Narconon drug rehab home in Newport Beach to shut down

27-bed triplex subject of much community anger over years

Orange County Register/October 31, 2008

Newport Beach - The largest drug rehabilitation home in town, a longtime magnet for community anger, has agreed to shut down, officials said Friday.

The 27-bed beachfront triplex operated by Narconon will close after its state license expires in February 2010, said Dan Carlton, a company attorney.

The company also agrees not to challenge a new city law restricting rehab homes, said Dave Kiff, assistant city manager.

"We've been looking for a larger space anyway, and it's probably in the best interest of both sides anyway to just move on," Carlton said.

The triplex in the 1800 block of West Ocean Front on the Balboa Peninsula has been used for addiction treatment since 1985, but Narconon didn't move in until about 13 years ago, Carlton said.

Since then, the house has been lambasted by residents complaining about noise and constant deliveries.

From late 2005 to late 2006, police visited the house on 20 occasions, usually to investigate parking or medical issues. One call involved assault with a deadly weapon and one involved a disturbance resulting in an arrest, according to police records previously reported by the Register.

Given those issues, at least one resident was unwilling to celebrate hastily today. "I'll believe it when I see it," said Linda Orozco, a nearby resident who for years has sought stronger limits on Narconon's house.

Nothing in the deal prevents the company from re-opening in Newport, and Carlton would not rule it out. Doing so, however, would require the company to submit to a potentially arduous permit process now required of many rehab homes in Newport Beach, which earlier this year passed some of the state's toughest restrictions on recovery housing.

It's not clear if that permit requirement factored into the company's decision to leave. Regardless, Narconon will have to comply with several conditions, such as limits on deliveries and secondhand smoke, between now and the time it leaves, Kiff said.

To avert repeated court challenges to the restrictions, city officials are trying to coax numerous rehab home companies into legally acknowledging the law's validity.

"I think this week has shown that our ordinance will lead to some changes in the overconcentration issues, and this is a part of it," Kiff said.

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