The Rancho Bernardo Planning Board decided to challenge the latest proposed wording in city code pertaining to cannabis outlets and production facilities.

The board held a special meeting Saturday morning to decide what positions it wanted to take before the San Diego City Council met on Tuesday. The council was scheduled to make revisions to the city’s 12th update of its Land Development Code pertaining to cannabis (marijuana) outlets and facilities. This included rules pertaining to distance from homes and community facilities.

The city issued proposed updates after the board’s June meeting and was scheduled to vote before the board’s monthly meeting scheduled for tonight (Thursday).

The board’s Regional Issues Committee also held a special meeting last Thursday to review the cannabis issue plus proposed state legislation that could increase housing density in residential neighborhoods statewide, including Rancho Bernardo.

Since both issues were discussed Saturday and there are no additional issues, tonight’s board meeting has been canceled.

After hearing from several residents living near the site of a proposed outlet (dispensary) at 16375 Bernardo Center Drive, plus representatives from Hope United Methodist Church and its preschool — all of whom oppose the Urbn Leaf outlet — board members decided to focus on two points in their letter to city officials.

The code proposal only places a 100-foot separation between an outlet or production facility and residential property lines, but a 1,000-foot separation between the cannabis facilities and sensitive uses. These include city parks, houses of worship, child care centers, playgrounds, libraries owned and operated by the city, minor-oriented facilities, residential care facilities and schools. After much discussion, the board decided to request “for consistency” a 1,000-foot separation for the residential code.

Some meeting attendees said they worried they could risk losing the other 1,000-foot separation and, in the name of consistency, city officials could decide to opt for a 100-foot separation for all. But in the end the board decided it needed to take a stand and request the farther distance for both in the best interest of the community.

Resident Rob Brienza, whose Bernardo Heights home is closest to the proposed outlet, said “there is a bit of risk, but also reward to consider,” in the board requesting a consistent 1,000-foot separation.

Board members agreed the same concerns for children playing at a school or park and playing in their home’s backyard, or reading at a library versus their kitchen, should be equal. Since the city has decided there is a need for a 1,000-foot separation between a public space and outlet, the same should exist between a home and outlet.

“We need to represent our community’s interest in this case and need to take a strong position on the difference of 100 feet versus 1,000 feet,” said board member Tom Lettington. “We need to represent our people.”

“The inconsistency makes no sense,” said board member Sonny Googins.

During the committee meeting, members expressed support of the line between outlets and homes being measured horizontally instead of path of travel or other barriers being factored in.

However, when it comes to the distance between an outlet and the public spaces, the city proposes a 1,000-foot separation “measured between the property lines.” The wording is not as clear about a horizontal measurement, committee members said.

The board also decided Saturday to push for a Process 3 procedure when existing Conditional Use Permits are up for renewal rather than a now-proposed Process 2. The latter eliminates the public’s ability to speak against applications to a hearing officer, they said. Also, this new lower standard does not exist for other projects, so they questioned why it was being added for cannabis facilities.

“The change from Process 3 to 2 … takes the public’s voice out with these types of businesses and things going on that the public should have the opportunity to voice (objections),” said resident Becky Rapp.

As for the state legislation regarding housing, Regional Issues Committee Chairwoman Vicki Touchstone said last Thursday the Community Planners Committee — to which the RB Planning Board belongs — objects to two bills. They are Senate Bill (SB) 902 pertaining to planning and zoning, housing development density and Assembly Bill (AB) 1279 pertaining to housing developments in high-resource areas. The board decided Saturday to also object.

Per provided information:

• SB 902 “Would authorize a local government to pass an ordinance, notwithstanding any local restrictions on adopting zoning ordinances, to zone any parcel for up to 10 units of residential density per parcel, at a height specified by the local government in the ordinance, if the parcel is located in a transit-rich area, a jobs-rich area, or an urban infill site, as those terms are defined.” The Department of Housing and Community Development would determine the jobs-rich areas and publish a map of them every five years starting Jan. 1, 2022.

• AB 1279 would require the Department of Housing and Community Development to designate high-resource areas every five years starting Jan. 1, 2021. “In any area designated as a high-resource area, this measure would require cities, at the request of a developer, to allow up to fourplexes in single-family zones and up to 100 units per acre in commercial zones. These projects shall receive ministerial approval (use by-right).”

Touchstone said the CPC also supports two proposed bills. SB 474 would prohibit construction of new development projects within a very high fire hazard severity zone or state responsibility area. SB 1299 would use grants to give local governments incentives to rezone idle sites of big box retailers or commercial shopping centers for workforce housing.


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