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A view of Carlsbad's suburbs. Cities and counties have few options in dealing with sober living homes as there are numerous state and federal laws protecting addicts who are considered disabled. Courtesy photo
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Carlsbad residents in tight spot with sober living homes

CARLSBAD — Sober living facilities throughout the state have become growing concerns, especially for residents who live nearby.

Carlsbad is no exception as residents in Olde Carlsbad, specifically on Pine and Oak avenues and Camino Del Sol Circle, railed against such facilities describing how residents don’t act as good neighbors and property owners exploiting a protected class of residents for massive profits.

However, cities and counties have few options in dealing with such residences as there are numerous state and federal laws protecting addicts, who are also considered disabled by the federal Fair Housing Act.

Regardless, the City Council approved the formation of a resident ad hoc committee and for staff to return at a later date with a work plan on how to move forward.

“A sober living facility snuck in without notice,” said Rosemary Eshleman, who lives on Camino Del Sol Circle. “How can the city protect itself? We need to regulate the businesses.”

Debbie Fountain, director of Housing and Neighborhood Services, told the council the city is keeping a close eye on possible legislation and legal cases throughout the state.

In addition, the sober living homes are classified as single-family homes if six or fewer people reside there. Also, no license or permits are required to operate those facilities.

Notably, the city of Costa Mesa is currently engaged in a lawsuit over its attempt to add regulations to its city code regarding sober living homes. The city won a federal jury trial, but the case is being appeal and will eventually be heard by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

However, there is no specific timeframe for a ruling from the appellate court, thus pushing Carlsbad to avoid a wait-and-see approach. To date, Fountain said, Costa Mesa has spent about $2 million on the case.

Other cities, such as Encinitas, are in a holding pattern.

The legal option is not only expensive — Newport Beach spent $10 million fighting its case and lost — but also requires cities to cover the legal expenses of the plaintiffs.

“This will only continue to grow,” Fountain said. “Legal options are costly and likely to fail.”

Since 1998, 22 pieces of legislation have been introduced to the California State Legislature, with only one bill being signed into law.

According to the staff report, the last bill introduced was from Sen. Pat Bates (R-Laguna Nigel), who also represents Carlsbad, in 2016, but is inactive.

Bates also authored two bills last year — SB 902 and SB 1290 — to regulate some aspects of sober living homes, but those did not pass, according to a letter she sent Carlsbad Mayor Matt Hall.

SB 902 would have required background checks for licensed operators and SB 1290 was to prevent insurance fraud, similar to Florida’s “Patient Brokering Act.”

But therein lies the challenge, Fountain said. In addition to the city not knowing how many sober living homes are in operation — she counted four from a Google search that advertise in the city — residents and politicians alike have grown tired of the business operators.

At least one, David Fischbach, who owns the property at 1284 Pine Ave. and 1274 Pine Ave., and also owns the four apartment buildings on the 1200 block of Oak Avenue, has been under fire from residents for years and houses Sober Living Today, LLC.

The residents sent a letter to the City Council last year requesting the matter be placed on a future agenda.

“Never use restrictions, only regulations because of the bad actors,” Martha Law Edwards said. “We have a house that is seven beds, nine baths with only two garages. (Fischbach) is a predator.”


John Kiehl July 27, 2019 at 6:37 pm

We Allow this to go on, paying for it out of higher health insurance premiums, and higher taxes paid to cover medicaid/care, Access notn to mention the ‘Burden’ upon Society itself. ‘Sponsorship’ IS FALSE. Check out “Duffy on Sponsorship” on Youtube and one can see the ridiculous dumbfounded ‘suggestion’ of ‘sponsorship’. ‘Duffy’ was one of the first ‘Rehabs’. Then Big Push of ‘Sponsorship’ was AFTER the last A. A. Founder, Bill Wilson, passed in ’71. Rockefeller Medicine.

