Rehab in the Canyons, 20% Water Reduction, Waste Water Secrets and Comedy- 10/6 Santa Paula City Council Mtg.

EditorialBy Sheryl Hamlin


The October 6th Santa Paula City council meeting was an informative one hour and twenty five minute session.

In a comedic shuffling of speaker cards during the first five minutes, Mayor Cook said he was learning how to run the meetings after nine months at the head of the dais.

Rehab Facility

rehabAt the invitation of Council Member Hernandez, the council heard a presentation about C.A.R.E., a youth rehab facility which is opening at the end of Wheeler Canyon. According to Council Member Hernandez, Supervisor Long’s office had previewed this presentation several weeks earlier.

The new rehab facility will cater to youths with addiction and behavioral problems who will be referred by the schools and probation boards. The presenter showed slides of the idyllic canyon with horse trails, lovely remodeled suites for the clients and public areas on the site of a former ranch.

Council Member Gonzales asked some demographic questions about the facility and its clients, indicating he would have more concern if this were in the city limits of Santa Paula. Several adjacent neighbors spoke with valid concerns about the demographics and security of the client population, one of whom was a fireman who pointed out the high number of 911 calls from such facilities.

The speaker from C.A.R.E. provided no information about on-site security, drug screening, traffic from the retinue of counselors, probation officers, relatives and police who visit these facilities, nor did anyone ask if this was a co-ed facility or what the level of past criminal record would be acceptable as clients, nor did the speaker say if they would be providing on-site detox treatment, a medical procedure which must be licensed. The speaker indicated that they had been licensed by the state, but did not say for what procedures other than that the clients were ‘dual-diagnosis’ clients.

The speaker cheerfully announced that his wife would be the on-call nurse, but did not indicate the size of the permanent on-site staff, the ratio of staff to client nor the hours of on-site staff.

Rehab is one of America’s most lucrative and fastest growing industries. The industry has brilliantly lobbied congress so that addiction is now considered not only a medical disease, but a disability too, covered by the ADA (Americans for Disabilities Act).

No mention was given of the daily fees for the Wheeler Canyon facility. These facilities often charge $1000 or more a day for rehab, paid for by insurance companies, which means it is spread out to all who pay medical insurance. Rehab is such a lucrative business that companies like Bain Capital are buying rehab facilities to produce returns for their pension fund clients, desperate for cash flow.

Because the rehab industry has deep, deep pockets, they have successfully lulled the public into believing they cannot be regulated, as was echoed at the council meeting. This is far from the truth.

According to the California HEALTH AND SAFETY CODE , SECTION 11842-11845.5 (7) ,  registration of drug and alcohol rehabilitation facilities shall be maintained at the county level:

  1. The county shall establish and maintain a registry of all

narcotic and drug abuse programs and alcohol and other drug abuse

programs within the county in order to promote a coordination of

effort in the county.

The registration shall include all services performed at the facility. Furthermore, the state code does not prohibit municipalities from availing themselves of the county information.

The Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs (ADP) states the following (6):

What facilities do not require licensure by ADP?

  • Facilities that provide a cooperative living arrangement (sometimes referred to as a sober living environment, transitional housing, or alcohol and drug free housing) for persons recovering from alcohol and/or other drug problems. It is important to note that while sober living environments or alcohol and drug free housing are not required to be licensed by ADP, business permits or clearances may be required by the local cities or counties in which the houses are located.

Any residential facility providing one or more of the following services to adults must be licensed: detoxification; group, individual or educational sessions; and/or recovery or treatment planning. Nonresidential programs are not required to be licensed.

The key word above is ‘services’. In the California Health and Safety Code 11834.23 it says:

11834.23. Whether or not unrelated persons are living together, an alcoholism or drug abuse recovery or treatment facility which serves six or fewer persons shall be considered a residential use of property for the purposes of this article. (7)

The key phrase above is ‘living together’. The California law clearly differentiates between ‘living together’ and receiving treatment services, which requires state licensing as shown in the ADP code.

