Pubdate: Wed, 30 Jul 2014
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: David Garrick
Page: B-1


Local Planning Groups Showing Resistance With First Applications in San Diego

SAN DIEGO - Resistance from neighborhood leaders across San Diego is 
adding turbulence this summer to the already complex approval process 
facing applicants trying to open the city's first legal pot dispensaries.

Feedback from community planning groups on proposed dispensaries has 
included refusals to schedule hearings in a timely fashion, outright 
rejections and tentative approvals with long lists of contingencies.

Other planning groups have invented criteria for approval that go 
beyond the ordinance the city approved in March, such as whether more 
than two dispensaries would be in the same business district.

One group is against a proposed pot shop partly out of frustration 
that several illegal dispensaries continue to operate nearby because 
the city has struggled to shut them down.

And many of the planning group hearings have devolved into political 
debates, with residents advocating for or against legalization of 
marijuana instead of focusing on the particular dispensary being proposed.

"Community planning groups aren't supposed to be about that," said 
Lance Rogers, an attorney representing six of the 36 dispensary 
applicants citywide. "These groups are taking very different 
approaches and there could be problems with some of them legally."

While approval from planning groups isn't essential because they play 
only an advisory role in the process, their opinions could sway final 
decisions on dispensaries this year by city planning officials or the 
San Diego Planning Commission.

Rogers said the groups have added another element of uncertainty and 
risk to the process, which was already complex, expensive and time-consuming.

San Diego's ordinance makes it difficult to open medical marijuana 
dispensaries in most parts of the city because it requires them to 
open in a limited number of commercial and industrial zones.

In addition, they must be at least 100 feet away from residential 
property and at least 1,000 feet from schools, playgrounds, 
libraries, parks, churches and facilities focused on youth activities.

Twenty-seven of the 36 proposed dispensaries are in three central San 
Diego neighborhoods: Kearny Mesa, Mira Mesa and the Midway District 
near the Sports Arena. Of the other nine, five are in southeast San 
Diego, two are near Qualcomm Stadium, one is in Mission Valley and 
one is in the Torrey Pines area.

Because the city's ordinance prohibits more than four dispensaries 
from opening in any council district, there will be fierce 
competition in District 2, where 18 dispensaries have been proposed, 
and District 6, where the city has received nine applications.

The glut in District 6 prompted the Mira Mesa Planning Group to 
consider an unconventional approach, said John Horst, the group's chairman.

Horst said he'd like to see his group approve two of the five 
proposed in that community and have the neighboring Kearny Mesa 
Planning Group approve two of the four proposed there.

"That way, the Miramar industrial area won't shoulder the entire 
burden of the four allowed in District 6," he said.

But the Kearny Mesa group has taken a different approach, declining 
to schedule any hearings until a proposed dispensary clears all city 
zoning hurdles.

The Midway Planning Group has taken yet a different approach. They've 
approved each of 12 dispensaries for which they've held hearings, but 
with several conditions that have most frequently focused on adding 
more parking.

In Pacific Beach, the only proposed dispensary was rejected by a 
subcommittee of the community planning group and probably faces the 
same fate when the full group votes Aug. 27, said chairman Brian Curry.

"There's considerable opposition when we still have so many illegal 
dispensaries operating in the area," said Curry.



Number of feet marijuana dispensaries must be from residences in San Diego
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom