The owners of a 6-bed drug and alcohol rehab facility in Wine Country are looking to expand their operation by adding 10 more beds and hiring new staffers to handle the additional clients.
The facility, which opened in January of 2016, is located at 36500 De Portola Road in a 7,384 square-foot home that sits on a 10.4 acre lot. It is run by the Southern California Addiction Center, which operates similar facilities in the region.
The expansion plans, which are opposed by the local winegrowers association and a coalition of neighbors, were recently approved by the Riverside County Planning Commission in a unanimous vote.
At the hearing, the panel heard from speakers who supported the expansion effort, which would require a zone change from rural-residential to wine country-equestrian, and opponents who said it’s a bad fit for the area that could lower property values.
The panel’s recommendation will be forwarded to the Riverside County Board of Supervisors, which will have the final say.
According to the application, which was filed by the Linda Davis Family Trust, the facility will operate in three shifts and have 23 full-time staff, consisting of four licensed therapists, three certified addiction counselors, 12 behavioral health technicians, two housekeeping staff, and two facility directors. The maximum number of staff at one time is 12 people at the facility.
Clients can leave the facility at any time but if they do so they have effectively “opted out” of their treatment plan and the operations plan calls for them to be driven to an airport or “transportation facility.”
Danny Martin, a real estate appraiser who serves on the board of the Rancho California Water District, sent a letter to the county asking for a one-year moratorium on expansions of any facilities in the county, which includes numerous homes in Temecula, De Luz, Murrieta and other local cities that provide shelter to recovering addicts.
“This would allow the county time to amend the Wine Country Community Plan and Environmental Impact Report No. 524,” he wrote. “This would also allow for a study to be performed on the economic impacts that such facilities would create (i.e. reduced marketability of proximate housing and potential loss in property values resulting in lower property tax revenues.”
Martin also encouraged the county to consider a new taxing mechanism that would tax the facilities at the same rate as cannabis operations.
“These facilities are getting a free ride on county residents. These are commercial entities that impact neighborhoods,” he wrote in a copy of the letter that was shared with Temecula Valley Development.
A similar effort to clamp down on these type of facilities in Murrieta was led by Geoff Szabo, a resident who lived next door to one of the homes.
He found out the state considers the people who live in a sober-living home to be a sort of “family” and the patients are afforded protected class status because they are in treatment.
Those who lobby on behalf of the companies say there is a strong argument for placing recovering patients in tranquil suburban settings because it removes them from the toxic environments of their past and helps them become productive members of society.
Some cities have successfully put curbs on the number of homes that can be located in a specific area but the state’s rules prevent cities or counties from banning the facilities, which can collect tens of thousands of dollars per month from insurance companies for each client they serve.
“I’m disgusted about what’s going on,” said Dave Fenton, a real estate developer who lives on property to the north of the De Portola Road facility.
Fenton said it seems as if the county is going out of their way to greenlight the plans despite issues that he identified with access for firetrucks, which he feels is pressing considering the fire risk in the area.
“They’re bending over backwards to get this thing done,” he said. “I’ve never seen anything like it.”