Monday, January 26, 2015

Sober Living, Tardy Agendas And More

Time for a little catching-up.  I took a few days off last week and the wheels seemed to come off in Costa Mesa.  So, it's time to address some of the things that happened while I was gone.

First, the BIG ONE!  Federal Judge James V. Selna dismissed the lawsuit filed by a sober-living home operator last Friday.  This is very good news for our city.  Here is the complete text of the press release from The City of Costa Mesa on that date:

Federal judge dismisses group-home lawsuit filed against Costa Mesa
Posted Date: 1/23/2015
A federal district court judge on Friday dismissed a lawsuit that alleged Costa Mesa’s new ordinance limiting the number of group homes in single-family residential neighborhoods discriminates against the disabled. 

At the federal courthouse in Santa Ana, Judge James V. Selna ruled that, in fact, the city’s ordinance—passed in October—provides a benefit by giving “individuals with disabilities an alternative housing option in [single-family, residential] zones that is not available to individuals without disabilities.”

Judge Selna pointed out that while Costa Mesa generally prohibits large boardinghouse-style operations in single-family residential neighborhoods, the city had made an exception for group homes that house those with federally recognized disabilities such as drug and alcohol addiction.
“We’re pleased that our group-homes ordinance passed an important legal test,” said City CEO Tom Hatch. “The court clearly saw that the ordinance’s intent and effect are to both ensure that our city retains a high quality of life in our residential neighborhoods and provide a true residential setting for handicapped individuals.”

The judge allowed the plaintiff—sober-living home operator Solid Landings/Sure Haven—14 days to amend its complaint.

In November, Solid Landings/Sure Haven filed a federal lawsuit against the City of Costa Mesa over the group-home ordinance that requires operators wanting to remain or locate in single-family residential neighborhoods to file a permit application, limits group homes to six or fewer beds plus one for a house manager, and requires sober living homes to be separated from each other by at least 650 feet. The plaintiffs sought a preliminary injunction to stop the ordinance from going into effect. That injunction was denied with the dismissal of the lawsuit.

The city argued in legal filings that the ordinance was enacted to achieve two overlapping goals: to preserve the residential nature of single-family neighborhoods and to ensure sober-living programs receive the maximum benefit for their clients in recovery by operating in those communities.
The court agreed, ruling that the city’s regulations of sober-living homes “preserve the residential characteristics of the neighborhood and ensure that the residential recovery environments desired by many remain truly residential in nature. It is clear that the ordinance contemplates and guards against the unfettered proliferation of [sober living homes] in residential neighborhoods, which could destroy the comfortable living environments that contribute to recovery.”

Earlier in the week, after I had hit the road for some decompression time at a venue that has no cell service and no Internet service - yes, there is such a place in The State of California - I was able to find little communication crannies where I could get snippets of news.

First came the city notification - 28 hours before the meeting - that there was to be a Consolidated Plan Workshop last Wednesday in the Emergency Operations Center.  Using the marginal technology available to me at the time I posted a blog entry about it.  It's my understanding that there may be another public outreach workshop scheduled in the near future - this time with sufficient notice so folks who are interested can actually plan their schedule to attend.

Then, Thursday afternoon - at 12:10 p.m., to be precise - the City announcement of the agenda for the Parks and Recreation Meeting was released - less than four hours before the scheduled start time!  This is a botch of major proportions - so bad that the meeting didn't even come close to meeting the state noticing requirements and it was subsequently canceled that afternoon.

Then, last Friday, apparently Mayor Pro Tem Jim Righeimer was bounced from the Orange County Transportation Authority Board because of some kind of "noticing" screw-up.  All the members selected in December had to be re-voted upon.  According to reports in the press, Righeimer was the only one NOT retained on the Board.  Facebook has been white-hot on the issue, with one comment thread now well over 480 comments and climbing like a NASA missile launch!  Righeimer is quoted in the Daily Pilot as saying, "Nobody got kicked off."  And he blamed it on the staff work.  Well, it sure LOOKS like he was kicked off, since every other member was retained except him!  Huntington Beach Mayor Pro Tem Jim Katapodis - ironically, a retired police officer - took the slot Righeimer occupied briefly.

And then there is "WakeGate" - the ill-advised plan by long-time Costa Mesa Councilman Gary Monahan to host a wake to "celebrate" the life of Julius (Jay) Pinson - a friend of Monahan's who turned out to be a fugitive from justice in two states for crimes which included "penetration of a minor", who died in a shoot-out with members of the Costa Mesa Police Department in December.  When that event became public knowledge at the council meeting last Tuesday evening the public outcry became palpable.  Viewed by many in the community as a slap in the face of the men and women of the Costa Mesa Police Department, a simultaneous demonstration at the same hour of the day opposite Monahan's pub was planned as a "law enforcement appreciation" event.  After several days of public pressure, yesterday Monahan re-considered his plan and canceled the wake.  Organizers of the demonstration also canceled their event and plans for a public safety appreciation event sometime next month.  It is reported that Monahan wants to support that event.
So, there we are... all caught up.  And, just in case you care, I was up on the Central Coast, observing the elephant seal colony just below the Piedras Blancas Lighthouse, near Hearst Castle.  I've written about it before.  Now is "Prime Time" at that colony, with pups being born every day - I, personally, saw four births in two days during my brief stays on the bluff overlooking the colony - and big males are fighting for mating rights and mating is going on, too.  I tell folks that Valentine's Day is the perfect time to visit the colony - it's very inspirational because there's "a whole lot of lovin' going on" down on the beach.  This year Valentine's Day is on a weekend, so, if you're looking for "inspiration", jump in the car and head for Cambria, San Simeon or other venues on the beautiful California Central Coast.  Visit Hearst Castle, shop in the quait towns, walk on the beach and visit the elephant seal colony.  I guarantee you will enjoy your trip.

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