SB 786 is the California Contract Cities Association’s signature piece of legislation for 2017, introduced by Senator Tony Mendoza and coauthored by Senator Ben Allen. This bill aims to address the problem of overconcentration of alcohol and drug abuse treatment facilities in residential neighborhoods, a longstanding legislative priority of CCCA. CCCA sponsored a similar bill in the last legislative session, AB 2403 (Bloom), which unanimously passed the Assembly Committee on Health but was held in suspense in the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

California law currently treats an alcohol and drug recovery facility with six or fewer beds as a residential use of a property for zoning purposes. This means that these facilities must be allowed to be built in residential zones, including single-family zones, and cities may not treat them any differently from other types of residences. CCCA wholeheartedly supports this policy as beneficial and therapeutic to both patients and to cities by allowing recovering patients to reintegrate with their communities. However, profit-driven companies have exploited this policy to take over multiple adjoining lots in order to create campus-style rehabilitation facilities in single-family neighborhoods. This is both detrimental to recovering patients seeking to better integrate into the surrounding community and to residential neighborhoods faced with becoming more like hospital zones. This also clearly contravenes the purpose of the law, which was to create rehabilitation facilities that would provide residential rather than medical settings to patients, to allow them to become part of the fabric of a community rather than segregating them from it.

SB 786 would correct this loophole by requiring the state to notify cities and counties of applications for licenses to build these facilities within 45 days of approving any applications, and allow cities and counties to request denial of the application if a proposed facility would be located within 300 feet of an existing facility. These noticing and distance provisions are required of other types of licensed group homes in California, so this bill would provide some much-needed consistency in California law. SB 786 does not seek to discriminate against residential rehabilitation facilities, but will protect both patients and true residential group homes from exploitation by profit-driven companies.

The California Contract Cities Association believes that this bill will both give cities greater local control in preventing overconcentration of rehabilitation facilities in residential areas and protect patients from profit-seeking companies seeking to undermine the successful model of therapeutic small group homes integrated into neighborhoods. For those reasons, we are committed to the passage of SB 786 in this legislative session.