New Sober-Living Facility Draws Concern From Eastside WeHo Residents

Bodha House
The Bodha House at Vista Street in Los Angeles.

A new sober-living facility has a number of residents on West Hollywood’s eastside concerned.

About 50 people attended a neighborhood meeting on Thursday night addressing concerns about Bodha House now occupying a duplex at 1208 and 1210 Poinsettia Place, north of Santa Monica. Residents worry the business, which offers people seeking sobriety a “recovery home” as opposed to rehab facility, will  have an adverse impact on the neighborhood, citing concerns such as noise, the safety of their children, liability issues, “unwelcomed visitors and strange cars”  and drugs.

“You’re bringing a business into the community and using us like lab rats,” said resident Peter Stormare.

Lauren Philhower, Bodha’s director of operations, assured residents that those issues won’t come up.

“I’m here to win you over,” Philhower told the residents. “I understand we’re not your favorite people on the block.”

Philhower said the house provides a semi-structured environment away from the temptations of drugs and alcohol for people adjusting to a newly sober life.

The house, which has a total of 12 beds, six on each side of the duplex, has strict rules of conduct. Daily chores must be done and quiet hours of 10 p.m. to 10 a.m. must be observed. House residents are required to attend daily house meetings and also attend sobriety self-help groups, such as Alcoholics Anonymous. A house manager is on the premises at all times.

John Keho, the city’s planning manager, said if there were seven people living in the house, a minor conditional use permit would be needed, something that requires public hearings before being granted. However, because only six people will live in each side of the duplex, no public hearings were needed to approve the facility.

“We want to give them an opportunity to operate on the up and up,” said Jeff Aubel, the city’s code compliance manager. “We will cite them only after code issues come up.”

While some attendees at the meeting called Bodha House a “boarding house,” the city classifies it as a “residential care facility” because attendance at self-help groups is required.

The city’s parking enforcement division treats Bodha House as a business, which means parking permits will not be issued for anyone in the house. Poinsettia Drive and the surrounding streets have nighttime parking restrictions.

“They’re a corporation,” said Jackie Rocco, the city’s manager of parking operations. “Permit parking is for residents. You have to show proof of residence to get a permit.”

Likewise, the city’s strict rent protection laws don’t apply to anyone living in the house. Aubel said Bodha House is essentially subletting rooms in the house, something the city’s rent stabilization ordinances don’t cover.

Philhower signed a two-year lease for the Poinsettia duplex on July 1. The first residents moved into the house on July 11.

Each resident pays a monthly rent of  $1,200. Residents must be sober for at least 72 hours before moving in.

“We’re not a treatment facility. We’re not a place for people to detox,” said Philhower.

House residents who relapse must be sober for 24 hours and pay a $200 re-admittance fee before returning to the house. Philhower said the house has a strict no-tolerance policy about drugs.

“The goal is long-term sobriety,” said Philhower. “We promote a semi-structured environment to help them build a life.”

City Councilmember John D’Amico suggested Philhower change the 72-hour initial sobriety period to two weeks. He also suggested the 24-hour sobriety period for those who relapse be changed to two weeks.

“Good fences make good neighbors,” said D’Amico, who also urged that Bodha House set aside beds for West Hollywood residents.

Residents were also concerned that California does not have any licensing or certification procedures for sober living facilities. The state does regulate drug/alcohol treatment facilities, but not sober living houses. Philhower said that Bodha created strict guidelines that have been successful at their other four facilities.

Some residents cited concerns about the 15-bed Vista House sober-living facility at 927 Vista St. in Los Angeles, just a half-block from West Hollywood and also owned by San Francisco-based Bodha Recovery Residences. For years, neighbors have complained about the property.

Philhower said Bodha only bought Vista House 18 months ago and strictly enforces its rules. There have been few complaints from neighbors since Bodha took it over, she said.

A follow-up neighborhood meeting about Bodha House is planned in 30 days. An exact date and location will be announced.

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Michelle
Michelle
8 years ago

As a sober living manager, I am going to tell you that it’s hard to run a house in a neighborhood where you arrive with a pre-assumed stigma. My house is run well. The people who relapse or act-out and make us stick out more than usual are the ones who are asked to leave. I make sure my girls are respectful to the neighbors, but I understand that we’re still an inconvenience. I think it’s pretty ironic though that when the cops need to be called on a domestic violence dispute on the street, every single neighbor just assumes… Read more »

Debra
Debra
9 years ago

Well, we have one up the street from us and it’s not been a pretty scene. We’ve had an overdose, yes someone died, two suicide attempts, drugs dealing and drug manufacturing – we have proof – with several police drug raids. Also, many emergency responses to the address for a variety of reasons. Cars abandoned (we had to have them towed), dogs loose on our streets (pets of the tenants), they use our trash cans, leave beer cans in neighbors back yards (a way to hide them), needles left on the curbs of neighbors, there are twenty guests at the… Read more »

Toby Tullis
Toby Tullis
9 years ago

This is appalling. These people are treating people in recovery as they would sex offenders. These people have already established their sobriety before moving into this house and are active in creating their new worth to society. It is proven that people in recovery are more sociably conscious, active in community, and steeped in spirituality and fellowship. Any community should feel blessed to have a house full of people looking for ways to give back to humanity as they feed their own souls. Find a community outreach in which to turn your free time and focus to or at least… Read more »

Jerome Cleary
Jerome Cleary
9 years ago

The only concern I have is that Code Enforcement gives tons of warnings to businesses before they ever actually write any citations. So if this is a business it will be treated like many businesses are where citations are delayed in the forms of a lot of warnings. Meanwhile as residents we get immediately parking tickets with no “warnings” so it’s an interesting process to see how individuals are treated differently by the city.

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