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Battle brewing between Malibu residents and pricey drug rehab centers

by AirTalk®

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A sign at the entrance to the Eisenhower Medical Center at the Betty Ford Center, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation clinic in Rancho Mirage, California. These rehabilitation centers are scattered throughout the state, but residents of Malibu in particular are taking issue with the number facilities in their city. Eric Thayer/Getty Images

Not all drug rehab programs are created equal. In Malibu, such treatments — offered by rehab centers like Cliffside, Summit, and Milestones — cost up to a $100,000 a month and provide perks like massages, lap pools, daily therapy sessions, and perhaps most importantly, privacy. 

Celebrities the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Britney Spears, Matthew Perry are all known clients, and they swear by these treatments. Malibu residents, however, aren’t so enthused; they say the burgeoning rehab industry is causing all kind of problems in the area, including zone violations and unwanted disturbances.

"This is not an issue that is unique to Malibu. This is just a matter of local governments trying to manage compatible land uses," said Christi Hogin, Malibu city attorney. "Local governments exercise their authority to create zones where single family housekeeping units can live together and hospitals and commercial areas can function well and separately without stepping on each other's toes."

In addition, Malibu city councilman Lou LaMonte told the New York Times that, "The rehabs are overwhelming our neighborhoods. We have safety issues, noise issues, traffic issues. We’re going to take our city back.”

The problem isn’t just happening in Malibu. On Friday, lawmakers from the cities of Malibu, Newport Beach, Pasadena, Riverside and many others will meet in Sacramento to discuss the issue at the annual conference of the League of California Cities in Sacramento.

"If you're really concerned about this, deal with the offending facility, but where I get upset is when I'm doing such good work," said Richard Taite, founder and CEO of the Cliffside Malibu treatment facility. "We're so well-respected in the community, I don't want to be mentioned in the same breath as people who aren't following the law."

Taite argues that the majority of treatment facilities and group homes do not create disruption in neighborhoods and that they serve an important purpose to people who need them. He sees the conflict as being purely because homeowners think the facilities will cause the value of their properties to go down. 

"People recognize the need for this, but nobody wants it in their backyard," said Taite. "The reason they don't want it in their backyard is not because people are loud or anybody's causing a problem, but because they perceive it as damaging to their equity."

What do you think? Would you be opposed if a number of these facilities popped up in your community? Do you have any positive or negative experiences living near one of these facilities?

Christi Hogin, City Attorney, Malibu - Hogin is in Sacramento for the annual conference of the League of California Cities

Richard Taite, founder and CEO of Cliffside Malibu, an alcohol and drug rehabilitation center and coauthor in Malibu. He is also the coauthor of the book, "Ending Addiction for Good" (Wheatmark, 2012)  

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