The Rich vs. the Addicts

Newports Balboa Peninsula has become the place to go when youve got no place else to go. Longtime residents say theyre fighting for their way of life. Addicts struggling to get clean say theyre fighting for their lives

Still, Shulman points out that while there was an increase in thefts in those areas, there was an increase citywide. One individual was arrested in connection with a string of robberies but was not a recovery house resident.

So where are Newport Beach officials in all this?

Well, the recovery houses believe the City Council is far too sympathetic to longtime residents, while longtime residents believe the city is far too receptive to the rehab houses because the facilities are (one said) "cash cows" that produce huge tax revenues for the city.

How to regulate the growth or restriction of the recovery houses is complicated since people recovering from addictions are classified as handicapped and, therefore, are protected under the Fair Housing Act Amendments of 1988.

Through Goldfarb, Newport Beach has turned out proposals to address the occupancy of the houses—whether they are to be classified as businesses or residential. But the city continues to struggle with deciding how to treat seven or more unrelated people living in the same house without interfering with the strict state and federal anti-discrimination laws.

Mostly, it has played with language. A house is now called a "campus" while "planning commission" has replaced "planning director" and "reasonable accommodation" has been changed to "federal exception permit." Invariably, each proposal elicits a rash of angry e-mails and phone calls. After one proposal, Goldfarb was contacted by three lawyers for residents who complained the city is just dancing around the issue.

"I don't feel this issue is going away," says a neighbor. "The city has just decided to ignore it."

Newman thinks all of this comes down to money, that the issue has grown as property values have skyrocketed.

"If I had a $3 million home, I would have a concern if I didn't understand," he said. "It's very easy to look for a scapegoat—us."

But a local realtor who requested anonymity says the houses have had "minimal impact" on home values. He recently sold a duplex across the alley from the 18th Street Narconon house; the new owner will use the duplex as a rental and therefore isn't too anxious about quality-of-life issues

"The people next door are impacted," he said. "Not down the street."

Which is something residents on 11th Street might want to keep in mind. In September, a six-unit apartment complex there sold to a recovery group for $2.7 million. Neighbors say the owner received "well more than the asking price."

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