League-Sponsored Bill to Address Placement of Alcohol and Drug Recovery Homes in Residential Neighborhoods Passes Assembly Health Committee

Apr 21, 2016
At the same hearing, the committee also approved AB 2255 (Melendez), also supported by the League, which would establish a process whereby sober living homes can apply for state certification.

League Resolution Inspires Legislative Action
AB 2403 is a product of a resolution passed by the League’s General Assembly last October during the annual conference, sponsored by the city of Malibu. The resolution addressed a long-standing challenge facing many cities throughout California — how to maintain the character of residential neighborhoods while incorporating various group home facilities serving residents’ needs, including people recovering from substance addiction.
Addressing overconcentration of such facilities is the key issue, and arises when businesses, using the exemption in state law provided to facilities housing six-or fewer, create multi-structure, campus-style facilities within a residentially zoned neighborhood. Such facilities change the character of residential neighborhoods bringing more traffic, noise and disruption akin to a hospital zone or busy commercial center. Also, undermined is the therapeutic environment for group home residents when a neighborhood loses it residential character and takes on a more institutional setting.
AB 2403 Offers Balanced Solution
Under AB 2403 cities and counties would be notified of state license applications for alcohol and drug recovery homes as well as have the opportunity to ensure that any two such facilities are separated by at least 300 feet, thus prohibiting overconcentration. This noticing and distancing provision is consistent with current California law for other types of group homes and would protect residential character of existing neighborhoods and avoid creating institutional settings which also undermine the therapeutic and recovery-oriented environment that a residential neighborhood can provide.
Although some of the bill’s opponents have argued otherwise, this bill is consistent with the federal Fair Housing Act (FHA). Legislative counsel has opined that regulations that benefit the protected class do not violate the FHA. AB 2403 is consistent with such rulings in that it advances state policy favoring the residential/social care model by preserving the integrity of the therapeutic environment of the residential neighborhoods, a core component of the social care model of group homes.
To view the support and oppose discussion on the bill to get an idea of the larger dynamics on this issue, please watch the full video of AB 2403 being heard in the Assembly Committee on Health from April 19. The video starts with the author’s presentation, followed by support testimony from Malibu Mayor Pro Tem Lou La Monte and representatives from the city of Malibu, along with other supporting witnesses testifying.
AB 2255 (Melendez) Addresses Unlicensed Sober Living Facilities
While AB 2403 addresses overconcentration of licensed facilities, AB 2255 is aimed at improving the regulation of “sober living homes,” which locate in residential neighborhoods but are not required to be licensed. Poorly-managed facilities can create significant disruption for adjacent neighbors and offer questionable levels of care to individuals seeking recovery. AB 2255 would establish a process whereby sober living homes can apply for state certification, which can help improve the quality of such facilities for both residents and neighbors.
Next Steps
AB 2403 and AB 2255 both move to the Assembly Committee on Appropriations. The League urges cities to support these measures. A sample letter, along with the League’s support letter and the bill text, for each bill, can be found at www.cacities.org/billsearch. Plug in AB 2403 and AB 2255 into the search function to access these materials.