Residents fight back as Malibu Beach turns into Rehab Riviera

By Nick Allen in Malibu

Lindsay Lohan is one of the famous people who has been treated at a  Malibu clinic for alcohol addiction. Photo / AP
Lindsay Lohan is one of the famous people who has been treated at a Malibu clinic for alcohol addiction. Photo / AP

For the well-heeled few who can afford it, California's Malibu Beach neighbourhood offers pristine sands, fine surfing and some of the best real estate on America's West Coast.

So when a ranting, naked man appeared outside the gates of Rey Cano's house recently, it was something of a shock.

"He was completely nude, with cuts, and looked like he had been climbing through mud," said Cano, 54. "It was kind of startling to see."

Bereft of his clothes and his senses, the visitor could not explain why he was covered in mud, nor where he had been.

But when he asked Cano to help him get to a drug-and-alcohol rehabilitation centre down the road, all became clear.

For Malibu has now become the "Rehab Riviera", with scores of clinics opening up to fix the minds of wealthy drug addicts and burned-out celebrities.

And the usually liberal denizens of "The Bu" have had enough.

"I have heard from neighbours that there have been other incidents of patients escaping or getting out," said Cano, who called the sheriff's department after fetching his nude visitor some shorts and a shirt. "I'm worried about my family's safety."

Malibu, with its 35km of prime Pacific coastline, has long been a popular Hollywood hang-out, as well as a film location.

Increasingly, though, the same relaxing climes that attract celebrities at the top of their game also attract them at the bottom. Residents say their narrow winding streets are now clogged with cars. They also complain of excessive noise from late-night recovery meetings, and a proliferation of paparazzi at the end of their roads.

Last month actor Lindsay Lohan emerged from one Malibu clinic after an apparently successful treatment for alcohol addiction.

"No one has a problem if people follow the rules, but this has become a US$100 million [$127 million] business in Malibu," said the town's Mayor, Joan Harris.

"What's happened is the rehab places have said, 'We are here and you adhere to our standards', rather than the other way around."

With former clients such as Robert Downey jnr, Charlie Sheen and Diana Ross, the luxurious clinics that have sprung up amid Malibu's palm trees charge more than US$30,000 ($38,000) a month, catering to myriad "Hollywood" addictions such as tranquillisers, sexual compulsion and even the internet.

They feature rose gardens, infinity pools, sun decks and "life purpose" counsellors, as well as "recovery nutritionists" providing gourmet meals. Former Friends star Matthew Perry, who struggled with alcohol and painkiller addiction in the past, recently converted his US$13 million Malibu home into a "Sober Living Centre" for reformed addicts.

Malibu is home to the number one rehab centre on the planet, Passages, according to Healthcare Global magazine, where new arrivals are greeted by a Statue of Liberty replica on the lawn. They then walk through a facade reminiscent of a mini-Parthenon before being assigned their own 10-person support team, including therapists, doctors and acupuncturists.

Malibu City Council, the guardian of its 12,000 citizens' quietude, has taken up the gauntlet and is accusing the rehab centres of overwhelming local infrastructure.

The council claims they are violating planning rules designed to limit their size. It claims that rehab centres are "clustering" by buying up adjoining properties, getting more licences for those buildings and creating "campuses".

- Daily Telegraph UK

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