John Kiehl July 27, 2019 at 6:30 pm

It’s the FALSE ideology of ‘Sponsorship’ which brings “Personalities Before Principles” which proliferates this Revolving Door Con-Game of taday’s 12 step environments. If everyone received a ‘Spiritual Awakening’ one wouldn’t need all the Psyches, Counselors, Behavioral Mental Health, Treatment, Living Sober Homes…..It’s Not designed to Work. If it “Cured” peopl;e they wouldn’t be “Coming Back”. That’s a bad business model when your trying to gain money, power, and control Over the Lives of Others through Deception. The TRUTH sets US Free.

Helpless in San Marcos February 25, 2019 at 7:42 am

We have a SL home next door. They purchased the house last summer in San Marcos. There are many issues with these business moving into single family homes. At one point 13 men were living there. The house was converted to a dorm . The city code enforcement came by and found them in violation. There is a local real estate family in North County who ALSO ownes a REHAB!!! They are profiting from the sale of the home, then reap from the insurance they get from the people living there. The city is very limited to what they can do. The state is in control and they coddle these homes. They are protected by the ADA and have limited licencing requirements. May as well have a Starbucks next door with the rotating traffic. The neighbors in these situations are are left completely helpless and have no recourse. The owners known this. The smug attitude from the owner validated this.

Karen February 28, 2019 at 9:30 am

Are you saying a real estate family is not entitled to own a “REHAB”? That seems like an odd take… And what they make isn’t an issue to most of us who know who is being served.

Somehow what seems to missing is that the real benefactor is the individual (and their family) lucky enough to be in that Recovery “rehab” or sober living environment. MANY of them have no insurance.

God bless those who help them heal and stay off our streets.

Old Surfer Dude February 24, 2019 at 3:17 am

I am not familiar with the complaints the neighbors have? I doubt it’s too much noise. Poorly maintained house? Talk to the owner. Scruffy looking people? — oooh, I’m in trouble. Lots of people coming and going?

If it’s suspected criminal activity, shouldn’t the police be involved?

What remedies have the neighbors proposed?

I don’t know! The article could have provided more detail

Allison B February 23, 2019 at 11:55 am

Well said ??

Dave Hanashiro February 23, 2019 at 9:21 am

I ran a clean and sober home in Carlsbad on Polly lane in early 1990. Our neighbors were glad to have us there and never were they exposed to drama of any kind. My tenants were all striving to become responsible productive members of society once again. The last thing any of us residing there wanted, was a confrontation with anyone at anytime.

Rick February 23, 2019 at 5:38 am

That’s BS. If anyone thinks these homes are a good idea, they should buy the house next door to where they live and open one there. They probably won’t. The owner of this house is not being very considerate of the neighborhood.

Chris Withall February 22, 2019 at 11:32 pm

What does it say about a community that fears a (“SOBER LIVING COMMUNITY?”)

If you are reading this, stop for a second and think of your family and friends who may have had, or currently have an addiction problem.

Think about how you want it all to be fixed.

And then think about how protesting these community based sober living homes help your family members, friends and acquaintances to fight an addiction or dependence.

The individuals who are given the opportunity to live in these sober living homes have shown their commitment to sobriety.

How can you deny or question that?

There is no socioeconomic branding of who would be living there.

Be a part of the solution, allow a solution and take a good hard look at the friends, family and acquaintances…. and maybe even yourself, who need the support.

Ray Barrientes sr February 23, 2019 at 5:08 am

Absolutely right!

John Kiehl July 27, 2019 at 6:21 pm

The Crux of the Problem is of the FALSE IDEOLOGU of ‘Sponsorship’ opening the ‘Gate’ fior ’emotional and mental abuse upon one another. It is inherently illegal to have the ‘disabled having the responibility in ‘guiding others. These people are “Protected” unbder the Fair Howing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Law is not being enforced in ‘PROTECTING’ them from the emotional and mental abuse which is ‘Practiced’ via the SILLY, Childish GAME of ‘Sponsorship’in ALL of today’s 12 step settings. IT IS ILLEGAL!!!!

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