No one wants to live near a noisy, crowded boarding house whose residents are, at the least, an annoyance and, at the worst, a threat to public health and safety. City nuisance laws and zoning codes are supposed to minimize such problems, but they're not enforced consistently or effectively against bad operators.
So L.A. City Councilman Mitchell Englander has been trying to craft an ordinance that would tighten laws on group homes and boarding houses. The L.A. Municipal Code currently defines a "family" as any group of people living in a residence and sharing access to common areas such as kitchens and bathrooms, a definition that offers advantages in a diverse city but makes it difficult to shut down a badly run boarding house.
Englander initially proposed a Community Care Facilities Ordinance that added restrictions on groups of people living together, the crucial one being a rule allowing only one lease per house in single-family and low-density neighborhoods. This would have made life hard for boarding houses, but it would also have jeopardized well-run group homes that serve veterans, the disabled and people recovering from substance abuse, among others. Some of those residents are receiving housing assistance that requires them to be on separate leases. Even seniors, college students or budget-conscious adults who band together in a house on multiple leases would have risked violating the law. As a result, the original ordinance was opposed by dozens of social service organizations, including the United Way.