Posted by: Patricia Salkin | September 13, 2019

CA Appeals Court Holds Housing of Patients of a Drug Treatment Facility in Residential Properties Constituted a Nuisance

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Defendant New Method Wellness, Inc. ran a drug treatment facility and housed some of its patients in three residences located in residential zones in the City of Dana Point. Defendant NMW Beds, LLC imposed 24-hour supervision, provided transportation to defendant New Method’s drug treatment facility, and offered recovery treatments at these properties. The City brought this nuisance action on the ground that this use of the properties was not authorized by the relevant zoning ordinance. The court found that New Method and NMW Beds were operating as a single entity and thereby disregarded the corporate form. Since the properties were found to be part of New Method’s operation, the court held that they were required to be licensed and issued an injunction.

The record reflected that New Wellness’s website showed the properties as part of the operation of the treatment center. Additionally, it was undisputed that the properties operated under the same brand name as the treatment center; the residents were subject to intense supervision and regulation of their lives; and transportation was provided from the properties to the New Method treatment center. Furthermore, New Method implemented services at the subject properties. Conversely, the only evidence suggesting that the properties were not part of the operation of the drug treatment facility was the fact that the properties were owned and operated by a different corporate entity – NMW Beds. The court found the ownership of the properties was irrelevant, however, because the central issue of this case was how the properties were being used.

The court next found that Health and Safety Code section 11834.23, which preempts local ordinances and provides a safe harbor against zoning restrictions under certain circumstances, did not apply to this case. Pursuant to that section, “whether or not unrelated persons are living together, an alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility that serves six or fewer persons shall be considered a residential use of property for the purposes of this article.” As NMW Beds provided 24-hour supervision, the properties did not qualify as recovery houses. Additionally, the court found it was not the properties’ lack of a license that created a nuisance, but their prohibited use. The trial court’s judgment was therefore affirmed.

City of Dana Point v New Method Wellness, Inc., 2019 WL 4392510 (CA App. 8/23/2019)

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