The Rancho Bernardo Planning Board will hold a special online meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday to vote on two time-sensitive issues that cannot wait until its regular meeting next week.

The board’s Regional Issues Committee held a special online meeting Thursday night to discuss the two issues. They are:

• Revisions to the City of San Diego’s 12th update to the Land Development Code pertaining to cannabis (marijuana) outlets and facilities that the San Diego City Council will discuss on Tuesday.

• Bills going through the state Senate and Assembly that could increase housing density in residential neighborhoods statewide, including Rancho Bernardo.

Regarding the Land Development Code revisions, the proposed text was changed by city staff after the board’s June meeting. The Regional Issues Committee is recommending the board submit a letter reflecting its views on the changes that could impact the proposed Urbn Leaf cannabis outlet (dispensary) in Rancho Bernardo at 16375 Bernardo Center Drive.

The outlet is going through the city permit process and the board has heard many community objections for various reasons at meetings over the past year. They include the proposed location (the former El Torito restaurant) being — per municipal code provisions — too close to homes in Bernardo Heights, child-oriented businesses in the same shopping center plus Hope United Methodist Church and its preschool. Previous city staff reviews have said the outlet does not pass current municipal codes, but the outlet’s proponents disagree and have continued the application process for that site instead of withdrawing the application and finding a different location that meets code requirements.

Resident Rob Brienza, whose home’s property line is within 100 feet of the proposed outlet, told the committee that while the city’s proposed wording on how distance is measured appears to be positive for Rancho Bernardo regarding this particular site, they also need to look at the bigger picture of how it could impact other locations in the community. “A lot of (retail) real estate is opening and (cannabis outlet proponents) are playing the long game,” he said.

Per the proposed text, there is to be a 100 foot separation “from the property line of a residentially zoned lot or premises” — instead of residential zone — “measured horizontally in a straight line between the two closest points of the property lines without regard to topography or structures that would interfere with a straight-line measurement.”

Committee members expressed support of the line being measured horizontally instead of path of travel or other barriers being factored in as a requirement.

However, when it comes to the distance between an outlet and population-based city parks, churches, child care centers, playgrounds, libraries owned and operated by the city, minor-oriented facilities, residential care facilities and schools, the city proposes a 1,000-foot separation “measured between the property lines.” The wording is not as clear about a horizontal measurement as it is within the proposed residential section.

Members also said they would like the distance inconsistencies questioned and they are in support of the farther distance of 1,000 feet for all.

“It should be consistent, 1,000 feet from a residence,” said committee Chairwoman Vicki Touchstone. “What is the difference between a playground and a kid playing in their backyard?”

“The city is willing to have a cannabis (outlet) … 1,000 feet from a school … but 100 feet from residences. That’s ludicrous,” said committee member Joni Edelman.

“Our goal should be to do the best for our community,” said committee member Tom Lettington, explaining he too supports the 1,000-foot separation for all and mentioned concerns about code language including production facilities, not just cannabis retail outlets. “Our best interest for Rancho Bernardo is to change it from 100 to 1,000 feet.”

Resident Becky Rapp also brought to the committee’s attention the change requiring a Process 2 review instead of the current Process 3 review. Rapp said the lower review means the public hearing requirement is eliminated, yet the hearing is a way for the community to voice objections.

“(City staff) are taking out the opportunity for the public to come out and speak out to the hearing officer,” Rapp said. “(Otherwise,) we do not know these businesses are coming up. Process 3 requires a public hearing. That is concerning for things coming down the road.”

As for the state legislation regarding housing, Touchstone said the Community Planners Committee — to which the RB Planning Board belongs — has raised objections to two bills, which the planning board is being asked to weigh in on as well. 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.

Per provided information to the committee:

• 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 to proposed bills. SB 474 pertains to very high fire severity zones development. It would prohibit construction of new development projects within a very high fire hazard severity zone or state responsibility area. SB 1299 pertains to housing development incentives and rezoning of idle retail sites. It would use grants to give local governments incentives to rezone idle sites of big box retailers or commercial shopping centers for workforce housing.

To attend and comment on the two issues during the planning board’s special online meeting at 10 a.m. Saturday via Zoom, those interested need to submit a link request by 9:30 a.m. Saturday to The agenda is at

Lacking additional agenda items, the Rancho Bernardo Planning Board will not meet on July 16 as originally scheduled, said board Chairwoman Robin Kaufman.


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