OC Board of Supervisors votes unanimously to regulate group homes

SANTA ANA, Calif. (KABC) -- The Orange County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously Tuesday to regulate some group homes.

District 3 Supervisor Don Wagner said he took on the issue in May.

"The county needs to do something like this because these homes are proliferating," Wagner said.

Wagner said people living in the North Tustin area "were concerned about the changing nature of the neighborhoods into which they bought, into which they're raising families and trying to live."

The O.C. Board of Supervisors unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday, which comes with new requirements for group home operators in unincorporated parts of the county. Among these, operators will have to get a license to run these facilities and enforce a "good neighbor policy."

Costa Mesa Mayor Katrina Foley said her city saw the same problem -- people working to get their lives back on track or put on the streets and onto the hands of her community.

"There's a lot of abusive operators that have taken advantage of people needing treatment and they were brokering them to come out of state to live in these facilities, no regulatory scheme whatsoever, and so it has exacerbated our homeless population," Foley said.

Foley applauded the Board of Supervisor's move Tuesday, saying the ordinance was almost a copy of one her city passed and has paid $5 million in legal fees to defend.

"We are the only city in America that has gone up against the industry and defended our right to regulate in this space and a federal courts judge told us that our ordinance is non-discriminatory," Foley said.

The Board President of the Sober Living Network OC Chapter, Grant McNiff, didn't want to go on camera but told Eyewitness News, "Our attorneys can handle this one."

Before the board's vote Tuesday, Foley had suggestions from her own city's experience.

The Costa Mesa mayor said the county needed to address group homes with seven or more people, require operators to transport residents, have penalties for operators bringing people in from out-of-state and take a second look at the distance requirements for state-licensed facilities.

Supervisor Wagner said the planning commission would look over the suggestions brought forth by the Costa Mesa mayor and the board would vote again if changes were implemented.
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