Sunday, April 26, 2015

Northern California Municipality Accused Of Unlawfully Applying Land Use Regulations To Nix Proposed High-End Substance Abuse Rehab Center; Action Amounts To Discrimination Against Prospective Tenants In Recovery From Drug, Alcohol Addictions In Violation Of Fair Housing, Americans With Disabilities Acts: Suit

In San Mateo County, California, Half Moon Bay Review reports:
  • The owners of a Kings Mountain retreat center are suing San Mateo County in federal court, claiming it violated mandates to protect persons with disabilities by denying their proposal to turn it into a high-end rehabilitation center.

    The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court for Northern California on March 25 by Downey Brand LLP attorneys, out of Stockton, on behalf of Stillpath Retreat Center LLC. The complaint focuses on the San Mateo County Board of Supervisors’ decision one year ago to uphold neighbors’ appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the project. In deviating from the commission’s support of the proposal, supervisors cited comments from neighbors of the Skyline Boulevard facility who voiced concern about fire dangers and potential strain on the water supply.

    The center’s owners, Raymond Blatt and his father, Michael, purchased the property from Joan and William Porter for an undisclosed sum shortly after the Planning Commission’s approval but before the appeal was filed. It had been run as a meditation and spiritual retreat named Stillheart Institute.

    Attorneys for the Blatts are asking the federal court to enjoin the county from unlawfully applying its land use regulations with respect to the property, discriminating against the proposed occupants and “from otherwise yielding to the prejudices and fears of neighbors of the property as to the presumed harm that persons with disabilities would bring to the neighborhood.” They are also seeking financial relief to cover damages and attorney fees and want a jury trial.

    The claim cites the Fair Housing Act and Americans with Disabilities Act in support of the plaintiff’s argument that the county was discriminating against prospective tenants of the rehab center.

    “The Board of Supervisors’ finding that the presence of recovering patients at the property would render it as ‘incompatible’ use was arbitrary and squarely contrary to the findings of the County Planning Commission … and was discriminatory and unlawful through its attempt to characterize and distinguish patients recovering from drug and alcohol addictions from other members of society,” an excerpt from the complaint reads.
Source: Skyline retreat owners sue county (Federal claim alleges discrimination in project’s denial).

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