Encinitas Planning Commission backs regulations for sober-living homes


The Encinitas Planning Commission on Aug. 20 unanimously came out in favor of an ordinance that would regulate sober-living homes for recovering addicts.

Commissioners said the ordinance balances regulations and property rights for sober-living homes, which aren’t subject to local permitting.

The California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs requires special licenses for houses that provide on-site treatment. Yet sober-living homes are only considered drug- and alcohol-free zones, exempting them from such licenses.

“It’s well-drafted, and I think there’s a good legal precedent, which gives us some confidence going forward,” Commissioner Tasha Horvath said.

The ordinance will go to the Encinitas City Council at an undetermined date.

In response to resident complaints over sober-living homes, the council last spring voiced support for a sober-living ordinance modeled after Costa Mesa’s. But first, the council is waiting to see whether Costa Mesa’s ordinance passes legal muster.

A group representing sober-living homes in Costa Mesa sued that city, arguing the ordinance discriminated against recovering addicts. Earlier this year, a federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, and an appeal is expected to be heard next year.

Costa Mesa’s ordinance requires that sober-living homes apply for a permit to set up in single-family residential zones. To obtain a permit, homes can’t have more than seven beds in a house, background checks are necessary for employees and the houses must be 650 feet from other facilities.

Some residents have said the sober-living homes are responsible for too much trash, secondhand smoke and other problems. Operators of the homes have argued they’re an important step in the recovery process.

The commission’s vote was 4-0. Commissioner Anthony Brandenburg was absent from the meeting.

The agenda item didn’t draw any public speakers.