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Ninth Circuit Rules Lawsuit May Proceed Against Ordinance Restricting Group Homes
On Friday, a unanimous Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals revived lawsuits against a Newport Beach ordinance that restricts group homes meant for helping drug addicts recover. The Newport ordinance was taken as a model and followed in many other California communities where residents thought group homes as blight in their residential neighborhoods.
The Ninth Circuit opined that there is strong possibility that the ordinance was motivated by illegal discrimination, and it is open for plaintiffs to challenge the ordinance in a trial.
The zoning ordinance implemented in 2008 closed down most group homes in Newport Beach and forced others to restrict their activities.
Writing for the three-judge panel, Judge Stephen Reinhardt wrote that in the matter, a federal trial judge erred and disregarded evidence that the city’s “sole objective in enacting and enforcing its ordinance was to discriminate against persons deemed to be disabled under state and federal housing discrimination laws.”
Reinhardt further observed, “It appears either to be the case that very few ‘group residential’ facilities that were not group homes existed when the ordinance was enacted, or if such facilities existed, the city did not enforce the ordinance against them.”
In April 2007, Newport Beach had 73 group homes, and the count is now down to 27.
The court also observed that the city had created a special task force to locate and identify group homes, conduct surveillance and enforce the zoning laws strictly against such places.
Group homes remain controversial in the mind of many people for right or wrong reasons. Conservative residential neighborhoods view group homes as exhibiting and sheltering deviant role models that are destructive. For many addicts, group homes help to rehabilitate, and for many they are to be used for profits.