Wonderful to see almost 150 concerned neighbors at the Top of the World School last Tuesday. The room was abuzz with anxious parents wanting to know if the city could do something about the proliferation of sober living houses in Laguna Beach. The city counts 17 of these for profit enterprises within city limits, unofficial estimates put it closer to 35. And more are coming.
I support people wanting sobriety, but I don’t want a group home next door to me. The high amount of traffic from the six residents staying there, cooking staff, counselors, passenger vans in and out does not make for a peaceful neighborhood. The late at night smokers gabbing on the balcony is a fire hazard and noise nuisance.
These operations are very lucrative. Insurance can pay $1000 a day per resident. Before expenses, at full occupancy that is $180,000 a month. No wonder San Clemente now has over 84 sober living operations and Laguna Beach is on track to match that.
At the meeting, city employees said they can’t do much without our input. I came away with a three-pronged plan:
Keep eagle eyes on a sober living house for code violations, car break-ins, disturbing the peace, too many cars on the street or strangers loitering about. Anything that is not right, call the cops.
Call the gatekeepers. There are two to three property managers in town that are renting to these sober living operations. Let these realtors know that you are a neighbor concerned about who moves in on your street. We will note who they rent to.
Support City Council members who can help change the law. They can direct the city attorney to draft legislation for our state Senator John Moorlach to present in Sacramento.
We are in the crosshairs of the sober living industry. If that house next door to you that is up for rent or sale goes to a sober living house, you are next.
Steve Dexter, Laguna Beach