Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Solid Landings Sues City and Citizen(s)

By now you may have read Brad Zint's piece in the Daily Pilot, HERE, in which he discusses the lawsuit filed last Friday by Sober Living operator Solid Landings Behavioral Health, Sure Haven and Rock Solid Recovery against the City of Costa Mesa and DOES 1 through 100, inclusive and Ann Parker plus the grass roots organization "Take Back Our Neighorhoods" - TBON and more than 1,000 "DOES", as in John Doe.  I don't know if that organization, TBON, even exists any longer, nor if there is a membership roster in existence.  I do know it was a loosely-organized grass roots organization of concerned residents who were looking for relief from the influx of sober living establishments in our city.

Zint does a good job of providing you with the skeleton of the suit in his article.  I've seen the 61 page complaint and, according to the information contained therein, the folks at Solid Landings, etal (I'm just going to refer to them as "Solid Landings" for ease of typing), want a judgment against the City as follows (my shorthand of the actual text):
1) The City to set aside its denial of the original request;
2) The court to judge that the denial and associated decisions are unconstitutional, invalid and of no force and effect;
3) For declaratory relief;
4) For costs of the suit, including reasonable attorney's fees;
5) For other such equitable or legal relief, or both as the Court deems just and proper.

It is my understanding that, when Ann Parker filed her request to overturn the Zoning Administrator's approval of the minor conditional use permit, she had been under the impression that rookie Planning Commissioner Stephan Andranian, a lawyer, was going to "pull it up" - ask for the decision to be reviewed by the Planning Commission.  However, on the last day that such an action could be taken Parker was told by Andranian, for reasons known only to him, that he changed his mind and would NOT be requesting a review.  So, she had no recourse except to dash to City Hall, scratch out her request for review and pay the $690.00 in fees to meet the filing deadline.

Subsequently, based on her presentation to the Planning Commission, that body reversed the Zoning Administrators approval.  That decision was then appealed by Solid Landings to the full City Council, which also upheld the denial of the permit. 

The lawsuit implies that Solid Landings had insufficient time to comply with the conditions of approval imposed by the original Zoning Administrators decision before the issue was reviewed by the Planning Commission.  I don't know if that's the case...

I don't know how this will shake out.  I DO know the impact it is having on many residents of this city - some of whom have joined Parker over the past couple of years in speaking out against what they perceive to be a infestation of sober living homes throughout our neighborhoods, particularly on the Eastside of our city.  Many of those folks are fearful of being dragged into this lawsuit because they have exercised their right of free speech to tell the Planning Commission and City Council how they felt about these businesses in our town.  I, personally, have no doubt that this will stifle some community activism... and perhaps that's really the purpose of this lawsuit... I don't know.

The City has passed an ordinance governing sober living establishments in R-1 zones and is poised to pass a second ordinance covering all other residential zones throughout the city.  Parker has been a persistent observer of sober living activities - perhaps the most persistent - and has been personally responsible for providing information about the location of sober living homes in our community to the City for their records.  In my opinion, we should be grateful for her tireless efforts to help establish controls over such businesses in our town.

Few people will deny the need for recovery services for folks with alcohol and drug addiction problems.  According to some recent proclamations by members of the City Council, the recovery business is a $35 BILLION per year business.  It has been widely reported that Costa Mesa now contains well over one quarter of all sober living facilities in Orange County.  One recent speaker - a long-time operator of a sober living home in Costa Mesa - told the audience at a recent meeting that "this is all about the money."  She said that Obamacare has provided so much money for recovery that homes are popping up all over town.  She said, "I sure wouldn't want to live next door to one!"

 Zint mentioned that Parker chose not to comment for his article on advice of an attorney.  I'm happy if she has legal representation in this matter, but one attorney who has worked for the City in the past has recently opined that the City should be covering whatever legal costs she incurs in this matter.  I agree with that assessment.  All Parker did was attempt to follow the rules as presented to her and was successful in her presentation of facts to not one, but two official City bodies.  Although City officials refused to refund her filing fee, in my view they have a clear obligation to pay for her legal defense in this matter.

This will be interesting to watch as it unfolds in the weeks to come.  It will be interesting to see if the sledgehammer of a lawsuit does, in fact, stifle the expression of public opinion on this subject in our city.

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Anonymous Teresa Drain said...

I am thankful for good citizens like Ann Parker who see injustice or unfairness and are willing take the time to research, and to front the money to make sure the all facts get presented.

The city made a mistake and the appeal prevailed - twice. Unanimously. If their research was completed before the initial approval, there would not need to be staff time spent to prepare for the appeal. Refund the money and quit being so punitive toward the citizens.

10/22/2015 03:01:00 PM  
Anonymous Where's My Coffee? said...

Any fool can file a lawsuit, as proven by Righeimer and Mensinger. Having the court uphold it is another matter. Andranian lost any respect I may have had for him. That was a crappy thing to do. At any rate, it will be interesting to see if there is actually a cause of action against Ms. Parker. Filing an appeal should not be a cause of action. It is her right as a citizen.

10/22/2015 08:40:00 PM  
Anonymous naturalist said...

Title 2 Chapter IX of the Municipal Code !!
This is the new business item that was yanked from the agenda last Monday --- appeals fees modifications to the law... the same law Solid Landings cites in their complaint wasn't wonder it was yanked

10/22/2015 08:59:00 PM  

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