By Lillian Boyd, Dana Point Times

The first Dana Point City Council meeting of the year addressed 24 items on the agenda and ran past midnight, lasting more than six hours.

In a closed session, city council went over an update on unlicensed residential recovery facilities with legal counsel to address existing litigation. After reconvening, the meeting began with City Attorney Patrick Muñoz delivering a presentation on sober living homes versus unlicensed residential recovery facilities.

According to the presentation, unlicensed residential recovery facilities are sober living arrangements for persons recovering from substance abuse, with no license requirements and cannot be regulated. Sober living homes do not have the ability for local regulation. Muñoz clarified the city’s stance on a guide released by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice.

“It was circulated as a positive guide on what cities can do to regulate sober living homes,” Muñoz said. “In reality, it’s a summary which embraces all limitations cities have experienced and sets forth the HUD and DOJ’s position on group homes.”

The City of Dana Point is currently involved in 15 legal cases involving allegedly unlicensed residential recovery facilities and is named as a defendant in two lawsuits.

Among other agenda items were a police services monthly report, a development update, a comprehensive annual financial report for the previous fiscal year, recruitment for the planning commission and traffic improvement subcommittee, 2018 community survey results, long-term financial planning and budget priorities, city council-appointed representatives and city commissions, committees and subcommittees and task forces and several items placed by Councilmember Debra Lewis.

A five-minute break was called before the last item on the agenda, which was brought forth by Mayor Joe Muller to address how items are placed on the agenda. According to Policy 201, the councilmember initiating action shall ask the city clerk to place the item on the agenda under a heading other than council comments and written material regarding the item shall be provided by the councilmember one week and one day before the meeting.

Councilmember Richard Viczorek pointed out that Policy 208 calls for the mayor to set the agenda, which directly contradicts Policy 201.

Several speakers came to the podium during the public-comment session, urging for the council to continue allowing members to add agenda items, echoing sentiments that attempts to limit how council members placed items on the agenda were an attempt to silence the minority.

“I don’t appreciate that there’s a conspiracy theory circulating on social media that I’m trying to silence councilmembers. I brought this forward because, plain and simple, we are a divided council. If we can’t even pick up the phone to call the mayor about placing an item on the agenda, how are we supposed to work together?” Mayor Muller said.

Councilmember Lewis called to continue allowing for members to place items on the agenda through city staff but to also reach out to the mayor when doing so. No action was taken on the matter other than verbal agreement among members to communicate more openly and respectfully.

The full city council meeting was recorded on YouTube Live and can be replayed by visiting the City of Dana Point YouTube page. The next city council meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 5 at 6 p.m. in Dana Point City Hall Council Chambers, 33282 Golden Lantern.

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