By Jeff Clemetson | Editor
If the Feb. 1 meeting of the Mission Valley Planning Group is any indication, the “green rush” for District 7’s four allotted medical marijuana dispensaries has begun.
All three action items on the planning group’s agenda were applications for dispensary permits. None of the applicants were approved, but two were given a chance to return to the next available meeting with more information.
During public comments before the presentations by the dispensary applicants, several community members voiced concern about more medical marijuana dispensaries setting up in Mission Valley.
“My big concern is the message that we are sending,” said Scott Chipman of Pacific Beach, who frequently speaks out against marijuana dispensaries. “Sometimes your votes are symbolic, but sometimes symbolism is important to send the right message that we don’t want drug dealers setting up commercial operations in our city.”
Chipman pointed to issues with drugged driving, babies born with THC in their blood in places like Colorado where marijuana is legal, and increased use among high school students as reasons for his urging the planning group to not approve the applicants.
Kathleen Libbon took issue with the process to establish 36 total permits in the city.
“It is unfortunate that they have done things like redefining what a park is or redefining what is and isn’t child-oriented to accommodate the [dispensary] projects,” she said, contending that neighboring businesses are not properly notified when the applications come up.
Judi Strang, who serves on the health committee of the Ninth District PTA serving San Diego and Imperial counties, warned that medical dispensaries will become recreational dispensaries now that Californians passed Prop 64 legalizing recreational use.
“In the parent world, we are very concerned about the commercialization of marijuana and what that means,” she said.
Sean St. Peter of SDMM was the first applicant to present. His proposed dispensary would be housed in a 5,074-square-foot space in a commercial building located at 1233 Camino del Rio South.
The location is in a commercial zone and backs up to a steep hill. St. Peter said the city staff verified that the location is 1,000 feet from any parks, schools, churches or child-oriented establishments but when the planning group asked to be presented the verification, St. Peter didn’t have any document with him.
The planning group also discussed the number of application in Mission Valley when there are already two operating dispensaries.
“Technically … there are two approved in Mission Valley but zero approved in District 7,” vice chair Marco Sessa said. “The ordinance does not differentiate between community planning areas and number of dispensaries. The ordinance says that there shall be no more than four per council district.”
There are already two dispensaries approved on the eastern edge of Mission Valley, south of Interstate 8, which are in District 3.
“Those are open and approved and I think our group supported them,” Sessa said. “I don’t think the group ever thought that all of a sudden it was going to be the only location within the council district plus the other districts that would house them all.”
The planning group then voted to not approve the application and invited St. Peter to return to the next meeting that has an opening, so he can produce a 1,000-foot boundary map with surrounding businesses for the group to look over.
Attorney Gina Austin then presented for Stone Age Farmacy’s dispensary application for 3456 Camino del Rio North. The proposed 1,889 square-foot space would include security upgrades, mitigated parking and an owner with experience in operating shops in Los Angeles.
Despite the thorough presentation, the planning group voted to not approve the application because the location is within 1,000 feet of a building owned by the San Diego Unified School District. Although the school district building is currently vacant, an application for an Audeo Charter School is pending and the planning group cited the growing need for schools in Mission Valley as reason to vote against approving a dispensary that would neighbor the potential school.
Rob Hutsel also pointed out that the location is also close to land that might be potentially turned into park space in the future.
Because the planning group’s decisions are only advisory, Stone Age Farmacy can still present its case before the city’s Planning Commission and because the charter school has not been approved yet, the dispensary still has a chance of approval.
Blake Marchand’s proposed Valley Greens Corp at 2835 Camino del Rio South was the final application before the planning group. Marchand’s project was different in that he is in the process of purchasing the building where he will set up a 2,183-square-foot dispensary in the 17,767-square-foot building.
Several of the current businesses that are tenants of the building came to urge the planning group to not approve. The businesses include an art therapist, a language school and a healing collective that consists of yoga instructors and massage therapists. They voiced concerns about students and clients choosing to stop patronizing them if a dispensary opens in the building.
The planning group voted to not approve the application because Marchand also did not furnish a map of the 1,000-foot buffer around the location. He can present again at the next available meeting.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.