Drunk with Power? Sober Living Homes Sue a Frequent Critic and the City of Costa Mesa

Sober living homes are suing the Costa Mesa City Council and a frequent critic.
Sober living homes are suing the Costa Mesa City Council and a frequent critic.
City of Costa Mesa

According to Ann H. Parker, she became concerned about a sober living home in her Costa Mesa neighborhood, discovered such places had "proliferated" in the city, joined members of a group called Take Back Our Neighborhoods (TBON) in complaining to the Planning Commission about one and, after that panel imposed zoning sanctions on the sober living home, re-stated her case when it was appealed to the City Council, which sided with the commission.

According to Sure Haven, Rock Solid Recovery, Solid Landings Behavioral Health Inc. and the trio's lawyers with the Peterson Law Group of Irvine, Parker is a defendant in their lawsuit over those zoning sanctions.

The other defendant is the City of Costa Mesa--and, specifically, members of the City Council, Planning Commission and city staff--whose spokesman tells the Weekly they have no comment about the suit.

Parker is also reluctant to talk, fearing anything she says in the press will land her in more legal trouble. After all, following what she believed was the constitutionally protected manner of making a complaint to her city leaders got her sued.

What she was willing to go on the record with is what's summed up in this story's first paragraph. The legal complaint explains the other side of the argument.

Parker's standing to bring a complaint against Solid Landings, which is a tenant of a building at 657 W. 19th St., is questioned in the suit, which further claims the names of other TBON members are unknown. Also unknown, according to the complaint, is whether Parker is authorized to represent these other supposed members or if the group even exists. Parker further lacks standing because she is not an "affected party," residing 1.5 miles from Solid Landings, according to the suit.

A check of city records shows Parker has a history of showing up before city panels to complain about sober living homes outside her neighborhood, the complaint alleges.

The suit claims city staff stopped working with Solid Landings on a parking permit after Parker filed for a Planning Commission review of the business' zoning. This was important because Solid Landings needed the permit before it could file for a business license, the suit contends.

Parker's review request was taken up by the Planning Commission on Jan. 8--or six days before Solid Landings was originally told by city staff a parking agreement had to be finalized, according to the complaint, which adds there was no notice of any other city code violations offered by staff.

At the meeting, the commission ruled Solid Landings was out of compliance with zoning regulations. Certain gates needed to be added or removed from the property, the kitchen was installed improperly and stairs, electrical conduits and piping lacked proper building permits, the panel informed Solid Landings, according to the suit.

The City Council heard Solid Landings' appeal on July 21. Parker and other speakers reiterated what they had told the Planning Commission. Solid Landings complained it was not given proper time to comply. The council upheld the commission.

The suit maintains the original hearing was premature. "Solid Landings cannot violate a condition that has not yet matured," reads the complaint.

Alleged code violations and permit issues were "irrelevant" to the parking agreement the business lacked and should have been taken up with the building's landlord, not Solid Landings, the suit contends. If the suit is to be believed, the parking permit was denied not based on its own merits but on unrelated violations that ultimately have nothing to do with the building tenant anyway.

Solid Landings claims it is stuck in limbo as it cannot legally operate and has exhausted all remedies because the Planning Commission and City Council actions became law this year. The suit asks the court to invalidate those moves, rule that the city violated its own municipal code and reinstate due process so Solid Landings can takes the steps to get its business license.

The suit filed Oct. 16 in Orange County Superior Court and that is now before Judge Mary Fingal Schulte also seeks court costs and attorney fees from the defendants.

Email: mcoker@ocweekly.com. Twitter: @MatthewTCoker. Follow OC Weekly on Twitter @ocweekly or on Facebook!


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