“We should at least have been informed,” said Upper Hermosa resident Mike Sager.
Sager and several of his neighbors asked the Light to look into a residential drug rehab facility that opened on their street last month with no public notice.
The Light did some digging into the background of the house at 5978 La Jolla Corona Drive, and into what permits and noticing are required to convert a residence into such a facility.
“Everybody has a right to treatment,” said Sager, a successful journalist and author. “However, there are influences in treatment that aren’t a normal part of a neighborhood like ours. We’re people who stop each other on the street and talk through the window. We’re that kind of community.”
The five-bedroom, three-bath house — which measures 3,427 square feet and has a large deck with ocean views — was purchased on April 10 for $1.9 million by Daniel Simons, owner of the La Jolla Recovery addiction-treatment center at 1804 Garnet Ave.
“We wanted to be a little more higher-end than just your regular place,” Simons told the Light, “to create a really super nice, serene, safe place for professionals who come to us for help.”
The State’s Department of Health Care Services (DHCS) issued La Jolla Recovery a license — valid Sept. 7 2018 to Sept. 30, 2020 — for a facility providing “24-hour residential and outpatient alcohol and other drug treatment, detoxification or recovery services to adults” in that location.
State residential licensing regulations do not require operators of a residential facility to notify neighbors of their intent to apply for a rehab license, according to the DHCS.
The City of San Diego requires Conditional Use Permits for residential-care facilities, which solicit public input. However, those are only required of facilities housing seven or more people. Simons said his facility houses “six people max, just like it says on the (State) license.” So notifying the neighbors was not required.
Susan Botticelli, who lives next door to the house, said: “I have concerns about patients with drug issues being in our neighborhood, much less encouraging them to be here as this business does. People who have drug problems add to the crime issues already present around La Jolla.”
In addition, Botticelli said she is concerned because “I am now faced with disclosure issues if I were to sell my home.”
Other than chain-smoking on the patio and blocking a fire hydrant with a parked car, neither Sager nor Botticelli could cite any examples of undesirable behavior exhibited by the rehab residents they’ve encountered so far. However, Sager said, “we don’t know what other effects it will have on the neighborhood.”
Simons said he thought it was “just fear” motivating the complaints. “If it’s done properly,” he said, “no one’s ever going to have issues.”
There may be one card left for the neighbors to play. Botticelli, who works as a real-estate agent, said the neighborhood has Covenants, Conditions & Restrictions (CC&Rs) that “specifically restrict using one’s home as a business.”
The problem, she admitted, is that there is no current agency tasked with enforcing the CC&Rs.
“It doesn’t make them any less enforceable,” Botticelli said. “The question is who’s going to enforce them. In this case, we’re looking to the City to look into the use of this property in a neighborhood that’s clearly intended not to be used in this way.”
Simons said he was not told about the CC&Rs when purchasing the house.
He also said he’s “happy to speak with the neighbors and be friendly to them,” adding: “Hopefully, at some point, me or one of my staff can talk to them. If they see anything out of the ordinary, we want to be good neighbors.”