Tag Archives: Land Use

Costa Mesa’s Ordinance Regulating Sober Living Homes Upheld

Recently, a Federal Judge found that the City of Costa Mesa’s ordinance that regulated sober living homes did not discriminate against recovering alcohol and drug abusers. The case Solid LandPartings Behavioral Health, Inc. v. City of Costa Mesa has important implications for sober living home operators looking to oppose City ordinances that regulate sober living homes.

In October 2014, the City of Costa Mesa enacted Ordinance No. 14-13. The Ordinance essentially prohibits the operation of large boarding houses in properties within the R1 zoning designation. The Ordinance has subsections addressing group homes, residential care facilities, and sober living homes.

Sober living homes had proliferated in Costa Mesa and hence the Ordinance was passed to try and regulate sober living homes. The Ordinance requires a sober living home to apply for a special permit within 90 days after the Ordinance was enacted and allows for a year for the sober living homes to comply with the provisions of the Ordinance. ‘

Procedural History

The multiple Plaintiffs in this case are owners and operators of several residential drug and alcohol rehabilitation homes in Costa Mesa. Plaintiff Doe is an owner, operator and/or employee of Solid Landings who is required to provide private, personal information pursuant to the Ordinance and the permit application. In response, Plaintiff Doe filed a Complaint for declaratory relief in Federal Court on November 18, 2014, asserting that the Ordinance is preempted by federal law and violated the Fair Housing Amendments Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The Complaint was dismissed in early 2015 and thereafter the Plaintiffs argued that the Ordinance requirements that required disclosure of personal information were discriminatory, the Ordinance’s requirement that a sober living home be separated by 650 feet is humiliating and discriminatory, and that the concerns about the neighborhoods are not backed up by concrete data.

Legal Standard

The legal standard that is to be applied in this case is as follows: A plaintiff must state “enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.” Bell Atl. Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). A claim has “facial plausibility” if the plaintiff pleads facts that “allow the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged.” Ashcroft v. Iqbal, 556 U.S. 662, 668 (2009).

In regards to the Federal Fair Housing Amendments Act and Americans with Disabilities Act claims, the Court stated that recovering alcohol and drug abusers admitted into sober living homes are disabled. In order for a plaintiff to state a claim for a violation of the FHAA or ADA, a plaintiff must show (1) disparate treatment, (2) disparate impact, or (3) failure to provide reasonable accommodation.

Disparate Treatment

In regards to the disparate treatment, what is needed to be proven is as follows: (1) “the restriction benefits the protected class or (2) that it responds to legitimate safety concerns raised by the individuals affected, rather than being based on stereotypes.”Cmty. House, Inc. v. City of Boise 490 F.3d 1041, 1050 (9th Cir. 2006). Although the Ordinance treats sober living homes different from other living arrangements, the Court found that the Ordinance actually provides alternative housing for disabled persons that would not be allowed for non-disabled persons. Thus, the Court found that the “disparate treatment” was actually beneficial to recovering alcohol and drug abusers.

Disparate Impact

In regards to the disparate impact, Plaintiffs acknowledge that they do not state a disparate impact claim.

Reasonable Accommodations

With regards to the failure to provide reasonable accommodation, the Court failed to see how the 650-foot separation rule is facially unreasonable, and Plaintiffs’ allegation that the City does not intend to grant relief from the rule does not affect the Court’s facial analysis because Plaintiffs had not yet made a request for a reasonable accommodation prior to filing the lawsuit.

This is an important issue for any plaintiff to understand because a Court cannot make a determination on an issue until it is “ripe.” Plaintiffs had not yet sought a reasonable accommodation under the Ordinance, so it is unknown how the City of Costa Mesa would respond to such a request.

Equal Protection Rights

“To state a claim under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 for a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, a plaintiff must show that the defendants acted with an intent or purpose to discriminate against the plaintiff based upon membership in a protected class.” Lee v. City of Los Angeles, 250 F.3d 668, 686 (9th Cir. 2001). Since the fact that individuals with disabilities are not a suspect class under Section 1983, the Ordinance is then subject to review “limited to determining whether the law is rationally related to legitimate legislative goals.

Concluding Remarks

In sum, the Court found that Plaintiffs had not yet made a valid cause of action for discrimination under the FHA or ADA. Please contact Attorney Anthony Marinaccio at 818-839-5220 if you have any questions regarding sober living home regulation.

City of Los Angeles Warning Airbnb Hosts of Their Obligation to Pay City Taxes

The Los Angeles Times reports that the City of Los Angeles is preparing to send Airbnb hosts warning that they must pay the City’s hotel tax.

This is an interesting issue as Airbnb initially started as a way for homeowners to rent a room in their home or to rent their home while they were on vacation. However, there have been some landlords, particularly in the City’s Westside and beach communities that are using entire units or homes solely for Airbnb rentals.

Although you may not consider an Airbnb rental to be a “hotel” in the traditional sense, the City of Los Angeles likens it to a short term rental, which is basically a hotel.

The Los Angeles Times article, “L.A. to Warn Airbnb hosts to start paying hotel-type taxes” provides more detail on this issue.

Legal Issues with Short Term Rentals

The City of Glendale has recently enacted a noise ordinance that targets properties that require police responses due to loud music and other nuisances. Glendale’s ordinance creates a series of fines after the police respond to loud music or nuisance complaints. The Glendale News Press reports that the City of Glendale has already began to enforce this ordinance on a house that was rented through Airbnb.com. While being rented through Airbnb.com, renters who rented the property for a day or two threw large parties which caused neighbors to complain. The article, “Party Central” House Issued Police Warning provides more details on the background story regarding the rental.

Airbnb.com has caused a number of legal issues that must be addressed by local governments. Property owners may not be even be aware that they may not rent their property on a short term basis or that it creates additional landlord-tenant rights.

Many jurisdictions have prohibitions against short term rentals. California courts have upheld city ordinances that prohibit short term rentals in residential neighborhoods. In Ewing v. City of Carmel by the Sea, the California Court of Appeals found that the City of Carmel could prohibit rentals for less than 30 days in residential neighborhoods, basically prohibiting a home from being used as a bed and breakfast. A property owner should check with their local zoning code before renting their properties on a short term basis. Also, if a property is located in a homeowners’ association, there may be additional CC&Rs that would apply. Many homeowners’ associations prohibit short term rentals or even any rentals. 

Further, if a property owner rents through Airbnb.com enough, the property owner may need to obtain a business license and/or pay a business tax. Each jurisdiction has its own ordinance on when a business permit is required.

Some particular issues may also arise in cities with rent control, such as Los Angeles. Although single family homes are not subject to the Los Angeles Rent Stabilization Ordinance, if you rent your home by the bedroom, rent control could apply if residents live there for more than thirty days. This could have an unintended consequence that a landlord of a short term rental could not actually evict a tenant without cause.

Also, you should check your insurance policy to see what may or may not be covered when renting on a short term basis. Your insurance carrier may find that your home is not owner occupied or that you were running a business out of your home, in which case, your insurance policy would need to be modified.

In sum, there are many issues that may arise from using Airbnb.com. Before a property owners uses Airbnb.com, they should be aware of potential liability and whether or not it is a permitted use of their home. Call Attorney Anthony Marinaccio at (818) 839-5220 to learn more about your legal options.