Pubdate: Fri, 19 Dec 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


Planners Postpone Hearing for Approval of First Legal Store

SAN DIEGO - San Diego's efforts to shut down illegal pot shops 
continued on Thursday with a court ruling that a landlord must pay 
$250,000 in fines for repeatedly renting to illegal dispensaries.

Meanwhile, a final approval hearing for the city's first legal 
dispensary was postponed from Thursday to Jan. 29 by the Planning 
Commission because scheduling conflicts would have forced three of 
the commission's seven members to miss Thursday's hearing.

The $250,000 fine for John I. Nobel could rise to $550,000 if any of 
his properties are used for unlawful marijuana operations, or for any 
other use not permitted by the city. He must also remove any 
remaining dispensaries from his properties, including their signs and 

Nobel also must pay the city $8,000 for investigative costs.

It's the largest fine awarded the city since officials began filing 
civil complaints based on the dispensaries not being in compliance 
with land-use regulations. Enforcement actions have resulted in total 
awards of more than $1.1 million.

"This case underscores that landlords will be held accountable for 
renting to illegal marijuana dispensaries," City Attorney Jan Goldsmith said.

The City Attorney's Office has closed down more than 200 dispensaries 
in the past four years, and many more have voluntarily shut down 
after civil action was threatened.

Nobel-owned properties have housed dispensaries in Pacific Beach, 
North Park and the Midway District near the Valley View Casino Center.

The Planning Commission postponement will delay the opening of the 
city's first legal dispensary to February at the earliest.

It was requested by the owner of the proposed dispensary, which would 
be in Otay Mesa, based on a desire to have the whole commission 
present, said Vicki Estrada, a land-use expert representing the owner.

"To have only four commissioners here at the end wouldn't have been 
appropriate," Estrada said.

The owner is Dr. David Blair, a business ethics teacher at San Diego 
State University. The dispensary would occupy a 1,400-square-foot 
suite in a one-story commercial building near Brown Field airport.

Under complex city regulations approved last winter, three other 
dispensaries are also expected to be considered for final approval 
from the Planning Commission early next year: one in Clairemont, one 
in the Midway area and one in San Ysidro.

Edith Gutierrez, a city official overseeing the approval process, 
said Planning Commission hearings for the dispensaries in Clairemont 
and the Midway district would probably be scheduled for February.

The Planning Commission would take up the San Ysidro dispensary at a 
separate hearing after that, probably in late February or March, she said.

Each of the four was approved by City Hearing Officer Kenneth 
Teasley, but each has been appealed to the Planning Commission for 
final approval.

Thirty-five other dispensaries haven't gotten as far into the 
approval pipeline.

A county-approved dispensary opened just outside El Cajon in late 
July. It's the only legal dispensary operating in San Diego County, 
but roughly 100 illegal pot shops continue to operate while 
authorities try to shut them down.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom