After an hour-long discussion and presentation by a proponent of sober living homes, the Chatsworth Neighborhood Council (CNC) its support for a proposed city ordinance limiting where the homes can locate.
A group of nearly a dozen residents and owners of sober living homes attended the council meeting Wednesday night as part of an effort by the Santa Monica-based Sober Living Network to stop the Los Angeles City Council from enacting the Community Care Facilities Ordinance.
The CNC board voted to send a letter to Councilman Mitch Englander reaffirming support for the controversial law. CNC voted in February 2011 to support the ordinance, which was introduced in 2007. The ordinance would require that neighbors be notified and have the opportunity to comment before a group home could open in areas of the city with low-density residential zoning.
Englander has called the ordinance a that has been developed to address the proliferation of unlicensed nuisance group homes and boarding houses, which have had a negative impact on single-family neighborhoods.
Englander led work on the ordinance while still chief of staff to former Councilman Greig Smith. He has continued to push the ordinance after becoming a councilman and member of the city’s Planning and Land Use Management Committee.
The ordinance is awaiting final action by the City Council.
Neighborhood Councils across the city support the ordinance.
The coalition representing the sober living homes believes the ordinance is illegal and will cost the city millions of dollars in legal fees and lost federal funding. Spokesman Claude “Ike” Eichar, who said he owns several sober living homes in the Valley and has been sober for 20 years, spoke on behalf of the group.
During the presentation, Eichar said the ordinance would harm those in need of housing, violates current city, state and federal laws, and will cost Los Angeles taxpayers more than $85 million in legal fees.
Eichar, 64, said he believes a task force should be created to devise a system that addresses nuisance properties using enforcement tools already in place. “Let’s work together. Many neighborhoods have bad neighbors,” Eichar said.
Several board members said the homes should be treated as businesses.
Eichar argued that residents of sober living homes are people just trying to make a comeback after going through rough patches but are now on the road to recovery.
Board member Richard Nadel disagreed. He said he moved into his Chatsworth neighborhood because it was family-oriented, and he did not want to see a sober living home next to his.
Council President André van der Valk said the proposed ordinance was a tough subject to tackle. Van der Valk said sober living home operators see Chatsworth as a desirable place to establish group homes because of the large lots and large homes that may have many residents in each bedroom.
“Some people are trying to get by and say, 'This is my family,' and there are 20 people living in the house,” he said. “It’s a business from the way we look at it. Property owners will protect that investment … and we can’t control the bad apples.”
Board member Scott Munson said many stakeholders have come to CNC after having unsuccessfully complained to the police, looking for some relief from the group homes.
“They throw their hands up … and we can’t help them without (proper) legislation,” Munson said.
Paul Dumont, vice president of the North Hills West Neighborhood Council and an operator of sober living homes, said he opposed the ordinance. “This law will not solve the problem. It’s eliminating good housing; the bad guys will still be there,” Dumont said. “There’s no abatement or solutions in the (proposed) ordinance.”
In other action, the board:
- Voted unanimously to increase the number of stakeholders on its committees to a maximum of 50 percent versus 33 percent, except for the Land Use Committee, which will retain the larger number of board members. This would open more positions to stakeholders who are interested in serving on committees.
- Voted unanimously to support a zoning variance allowing a at 9610 De Soto Ave. to sell household goods with proceeds going to Habitat for Humanity. The facility will also store building materials for the non-profit group.
- Voted unanimously to send a letter to the state Public Utilities Commission and Southern California Gas Co. regarding the . The council is concerned about fires, vegetation and wildlife in the area.
- Unanimously passed a budget for Fiscal Year 2011-12.
Read more about group homes in this Patch series:
'It was like they had more rights than the people who lived here and paid property taxes,' neighbor says.
Sober-living homes exist in residential areas all over Los Angeles, causing friction between neighbors and the homes' operators and residents.
A proposed law to regulate unlicensed homes in L.A. has both sides marshaling their forces.