that implies cities are effectively inside their rights to manage the place these companies are situated, who can run them, how far aside they need to be, and extra.
The foundations aren’t set solely to guard the character of principally residential neighborhoods, attorneys for town argued, but in addition to guard of the weak individuals residing inside these sober properties.
“Do you discover…that Defendant Metropolis of Costa Mesa engaged in discrimination due to a incapacity, in violation of the Truthful Housing Act or the Truthful Employment and Housing Act…?” requested the decision type in Ohio Home vs. Costa Mesa case, launched Monday.
“No,” the federal jury replied.
Did Costa Mesa make discriminatory statements? Unlawfully refuse to make an inexpensive lodging for the disabled? Intervene with the best of disabled individuals to housing of their alternative?
“No,” the federal jury replied.
Attorneys for Ohio Home will possible attraction — they didn’t return requests for remark by deadline — but it surely’s trying like seven lawsuits down, one to go, for Costa Mesa.
And the problems are a lot larger than simply Costa Mesa.
“It’s so out of contact with actuality, this concept that it’s OK not to guard individuals in restoration,” mentioned lawyer Seymour B. Everett, III, of Everett Dorey LLP, which dealt with the case for Costa Mesa. “However for this ordinance, there is no such thing as a requirement, no guidelines, for any sober residing dwelling. There isn’t any safety. And to topic this protected class of disabled individuals to exploitation — I don’t get it.
“That is about people who find themselves disabled, weak and entitled to the safety of the state and federal governments,” he continued. “To me, it’s outstanding that our nation hasn’t stood up and handed legal guidelines to guard individuals on the native degree…. It took this little metropolis in California to do it, and a federal jury unanimously agrees.”
Ohio Home has 5 sober properties clustered collectively in Costa Mesa, housing 9 males in every. That’s eight residents and one home supervisor, for a complete of 45 individuals. It’s a for-profit enterprise owned by Brandon Stump — who additionally owns the properties that the enterprise rents — and every mattress prices $1,500 per 30 days. That’s a possible $60,000 a month, or as much as $720,000 a yr, when each mattress is full, based on testimony at trial.
There was no allegation that something was amiss at Ohio Home itself, however Costa Mesa has been California’s floor zero for habit remedy and sober residing services, and its rules have been an try and carry some order to an unregulated chaos.
These guidelines prohibit intercourse offenders, violent felons and drug sellers from working sober residing properties. They require properties to be supervised 24 hours a day, seven days every week; that operators implement a no-drug coverage and a good-neighbor coverage; that they don’t simply expel and “curb” individuals when there’s an issue, however as an alternative get in contact with the individual’s emergency contact and make sure that the individual has a ticket dwelling.
The foundations additionally require a separation of 650 toes between sober residing services, “to stop institutionalization and preserve the residential character of the neighborhood.” That’s the rule that the Ohio Home case revolved round.
Merely put, beneath Costa Mesa’s ordinance, its properties are too shut to a different facility. When town refused to grant it an exception, Ohio Home sued.
“Are individuals weak?” mentioned Chris Brancart, lawyer for Ohio Home, in closing arguments, based on transcripts. “You can’t discriminate within the identify of paternalism….Now, if we wished people to stay beneath guidelines and truly assist disabled individuals, maybe we wouldn’t shut their housing.”
Everett argued that nothing is stopping Ohio Home from persevering with operations elsewhere within the metropolis — in a spot that’s 650 toes from one other sober residing dwelling, as per the rules.
“The analogy is that this: ‘Officer, I don’t deserve the parking ticket. If that fireplace hydrant was simply ten toes additional aside, I wouldn’t get a ticket,’ ” Everett mentioned, based on transcripts. “These are the cheap rules.”
A win for California?
Costa Mesa has spent greater than $10 million defending its sober residing legal guidelines because it started crafting them in 2014, and metropolis officers consider that cash has been a sound funding.
“We wished to ensure every thing we would have liked was in place to guard not simply the neighborhoods however the residents of the sober residing properties, to ensure they’ve an expertise that’s going to place them on a pathway to restoration or maintain them on that highway,” mentioned Costa Mesa Mayor John Stephens.
“We proceed to have a lot of sober residing group properties in Costa Mesa, however we have now fewer than we did earlier than 2018. And it’s very rare that we get a grievance related to the operations of a sober residing dwelling. I’d like to see our ordinance duplicated, for it to be a mannequin on the state degree, as a result of it has been profitable. It’s a confirmed idea.”
The state of California hasn’t at all times been studying the courtroom briefs.
Final yr, the California Division of Housing and Neighborhood Growth despatched vaguely threatening letters to cities with ordinances similar to Costa Mesa’s, saying their rules discriminate against the disabled.
That’s nonsensical, mentioned County Supervisor Katrina Foley, who, with Stephens, helped craft town’s authorized method when she was mayor of Costa Mesa.
“The ordinance has been decided to be lawful,” she mentioned. “What these companies are doing is scooping up properties that could possibly be utilized by households, artificially rising the property values, and charging some huge cash per mattress to allow them to justify paying almost $2 million for a home which may in any other case promote for $750,000. That makes the inexpensive housing state of affairs in California worse.”
Foley was just lately strolling by a neighborhood in Laguna Hills the place residents instructed her the very same factor is going on there.
“Again then we mentioned, ‘We can not get the state to take heed to us, we are able to’t get the federal authorities to take heed to us. So we’re going to go it alone and create a mannequin ordinance that may work for different cities in the identical state of affairs,” she mentioned. “Now we have now to get different cities to leap on board.”