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City Council Live Blog: Council Approves Moratorium on Group Homes

Check our live updates of the city council meeting tonight.

We'll be posting live updates from tonight's city council meeting. This morning, we that the city council will consider placing a moratorium on all unlicensed group homes in San Rafael, spurred by neighbors' concerns over two sober living facilities in Gerstle Park and Forbes neighborhoods.

The agenda is available to the right. Check back in to see what's going on.

10:23 p.m. - Meeting adjourned.

10:20 p.m. - Council accepts staff report on the budget.

10:05 p.m. - Next meeting, Schutz plans to give a more exact estimate of the deficit the city is facing.

10:01 p.m. - Factors effecting this coming fiscal year include pension costs, "one time" savings, modest revenue growth and low reserves.

9:55 p.m. - Schutz said that there was a 12 percent reduction in staff, which totaled a loss of 100,000 hours of work. State budget will only have a negative impact. "We've been seeing flat sales and property taxes," Schutz said.

9:50 p.m. - Interim City Manager Jim Schutz begins discussion on city's budget process.

9:35 p.m. - Council unanimously approved the moratorium.

9:34 p.m. - Council member Damon Connolly visited the Culloden Park home and was shocked to think of as many as 14 people living in the home.

9:31 p.m. - Council member Brockbank was shocked about the possibility of seven or more people living together in a sober living facility and scared about what that could mean for neighborhoods.

9:25 p.m.  - Mayor Albert Boro sees this moratorium as a "time out." "We need to investigate this and we need to understand it," Boro said. 

Council member Marc Levine congratulates the effectiveness of neighborhood advocacy can be. It's hard to see these facilities preserving that certain feeling in the neighborhood, Levine said.

9:20 p.m. - Perry Litchfield said that this doesn't have to be an issue of property values or addicts being in the neighborhood. "The issue should be what is the safety for those who are in recovery," he said.  Litchfield is under the notion that there are no standards for unlicensed homes, and supports the moratorium because these homes are going to "need to be properly regulated."

9:02 p.m. - Michael Mclain is an outreach counselor and a recovering addict and believes that it is prejudice that is fueling the arguments against the group homes. If a moratorium is approved, he said many in recovery "will come to a standstill. They will be led to a cliff where all they can do is walk over."

9:00 p.m. - Steve Patterson of Federation of San Rafael Neighborhoods said "San Rafael is seen as a dumping ground for clean and sober programs. The city has no clue as to how many of these programs even exist in the city."

8:56 p.m. - One neighbor says recovery has to happen in a safe environment. The Culloden and Marin Street properties do not offer this.

8:55 p.m. - George Ford said there are tight guidelines for owning and operating sober living environments. "These are contributing to the recovery of the community."

8:50 p.m. - Council member Greg Brockbank asks about "legal challenge" that Bay Area Sober Living refers to. Epstien explains that the letter is specifically referring to if the city adopts a moratorium. Bay Area Sober Living on 1 Colluden Park Rd.

8:45 p.m. - Unlicensed facilities are not a permitted use, Esptein said. The city is constrained from regulating homes with six or fewer people. He said that it is unlikely that the city will enforce code upon smaller homes of six or fewer people.

8:40 p.m. - Moratorium could last between 45 days to two years, if it extended, according to Epstein. "This is a very complicated issue," he said. Large residential care facilities consist of seven or more people and are licensed by the state.

8:36 p.m. - Epstein says that this issue has been discussed in several cities, including Los Angeles. He received a letter from an owner of Bay Area Sober Living, saying that he would possibly pursue legal action if the city chooses to approve a moratorium of sober living facilities.

8:31 p.m. - City Attorney Rob Epstein explains that "large unlicensed group homes" are not permitted under San Rafael Municipal Code Title 14.

8:30 p.m. - City council members approve the minutes of last meeting minutes.

8:24 p.m. - City council members call the meeting to order. No reportable action was taken in the private meeting.

8:14 p.m. - Approximately 160 people are sitting or standing in city hall.

7:49 p.m. - People are gathering in the city council chambers, waiting for the council members to come out of their private session about labor negotiations.

Paul Dumont March 27, 2011 at 04:35 PM
Community residences have no effect on the value of neighboring properties. More than 50 studies have examined their impact on property values probably more than for any other small land use. Although they use a variety of methodologies, all researchers have discovered that group homes and halfway houses do not affect property values of even the house next door. They have no effect on how long it takes to sell neighboring property, including the house next door. They have learned that community residences are often the best maintained properties on the block. And they have ascertained that community residences function so much like a conventional family that most neighbors within one to two blocks of the home don't even know there is a group home or halfway house nearby. For a comprehensive compilation of descriptions of over 50 of these studies, see Council of Planning Librarians, There Goes the Neighborhood: A Summary of Studies Addressing the Most Often Expressed Fears About the Effects of Group Homes on Neighborhoods in Which They Are Placed (CPL Bibliography No. 259, April 1990); M. Jaffe and T. Smith, Siting Group Homes for Developmentally Disabled Persons (Am. Plan. A. Plan. Advisory Serv. Rep. No. 397 (1986). See e.g., City of Lansing Planning Department, Influence of Halfway Houses and Foster Care Facilities Upon Property Values.

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