County Board of Supervisors Approves Zoning Code Amendment to Increase Separation Requirements Between Sober Living Homes in Residential Neighborhoods

On Tuesday, January 28, 2020, Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel and her colleagues on the Orange County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved Zoning Code Amendment CA 20-01, proposed by Third District Supervisor Don Wagner, to impose further restrictions on sober living homes and State-licensed and/or certified alcoholism and drug abuse treatment facilities seeking to do business in County unincorporated areas.

“This new ordinance will increase protections for Orange County residents and their neighborhoods, as well as for residents of sober living homes, group homes, and treatment facilities,” said Orange County Board of Supervisors Chairwoman Michelle Steel. “I hope that this ordinance will serve as a model for Orange County cities and other local jurisdictions.”

Unincorporated areas of Orange County, as well as other California counties and cities, have seen an increase in the proliferation of sober living homes and alcoholism and drug treatment facilities in residential neighborhoods.  Many unincorporated County areas have seen problems arise with a large over-concentration of sober living homes in single family neighborhoods.  Overcrowding, second-hand smoke, noise, lack of parking, and the clustering of sober living homes close to each other have sparked the concern of residents in these neighborhoods.

Zoning Code Amendment CA 19-01, unanimously approved by the Board on September 24, 2019, requires sober living homes in County unincorporated areas to obtain a ministerial permit in which they must agree to operate in a manner consistent with the residential nature of the neighborhoods in which they operate.  Zoning Code Amendment CA 19-01 also required that residents of sober living homes actively participate in recovery programs and required sober living homes to prohibit residents from using alcohol and non-proscription drugs.

Monday’s Board action approving Zoning Code Amendment CA 20-01 increases separation requirements to 1,000 feet between two state licensed alcoholism or drug abuse treatment facilities (serving 7 persons or more), between any such state licensed facility (serving 7 persons or more) and any sober living home, and between any two sober living homes.  Zoning Code Amendment CA 20-01 also imposed “anti-curbing” rules to regulate the emergency and involuntary evictions of residents from group homes.


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First elected to the Orange County Board of Supervisors in 2014, Michelle Steel represents the residents of the Second District, which includes, Costa Mesa, Cypress, Huntington Beach, La Palma, Los Alamitos, Newport Beach, Seal Beach, Stanton, the unincorporated area of Rossmoor, and portions of Buena Park and Fountain Valley. Steel, a successful businesswoman and renowned taxpayer advocate, previously served as Vice Chair of the State Board of Equalization where she represented more than eight million people in Southern California, including all of Orange County, as one of the state’s 12 constitutional officers.