WALNUT CREEK (CBS SF) — Most of us are working from home now, but one company is buying homes and turning them into businesses in the East Bay. A substance abuse treatment facility has purchased three homes in the past year and plans to run centers for troubled teens inside.
The treatment center is not announcing its presence to neighbors and claims it doesn’t have to.
“I was shocked because this is a residential neighborhood, you know, and I’m shocked that a for-profit full functioning business can just buy a house and operate in this quiet neighborhood,” Walnut Creek neighbor Tessa Yeung said.
Yeung first moved to this neighborhood near Diablo Foothills Regional Park 30 years ago, what she liked most about it then was that it felt removed.
“I like that it’s so quiet and I run and bike every day,” Yeung said.
She’s worried her new neighbor could change that. Evolve Treatment bought a five-bedroom home down the street and will be running a mental health and substance abuse treatment center for teenagers inside the home.
The same company recently purchased a home down the street from Rob Combi in Lafayette.
“If the rehabilitation centers are not going to disclose when they come into your neighborhoods… it doesn’t make the residents feel very comfortable about, are you being fully transparent in what is going on,” Combi said.
Evolve also purchased a residential home in Danville.
Homeowners and realtors involved in these transactions tell KPIX they thought the homes were being bought by families. One realtor says she showed the home to a man named Daryl Hagler, in an email to neighbors she says, “We were told that he was buying the home for his family and needed to do renovations before moving in. We had no indication…that this was going to be turned into a home for troubled teens.”
KPIX found Hagler works for Evolve Treatment.
People in recovery are defined as disabled under the Fair Housing Act, so small treatment centers with six or fewer bedrooms that don’t offer medical treatment don’t have to disclose themselves to neighbors. It’s meant to prevent discrimination.
“We really desperately need to address the stigma that goes along with a substance use disorder and mental health issues,” David Skonezny said.
Skonezny is the founder of “It’s time for Ethics in Addiction Treatment” a Facebook group of nearly 5,400 treatment professionals. He says he can understand why Evolve wouldn’t want to tell neighbors they were moving in, in fact he’s done that with a previous treatment center.
“We made the decision that we were just going to buy the house and we weren’t gonna say anything with the idea that we were going to be really good neighbors and you know what? We were really good neighbors,” Skonezny said.
Evolve declined requests for an interview for this story but sent a statement that reads in part: “We are very proud of the work we do and are confident that our new neighbors in Lafayette will, over time, come to appreciate and support the contributions we will be making to the Lafayette community,” CEO Ken Wood wrote.
Neighbors like Combi worry Evolve will change the dynamic of the neighborhood, it’s near an elementary school on a busy street.
“It’s really dangerous. I get nervous driving up the street during those school pickups and drop offs,” Combi said.
He’s hoping Evolve chooses to relocate, but if Evolve stays there’s little neighbors can do to fight the new business next door.
“So at this point, I think the local cities are frustrated, but you know, there’s not a lot they can do,” Combi said.