Residents in the Forbes neighborhood are worried that a new sober living facility that opened last week in Culloden Park will cause traffic and parking problems.
The facility is owned by Bay Area Sober Living, an organization that runs sober living community homes for men who are in early recovery from substance abuse. Currently, the new facility in Culloden Park does not have a business license, though it is located in a residential area, and it is not subject to certain government regulations that limit the number of occupants.
According to a letter addressed to the neighbors of Culloden Park, the operator and manager of Bay Area Sober Living, Leo van Warmerdam explained that the residents of the new facility will be charged $4,000 a month for a shared room and board, which includes all meals. However, since residents will not be receiving any treatment or therapy, Bay Area Sober Living is precluded from any state regulations that stipulate the number of occupants.
“No special permit or conditional use permits are required in order for individuals to live together in a single family residence as long as they act as a family unit as defined by the State of California.” He wrote. “In addition to the state statute, the federal and state fair housing laws as well as the Americans with Disabilities Act protect the housing rights of individuals in sober living homes.” Van Warmerdam was not available for further comment.
Bay Area Sober Living is a for-profit business, which does not accept insurance or any public funds as forms of payment for their service. Van Warmerdam leased the property on 1 Culloden Park Road from owner Allen Bruns for a period of one year. The new facility officially opened its doors on Thursday, though it is unclear whether any residents have moved in.
Residential care and family day care facilities have existed in residential neighborhoods for a very long time, according to City Planning Manager Paul Jensen. These facilities operate like businesses, but provide some form of care and are licensed by the state, which has preempted local government from regulating these kinds of facilities.
Sober living communities house recovering alcohol and drug users, a group of people who fall under a protected category in the federal Fair Housing Act. And so, the City has little or no authority as to where they can or can not operate, Jensen said.
The facility at Culloden Park is a rented home of unrelated people who will not be receiving any form of care and, according to the Bay Area Sober Living website, there will be an on-site chef who prepares residents healthy meals.
“There are elements of this that seem to be boardinghouse like,” Jensen said.
Rental homes, where unrelated adults live together and share certain living expenses, cannot be regulated any differently than a single family home, according to Principal Planner Raffi Boloyan. However, when meals are provided as a paid service, as seems to be the case with Bay Area Sober Living, the rules change.
Officials at the City Planning Division are waiting for a program description from van Warmerdam, before they can make a zoning decision, Jensen said.
The majority of the neighbors in Forbes are more concerned with the logistics of the new facility rather than with the people who will be moving into it.
“I think this guy (van Warmerdam) is taking advantage of some loopholes….He’s not providing a service,” Forbes neighborhood resident Frank Pereira said.
A commercial business like this new facility could bring as many as fifteen cars to the neighborhood, which conflicts with the intention of the residential zoning ordinances and could cause traffic, safety and parking problems.
“We already have parking issues,” Pereira added.
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