By Jeff Clemetson
The June 7 meeting of the Mission Valley Planning Group once again saw action on a familiar type of item — medical marijuana dispensaries.
The planning group voted to postpone a decision on a new applicant because a report from city staff on the application had not been completed. There was also a vote to appeal a decision by the city to allow an application that the planning group had previously rejected.
The new applicant presented a plan to open a dispensary at 1235 Hotel Circle South, Suite C. Joe Esposito, the applicant’s representative, said the site would be upgraded with security enhancements; the parking lot would be reconfigured to add a turnaround; and that the dispensary would employ a system to track its products to insure they do not end up in the hands of minors.
After Esposito’s presentation, planning group board member Jim Penner objected to the dispensary’s location because of its proximity to the proposed Morris Cerullo International Legacy Center, a religious-themed resort complex. Penner, who is the project director for the Cerullo resort, recused himself from the board vote on the dispensary to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest, but said he wanted to point out that the resort complex will have facilities for children if it is built.
“Also, I have not seen these cooperatives necessarily go into areas or neighborhoods that are hotel heavy,” he said. “Everything around there is a hotel and they are all family hotels.”
Esposito said the city ordinance governing medical marijuana dispensaries says that only businesses that are over 50 percent child-oriented can invoke the 1,000-foot buffer between itself and a dispensary.
“The hotel is not considered a child-oriented business … so I don’t think they can do anything about that unless they write something or add something to the ordinance itself,” he said.
Board member Marco Sessa was concerned with how many dispensaries the planning group could consider. San Diego allows for four dispensaries in each of the City Council voting districts. Mission Valley already has two approved dispensaries in District 3.
“Do you know how many have been approved now in District 7? Where are we with all the other applicants?” Sessa asked.
City planner Nancy Graham did not know the exact number.
“They are all on appeal,” she said of all the previous applicants that the planning group has considered.
After the planning group voted to postpone action on the new applicant, it voted for to make an appeal of its own.
At its Feb. 1, 2017 meeting, the planning group voted to reject an application by Stone Age Farmacy to open a dispensary at 3456 Camino del Rio North because the location was within 1,000 feet of a building owned by the San Diego Unified School District. Although there is no school currently in operation at the location, SDUSD is in discussion with Audeo Charter Schools to open a school there. The planning group at the time pointed to Mission Valley’s need for schools for its reason to reject the dispensary application.
The proposed dispensary was also near the San Diego River where a future park might be located as the river Park Plan is implemented.
However, the city’s hearing officer determined that the location was compliant because no school has yet to be permitted for the location and the San Diego River is not yet identified in the city’s general plan as a recreational park and approved the project despite the planning group’s objections.
Randy Dolph motioned to appeal the hearing officer’s decision. Reading from the appeal he drafted, he said:
“While the city staff and hearing officer may have applied the strictest, technical opinion of meeting the municipal code, it does not meet the intent of providing a reasonable separation between MMCCs and schools and parks. This was echoed by the community to be with Mission Valley Planning Group’s overwhelming vote of 14 to 1 to zero to deny the project.”
The planning group would be joining SDUSD, which also appealed the hearing officer decision.
—Reach Jeff Clemetson at email@example.com.