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View of houses and hills from Hilltop Park in Dana Point, Orange County, California

Counties Update Regulations For Sober Living Homes

Though Valley Recovery Center does not sit in Orange County per se, they are a close Southern California neighbor. And we most certainly like to keep our eye on new sober living regulations happening within that region. This past week, a few significant changes were handed down which we think are worth sharing. 

In late January, the Orange County Board of Supervisors convened and 
decided on a few specific updates to treatment home operating rules. Now, for instance, all licensed sober living homes must be separated by at least 1,000 feet. When describing that length in detail, the supervisors likened it to "the height of the Eiffel Tower" or "the size of three football fields." 

Supervisor Don Wagner spoke to The Orange County Register about the changes, addressing the concerns many local citizens have raised. 

“What we’re trying to do is address the proliferation of these facilities in county lands,” Wagner explained. “The thousand-foot buffer allows us to make sure, in communities with larger lots, that there isn’t a congregation of these homes in a particular area. That’s good for the residents who are trying to get their lives back in order, good for the neighbors who don’t want the characteristics of their neighborhoods to change.” 

The application process to open a sober living home in the county has become stricter as well. More stringent permits are now required and managers themselves must have more than one year of sobriety.  

A concern that was raised to the supervisors involved those evicted from these homes. Orange County residents have had continuous complaints about the growing homelessness rate in their vicinity and many blame sober living homes for the rise. They believe that people evicted from local programs often end up abandoned in their neighborhoods, contributing to the problem. 

We, for one, disagree with that notion and believe that good recovery programs actually work to decrease the city's growing homelessness issues. Nevertheless, another one of the new OC rules requires a 48 window before an eviction and that multiple emergency contacts be provided. 

By the sound of things, these local battles are far from over. Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley also spoke to the OC Register following the supervisor meeting. In her opinion, these new decisions still do not go far enough and she is determined to press for harsher regulations.  

“While we appreciate the extra review to improve the county ordinance, we still don’t think it goes far enough,” she responded. “We encourage some tighter controls.”