By Matt Cortina
An Orange County Superior Court judge determined in a tentative ruling on Monday, June 27, that a sober living home in San Clemente was not operating as a business, but did violate the homeowners’ associations rules regarding nuisances. Judge Craig Griffin ruled the sober living home could continue to operate as long as it obtained a property management license from the city and adhered to the neighborhood’s noise, smoking and conduct regulations.
The ruling comes a week after Dana Point filed two lawsuits against alcohol and drug treatment facilities, including one against Sobertec, the co-defendant in this San Clemente case. The city is citing nuisance ordinance violations, much like the ones Griffin identified and ordered tentative injunctions against in this case.
Lawyers for the co-plaintiffs—the city of San Clemente and David Hurwitz, a Talega resident next to whom a sober living home is operating—also asked Griffin to order an immediate injunction that would’ve required the sober living home (run by Sober Network Properties LLC, the defendant) to stop operating. Griffin did not oblige that request.
The judge ruled that the plaintiffs had not yet proven that Sober Network Properties are violating homeowners’ association codes by operating a business out of their Talega residence. The judge ruled that it would be unjust to qualify the home as a business just because rent is paid or tenants have special living arrangements—many other homes in Talega are leased, and similar “types of restrictions are frequently imposed by parents, roommates and other ‘family’ groups who may permissibly live in the neighborhood.”
However, the judge ruled that Sober Network Properties must file for a business license within 15 days. The key is that the home itself is not a business, but SNP is managing property in the city, including the sober living home. For that, it needs to get a license.
Many, including those in Dana point, were looking to this case as a harbinger for how cities regulate sober living homes. Those recovering from alcohol and drug abuse are considered “disabled,” and because of the Americans with Disabilities Act, cities and neighborhood associations cannot ban them from living in their areas.