Concerns Raised Over Sober Living Homes

Nearly 700 people packed the Laguna Hills Community Center Thursday night to voice their concerns over what they call a proliferation of sober living homes in Orange County.

Some said they understand the need for sober living homes but question why there are no laws governing how many and how close they are to one another.

Warren Hanselman said all he wants is a good neighbor, that he could tolerate. But the number of drug treatment homes in his San Juan Capistrano neighborhood keep growing.

"We're not against sober living," he said. "We're not against having people in recovery in our neighborhood, but it should not become a concentration."

By his count there are 31 facilities in the city of San Juan Capistrano, two on his street of Paseo Terraza.

David Ludwig lives next door to one of the homes.

"They're doing drug delivery and medication delivery and therapy of all kinds in a residential neighborhood, not in a clinical setting where it belongs," he said.

Photos point to what the men say are ongoing issues — drug paraphernalia tossed aside, cars blocking sidewalks, residents outside smoking and paramedics being called to the home.

"We had a police call with guns drawn wandering though the neighborhood," Ludwig said.

Cities have tried to regulate these rehab homes but state law protects residential care facilities of six people or fewer.

"Cities don't have the power right now to say you can't locate here we can't discriminate against one house over another," said Heather Stratman, CEO of the Association of California Cities.

In San Juan Capistrano, the director of Solutions For Recovery, said he's abiding by all state laws and he's licensed.

"We're not out there partying having a great time and all that stuff," said Jeff Dougherty, a residential manager. "We don't have people dying in the driveway. We're saving lives that's the important part of this."

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