PASADENA – Residents last year had the usual curiosity about who bought a house on their quiet sweep of Arroyo Boulevard, above the Brookside Golf Course. Some were surprised when they discovered it was not a family settling in – at least not a traditional one. “It just so happened they had their garage door open on Arroyo and inside were about 20 mattresses,” said Barbara King. “Then another neighbor noticed two sets of coin-operated washers and dryers.” To the dismay of King and her neighbors, another home for recovering addicts of drugs and alcohol opened in Pasadena. So, they did what Pasadenans often do: They organized, held meetings and lobbied City Hall to do something. And they kept up the political pressure even after being told nothing could be done. Last month, Pasadena took a tentative step toward joining other cities throughout California in attempting to impose regulations on unlicensed group homes. Newport Beach has also seen a significant number of group homes open, advertised throughout the country as “Sober Living by the Sea.” The city hosted a conference last month that attracted people from Eureka to San Diego. King was there, as was state Sen. Tom Harman, R-Huntington Beach. “This problem is going on all along the state, and it’s increasing very rapidly,” Harman said. “The local jurisdictions are unable to regulate them because of things like the \, as a recovering drug or alcohol abuser is qualified under ADA.” Harman has introduced one of several bills in the state Legislature that seeks to grant cities more authority and close some of the perceived loopholes. SB 1000 would provide testing to ensure residents are sober and compel owners of multiple homes operated within a certain proximity to obtain state licensing. Harman’s effort and those of cities such as Pasadena face the same balancing act of trying to both satisfy constituents while coming up with rules that will hold up in court. Jeff Christensen is the project director of the Southland’s Sober Living Coalition, a trade group which evaluates and inspects group homes in Southern California as a means of self-regulation. Christensen said he understands the stigma attached to recovery homes, but feels it’s perpetuated by unethical operations that don’t represent the majority of homes. “The public usually hears about the rogue homes or the bad homes,” he said. “They don’t hear about the good quality homes. We’re trying to get the word out that there are good sober-living homes run ethically by quality management, and that there are great places for people to send their loved ones that are trying to get sober.” He cited a DePaul University study of one sobriety program that found residents in such programs neither contribute to crime nor decrease property values. Harman, King and others calling for local regulation are quick to stress that they don’t want to eliminate the homes and support the recovery process. By developing distance requirements between group homes and preventing overcrowding with tenants, Mayor Bill Bogaard said the City Council is trying to balance “compassion for persons who are recovering from illness” with their potential impact on the community. Robert Holbrook heads 12 Step Homes, which owns the property on Arroyo. He said his homes are well-managed and strive to be the best neighbors on the street. “If there’s someone who comes into a neighborhood and breaks into a house or car, we’re always the first ones to be accused and criticized, and that’s not fair.” Although Holbrook said some form of regulation should be developed, he warned against unduly restrictive rules. “There will be a course of action taken against cities that are going to come knock on my door and tell me who and who is not family,” he said. “They will be faced with federal action.” [email protected] (626) 578-6300, Ext. 4444 www.insidesocal.com/pasadenapolitics 160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set!