Pubdate: Wed, 04 Mar 2015
Source: San Diego Union Tribune (CA)
Copyright: 2015 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Note: Seldom prints LTEs from outside it's circulation area.
Author: David Garrick


Six Now Head to Hearing Officer for OK; S.D.'S First Legal Shop to 
Open Mid-Month

San Diego - Six proposed medical marijuana shops cleared a key hurdle 
on Tuesday as San Diego continues to move forward with allowing the 
city's first legal pot dispensaries to open.

The City Council rejected environmental appeals filed against each of 
the dispensaries, moving them one step closer to receiving final 
approval from the San Diego Planning Commission.

An Otay Mesa dispensary that got such approval in late January is 
expected to open in mid-March and become the city's first legal 
dispensary, a member of the shop's management team said Tuesday.

Three other proposed dispensaries - one each in Clairemont, the 
Midway District and San Ysidro - are scheduled for approval by the 
Planning Commission on March 12.

Eleven additional proposed dispensaries are scheduled for approval 
March 25 by a city hearing officer, which could technically be their 
final OK. But the first four dispensaries to clear that hurdle were 
appealed to the Planning Commission, and city officials say the same 
is expected for all others.

The six dispensary applicants that got environmental approvals on 
Tuesday will be scheduled for hearing officer approval later this 
spring, said Edith Gutierrez, the city planning official overseeing 
the process.

The 17 applicants at the hearing officer stage will be the first to 
face the consequences of the limits the council included in the 
city's dispensary ordinance approved one year ago.

The ordinance allows a maximum of four dispensaries in each of the 
city's nine council districts, and it prohibits dispensaries from 
being approved within 1,000 feet of each other.

Of the 11 slated for March 25 approval, eight are in Council District 
2, where the first of four available slots is expected to go to the 
Midway dispensary scheduled for Planning Commission approval next week.

In addition, four of the eight are within 1,000 feet of that 
dispensary, which is located at 3452 Hancock St., Gutierrez said.

And of the remaining four, two are within 1,000 feet of each other, she said.

Also included in those 11 are two proposed dispensaries in District 8 
that are within 1,000 feet of each other. They're both in 
southeastern San Diego's Stockton neighborhood, which is just south 
of state Route 94 and just west of state Route 15.

Gutierrez said it's unclear what happens to applicants when another 
dispensary within 1,000 feet gets approved before them, suggesting 
approval by a hearing officer could be less damaging to competing 
applicants than final approval from the Planning Commission.

"I think the city attorney is going to provide guidance to the 
hearing officer," she said.

Other areas with conflicts include District 6, which has eight 
applicants, and District 8, which has six applicants.

There are four applicants in District 7, but the other districts have 
less applicants than the maximum number of dispensaries.

There are zero applicants in Districts 5 and 9, one applicant each in 
Districts 1 and 4 and two applicants in District 3. And Gutierrez 
said the District 3 applicants have essentially abandoned the 
approval process because they "ran into issues."

However, a dispensary proposed for just outside District 3 on Harbor 
Drive in Barrio Logan has reached the hearing officer stage, Gutierrez said.

Tuesday's environmental appeals have been characterized by city 
officials as strategic attempts by dispensary applicants in 
competitive districts to stymie each other.

The appeals didn't dispute that the dispensaries are exempt from 
state environmental rules. They claimed instead that city officials 
cited the wrong section of the law when asserting the exemption.

The council voted unanimously, with Councilwoman Marti Emerald 
absent, to reject the appeals.

Four of the dispensaries that moved forward on Tuesday are in 
District 6 - two in Kearny Mesa and two in Mira Mesa - one is in 
District 7 in Grantville and one is in District 2 in the Midway area.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom