Rancho Bernardo board opposes attempt to change cannabis store rules
The city of San Diego’s 1,000-foot distance rule between cannabis outlets and sensitive uses – such as schools, parks, libraries, and religious establishments – has been used by residents of Rancho Bernardo to block two proposed outlets in the community’s business district.
Some residents have said at community meetings that they are not necessarily opposed to opening outlets in Rancho Bernardo, but feel they are better suited to places such as Rancho Bernardo Business Park. rather than areas where children are frequently present.
A new city proposal to relax this rule is seen as a threat to the ability of residents to have a say in where such outlets may operate in the future, according to discussion at the virtual meeting of the Rancho Bernardo planning board on December 16.
The new proposal continues to include schools, daycares and facilities for minors like a boys and girls club on the list of sensitive uses, but lowers the restriction from 1,000 feet to 600 feet for religious facilities, parks , libraries and playgrounds. The way distances are measured could also change.
At the end of the discussion, the council voted unanimously to send a letter to city officials “strongly” opposing any modification of the distance rules.
Stephen Whitburn, a member of San Diego City Council, District 3, which includes Downtown, North Park and Old Town, is leading an effort to increase the number of cannabis outlets in the city by nearly 40% and bring them to neighborhoods, such as Rancho Bernardo, which does not have one.
The clinic’s opening hours could also be extended from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily to 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., as part of the proposal.
Resident Becky Rapp, who spoke out against the Rancho Bernardo outlet proposals in recent board meetings, said the change would allow the city to easily “stamp” requests that the community is facing. ‘would oppose.
“He’s trying to find a workaround,” Rapp said of Whitburn.
“I support (outlets) with reasonable use regulations,” said resident Rob Brienza, whose home is within 100 feet of the old El Torito restaurant where an outlet has been offered. . He objected to the location for several reasons, including the proximity to his home.
“(Whitburn) is trying to meet the needs of the marijuana businesses,” Brienza said.
Whitburn said the change would align city rules with state law, although critics say state law gives cities discretion to implement stricter regulations based on priorities from the community.
Earlier this month, the proposal was presented to the city’s planning commission and the council’s land use committee. Both have postponed decisions until February so residents and community leaders can influence dispensary location rules established in 2014. They limit the total to 36 dispensaries, with a maximum of four per municipal district.
Kathleen Lippitt, a resident of Poway, a public health practitioner and public policy advocate with the Coastal Communities Drug Free Coalition, has spoken out against outlets often.
“It’s important to remember that the current marijuana ordinance became a code after 18 months of weekly city meetings with a city-appointed task force, residents, and marijuana businesses (representatives),” Lippitt told the RB planning board. “Current sensitive use (rules) is the only protection that communities and residents still enjoy. … If they can’t reach 36 outlets (across town), so be it. “
If helping to support the cannabis industry is a state priority, cities should be their residents first, Lippitt said.
As of December 17, a list on the city’s website shows that 27 cannabis outlets have been approved. The maximum of four limits has been reached in City Council Districts 1, 2, 6, 7, 8 and 9. Whitburn District 3 has two, District 4 has one and another pending application and District 5 (which includes Rancho Bernardo) has none.
There are two apps listed for District 5 – one unnamed listed at 16375 Bernardo Center Drive (the former El Torito) in Rancho Bernardo and one for March & Ash at 13510 Saber Springs Parkway. (It’s in Saber Springs, but its community is mistakenly identified as Rancho Peñasquitos on the list).
In recent years, two outlets – Urbn Leaf and March & Ash – have been offered for Rancho Bernardo.
In 2019 Urbn Leaf applied to open in the old El Torito restaurant which had been vacant for years. His claim then – identified with the same number as the current claim on file for that location – was strongly opposed due to its proximity to the homes, youth-oriented businesses in the mall where the building is located, the Hope United Methodist Church and Preschool Church. All are within the 1000 foot limit.
Earlier this year, March & Ash applied for the vacant old San Diego National Bank building at 16789 Bernardo Center Drive (across from US Bank). But his request was withdrawn after his distance to Webb Park and the Remington Club was measured. (There is also a limit of 1,000 feet for residential care facilities, while the limit for residential areas is 100 feet.)
“It’s just gambling, really frustrating,” said Hugh Rothman, RB planning board member. “I don’t want to lose the protection the city offers our residents. We don’t want to change the city by-law to be more state-compliant.
“The city is going backwards and no longer protecting its citizens,” said board member Ben Wier.
“The city shouldn’t be looking for workarounds,” said Joni Edelman, board member. “It appears to be targeting communities with little or no facilities that want to be here.”
Rapp reminded the board that state rules have tightened for billboards at cannabis outlets so they’re not so easily seen by children, but this change – if adopted – would place outlets near schools and homes.
“Basically it’s the city that says ‘We don’t care about (residents) … we want the (marijuana) industry to grow,’” Rapp said.
Residents said lowering the distance rule would make additional locations potentially eligible. For example, someone mentioned the old vacant building of the Souplantation that is in front of the parking lot of the Rancho Bernardo library.
In other board business:
• Voted 5-4 not to recommend the proposed AT&T cell tower on the RB Swim & Tennis Club property at the proposed location.
The board reportedly received 59 messages from community members opposed to the tower (including 21 specifically mentioning the location as the reason) and 28 messages of support (including five from members of the Swim & Tennis board).
As highlighted at the meeting, San Diego city officials will have the final say as the RB planning board is an advisory group to the city.
• He voted unanimously to send a letter to the city detailing the concerns of council members regarding the proposed changes to the way planning boards operate across the city.
• Voted to rescind last month’s appointment of Seven Oaks resident June Smith to the board as she failed to meet meeting eligibility criteria. He was unable to renew her this month due to the proximity of the 2022 elections.
• Reminded residents that those interested in running for election in March and who have not attended a full council meeting in the past year have another opportunity on January 20 to meet the requirement. For more details and the nomination form, visit RBPlanningBoard.com.
San Diego Union-Tribune reporter David Garrick contributed to this article.