Note the State of California does not preclude municipalities from requiring business licenses of drug and alcohol treatment facilities.

Cities such as San Diego, Riverside, Lompoc and Newport Beach have approached the protection of its residential neighborhoods and citizens with zoning ordinances that appear to be within the laws of the State of California.

Santa Paula should enact zoning ordinances which limit the concentration of rehab facilities and should require business licenses. Initially, the ‘mom and pop’ facilities looked like single family dwellings with single owner/operators, but under the covers, it was found that a single owner actually owned and operated dozens of these homes. The law now considers these ‘virtual’ facilities and must be regulated as a larger facility. So it is essential that the city know the ownership of each rehab facility.

A Rehab Center is a medical facility and must be regulated and staffed with professionals. Institutions like The Betty Ford Center in Rancho Mirage have demonstrated successful models that operate within the community producing results for clients and families. A remote location in a canyon at the end of a remote county road is a recipe for problems. This facility should not be under the radar. Interested parties should read the sources listed at the end of this article to learn more about rehab.


Water Conservation




water-conservationThe drought took center stage as the council discussed a proposed water use reduction. Planning Commissioner Wisda presented figures on what 20% water savings would represent, estimating 122 gallons per day for a family of four, suggesting an offensive strategy of recycled water would be required.

The city could not provide the baseline measurement for the mandatory 20% reduction but presumably this will be forthcoming. Council Member Hernandez said the drought conditions were not improving and we must comply with the State Water Resources Board. The motion included a draft protocol for enforcement which will be brought back at a future meeting. The State requires reporting about the pumping on the basin, according to Brian Yanez, but he did not know the consequences of non-compliance. Council Member Gonzales expressed the desire for staff to move forward with ideas to sell the waste water.

Mayor Cook made some surprising statements near the end of the discussion about the Waste Water Treatment Facility.  He said there were “three of four options” and “they had been working on these for over a year” and “it could be five things.” There are “good things out there”. Mr. Gonzales may or may not know, but he as Mayor knows.

This was breathtaking.

Not one solution, but “four or five” possible solutions! When will the public who is paying the highest water and sewer bills in the county know the details? Who on the council is privy to such solutions? Evidently Mayor Cook is not familiar with the Brown Act, but surely the city attorney must have advised the council about secret meetings? 

As we wait for the denouement to this saga in Santa Paula history known as the Perc/Alinda Waste Water Facility, be reminded that it was approved by Council Members Fernandez, Gonzales and Luna in 2008.

  1. Hamlin

October 2014

  • Kautz, Barbara esq. , “Select California Laws Relating to Residential Recovery Facilities and Group Homes”, Residential Recovery Facilities Conference,Radisson Hotel, Newport Beach, California, March 2, 2007
  • Costa Mesa Planning Commission, FAQ Group Homes.
  • Weinberg, Paul J., esq. , “ALCOHOL AND DRUG REHAB HOMES—CLASSIC NIMBYISM OR EVERYONE’S FAIR SHARE?”, Vol. 31 / No. 9, OCTOBER 2008, Zoning and Planning Law Report
  • San Diego, ‘Mini-Dorm’ Legislation, Toolbox Summary of Legislation
  • Newport Beach Municipal Ordinance 2008-05, Group Residential Uses – Group Homes
  • California Department of Alcohol and Drug Programs,
  • California Health and Safety Code,
  • Angeli, Michael, “Inside the Westside Rehab Scandal”, Los Angeles Magazine, November 2011


Sheryl Hamlin: With an MS in Industrial Engineering, Sheryl Hamlin spent years in technology with stints at Motorola, Tandem Computers and various startups. She has been on the boards of neighborhood organizations both in San Francisco and Palm Springs where planning issues were her specialty. She now resides in Santa Paula and loves the historic fabric of the city.


Get free BULLETINS. Please patronize our advertisers to keep us publishing and/or DONATE









0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments