City Ready to go One More Round

For more than a decade, Malibu has engaged in a battle against residential rehabilitation facilities and the state board that licenses them, over what they call the “hospitalization” of Malibu’s neighborhoods by rehab compounds.

That fight is about to land on the desk of the Supreme Court of the State of California, following a unanimous vote by City Council during a closed session hearing this week.

City Attorney Christi Hogin spoke to the public following the decision to describe the history of the suit — dating back to 2015 — and what’s being done.

“The city sued state licensing bureau that does the alcohol and drug facilities, because we believe that their licensing of Passages Malibu was incorrect,” Hogin recalled. “Under the state law, there are two types of licensing — one type is for a residential license serving six or fewer patients. If you have that type of a license, then you are exempt from local zoning and must be treated exactly as any other single home is treated. The other is an integrated facility, which can serve more than six, more than one building, can be housed in different ways.”

Hogin said it was her and the city’s belief that Passages was an integrated facility. 

“While it is one integrated program serving 40-something patients, they have been given these … eight individual licenses,” Hogin said. “So, the city sued the state saying that it shouldn’t have given the individual licenses, it should have instead given the integral license, and it was important to the city because if it’s a residential license we can’t enforce our zoning.”

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In July 2015, the trial court decided in favor of the State of California and Passages, and soon thereafter council launched an appeal. That decision came out on Jan. 17 — against the City of Malibu.

“The bad news is that the court of appeal found that the state law simply doesn’t require the state to give the correct license, and if the state wants to give six or eight individual licenses to one program in order to keep it from having to comply with local zoning, well, there’s nothing in the state law to prevent that,” Hogin described.

The decision, signed by Judge Laurie D. Zelon, determined that the city did not interpret state law correctly — even citing Assemblymember Richard Bloom’s proposed legislation that would have explicitly made that type of license illegal.

“If the legislature had intended to require the Department [of Health Services] to issue only one license in circumstances where multiple facilities are “integral components” of a larger entity, it could have included statutory language mandating such an outcome,” the decision reads. “Indeed, in 2012 and again in 2016, legislation was introduced that would have amended the licensing statutes to impose that exact requirement … Early last year, an assembly member whose district included the City of Malibu introduced Assembly Bill No. 2403, which would have made identical changes … the legislation died in committee.”

In other words — if that was the proper interpretation, that bill would have passed.

This decision did not daunt Hogin.

“I know that the council is committed to change the state law, but I also feel that’s not the correct reading of the state law,” Hogin said at the Monday council meeting. 

“Tonight, the council decided in closed session unanimously to file a petition with the supreme court to see if we can ask the court to review that decision,” Hogin said. “Admittedly, it’s a long shot. There are a lot of cases that seek review in the supreme court and it’s entirely up to the court, but we’ve come so far and we’re so right — it just felt like we should go just one last full step.”

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