When What’s Not in Your Backyard Suddenly Is

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The stage was set.

On one side were West Newport Beach and Balboa Peninsula residents, who were up in arms over the proliferation of Rehab Homes in their neighborhoods.

On the small street I lived on, there were three homes alone, each with up to 12 “residents” in each house, up to 36 rehabbers in total.

Children lived on these streets, families lived on these streets, and they were all located within a stones throw from the neighborhood bar, or the nightly kegger party.

On the other side were companies operating under the protection of the American with Disabilities Act, since persons in Rehab care are considered disabled and untouchable by local cities.  Add to that having City Councilmembers and Planning Commissioners being forced to recuse themselves from Official decisions because of personal and/or financial conflicts of interest.

Finally, having a couple of local big shots lobbying on behalf of the largest Rehab Home Operator, with the most famous being former Mayor, former Newport Beach Citizen of the Year Denny O’Neil, the residents were definitely finding themselves with the short stick.

But, alas, an ordinance was created and subsequent deals were made with the largest Rehab operators, with the City saying it was the best they could do, and the residents saying it wasn’t doing nearly enough.

Why do I rehash all this?

One of the primary reasons why this Anti-Rehab cause never took root was because this was always considered a Provincial problem.

With the majority of these homes in West Newport and on the Peninsula, the other parts of Newport Beach really didn’t care.

Politicians typically act when they know their re-election or legacy are at hand, and as Former Mayor Steve Rosansky demonstrated in 2008, even if two of the seven City Council districts don’t vote for you, as long as you win the other five, you can still win.  Rosansky lost his own district (West Newport) and the Peninsula, echoing the region’s disappointment in the City’s reaction regarding the Rehab issue.

Believe me, if Corona del Mar, or Balboa Island, or even Santa Ana Heights was faced with the same kind of proliferation of Rehab Homes, the results might have been different.

Oh and if Lido Isle was 100% on board, things might have been different as well.

While Lido Isle isn’t the most politically active region of the City, it certainly is one of the most affluent, automatically gaining it political chits to use, if so desired.

However, there were relatively absent during the 2006-2008 Residents v. Rehab Homes/City of Newport Beach battle.  No REAL money was raised, and they stayed relatively quiet in both the 2006 and 2008 elections.

But, as evidenced by their large turnout at the last City Council meeting of October, they are finally in an uproar over one Rehab house on Lido Isle.  One that was already there, mind you, but changed operator’s hands.

Too little, too late, Lido Isler’s…as what was once a NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) problem has gone into your backyards.

The City Council will do and say really nothing, pointing to a recent Federal Judge’s decision confirming the City’s ordinance, and pointing to the Settlement Agreements made with the Rehab Home Operators.

And why should they?  Lido Isle’s District Councilman Mike Henn was given a free ride this election and will most likely be Mayor in 2011. Another Councilmember was free from an opponent while a third Councilmember faced a dedicated but seriously underfunded challenger.

To you Lido Islanders, remember the passion/anger/disappointment/fury/betrayal that you live right now.  The way to truly show influence is to shape the City Council with Councilmembers who ACTUALLY listen/care/understand.  And you have two years to get ready for the next election with Rosansky terming out, and two other incumbents up for re-election.

Get your candidates picked and be prepared to open up your checkbooks to show them that Lido Isle is a force to be reckoned with, like Corona del Mar, or Balboa Island.  Otherwise, get used to the marginalization that the Peninsula and West Newport residents have “enjoyed.”

And let this be a bitter lesson to any other Newport Beach “village” that if you don’t address a major problem because it’s Not In My Backyard, once it pops its ugly head there and you find an unresponsive City Council, you’ll have to continue to live with the City Council YOU supported, the City Council YOU voted for, and the City Council YOU defended.





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