The City of Costa Mesa is calling a company's immediate closure of 15 residential sober living homes and 18 more over the next two or three years “a landmark settlement agreement,” but critics who include a co-defendant with the city in a recent lawsuit by that the recovery operator call it “election year politics.”
Solid Landings Behavioral Health Inc. had joined two other operators—Sure Haven and Rock Solid Recovery—in last year's suit over zoning sanctions Ann H. Parker of the homeowner group Take Back Our Neighbohoods (TBON) had successfully fought for at city council and planning commission meetings. Parker was later dropped from the suit and the city went on to settle with the sober living home companies.
It was apparently out of those talks that the council a month ago directed Councilman Jim Righeimer to negotiate with Solid Landings. The agreement ends litigation between the city, state and company and preserves local ordinances that restrict the occupancy and proximity to one another of group homes, according to a Costa Mesa press release.
The City Council voted 3-0 to accept the agreement that has Solid Landings ultimately closing 33 residential facilities, imposing no legal fees on the city and relocating its counseling facilities to a commercial area and an industrial location in the city.
“This is a major victory both for the residents of Costa Mesa and city officials who worked diligently on this issue for several years,” says Mayor Steve Mensinger in the statement. “We have invested considerable resources in legal, law enforcement and code enforcement efforts to ensure a balance between our residents who deserve neighborhood peace and tranquility and those who seek facilities to battle their addiction problems.”
“FYI: You might want to hold off on the victory lap just yet,” reads a message on the top of the TBON website. “We know that Solid Landings has pledged to close 15 homes immediately and 18 over the next 2-3 years. We can’t help but wonder if the homes will [be] sold to families with 2 children and a dog named Spot* or will they be turned over to one of the other sober living operators that infest Costa Mesa? If Solid Landings shutters 15 homes immediately, that still leaves approximately 315 sober living businesses that we currently know about in the city of Costa Mesa. Is this an instance of 'election year politics?' You be the judge.
“*TBON is aware that families are made up of all kinds of configurations and do not mean this example to be discriminatory against any individuals or groups.”
Parker wants to know why the public was not in on the negotiations between Righeimer and Solid Landings.
“A resident [Parker herself] was the one pursued by Solid Landings in the first place,” she says. “Residents did all the work, not the city.”
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Since the Righeimer-Solid Landings talks happened after the suit was settled, the City Council cannot claim they could be done behind closed doors due to the pending litigation out in the state's opening meeting law, the Ralph M, Brown Act, notes Parker, who vows to contest the agreement on these and other grounds in court.
Solid Landings praises the agreement in its own statement:
“Solid Landings Behavioral Health is pleased and confident about our decision to settle with the City of Costa Mesa. In light of comments and statements that have emerged since the settlement, we are compelled to stress that this decision was carefully examined and considered by our organization. Upon analysis and thoughtful deliberation, we believe that this agreement supports our future strategic plan. A plan that will help us realize our vision and meet our goals as the top provider of care in this industry. This decision was vital in protecting the organization’s interest, longevity, and ability to provide our clients the best care possible.
“Solid Landings has always strived to be a leader and pioneer in the addiction treatment and recovery industry. This settlement supports our long-term and transformative plan that will shift our treatment services to a more efficient and centralized delivery model, one that will allow us to focus on standardizing and maintaining quality care. In an industry where quality treatment programs are so desperately needed, we remain resolute and committed to doing what we’ve set out to accomplish from the start, and that is to help men and women achieve sustainable sobriety to become productive and responsible citizens in their communities."