Sorrento Valley marijuana production facility one of 21 approved citywide

On Dec. 6, the San Diego Planning Commission upheld a conditional use permit for a 36,361-square- foot marijuana production facility in Sorrento Valley. It was the first marijuana production facility (MPF) to be considered by the planning commission as an appeal was filed against the project citing vehicular access and parking issues.

City staff found that the project complied with all the regulations of the land use and development code and recommended denial of the appeal—the commission unanimously concurred.

The MPF will be located in an existing 41,124-square-foot, two-story building at 10170 Sorrento Valley Road. In September, the Torrey Pines Community Planning Board recommended approval of the project with recommendations to provide a more aggressive fire protection system and to provide a more comprehensive plan for storm water.The project was determined to be categorically exempt from the California Environmental Quality Act and it was approved for a conditional use permit by the city’s hearing officer.

In October, Sean St. Peter filed the development permit appeal—St. Peter has proposed a retail outlet and MPF about 1,000 feet away from the project in question.

“I cannot support the appeal,” said Commissioner William Hofman. “We allow 40 of these citywide and it seems to be it’s first come, first serve which generates a lot of competition. I’m guessing that’s why we’re seeing an appeal.”

Hofman questioned whether the process of approval of MPF applications in the city has essentially become “a mad dash to the finish line.”

Tim Daly, project manager with the city’s development services department, said the city has a little over 70 applications for MPFs and 21 have been approved at this time. Approximately 44 applications are currently in various stages in the review and appeal process and priority is given to when the final environmental document is approved.

“As it gets more competitive at this point of time you see more appeals of the notice of rights to appeal the environmental determination if it’s an exemption on the particular project,” Daly said.

Per city regulations, MPF facilities require a 1,000-foot separation from parks, churches, child care centers, playgrounds, libraries, minor-oriented facilities, residential care facilities and schools. The facilities must also be 100 feet from a residential zone. Security requirements include interior and exterior lighting, security cameras, alarms and a security guard.

Gina Austin, an attorney representing St. Peter, said the issues outlined in the appeal may seem minor but they should be corrected before approval.

“I am a cannabis advocate and an advocate of development so it’s hard for me to be against this project because we’re looking to put as many of these in as possible in the San Diego region to allow for the supply chain,” Austin said. “As an underlying basis to that, it has to be fair and it has to be consistent.”

During the hearing, project opponents shared similar concerns about parking and traffic, as well as the storage of hazardous materials on the site. Opponents also expressed frustrations with the city’s process as a whole—Kathleen Lippett, representing San Diegans for Safe Neighborhoods, said opponents have little chance of prevailing against a multi-million dollar enterprise.

“The city’s process for MPFs and marijuana outlets has been decidedly one-sided. It’s become clear over time that there is little tolerance for any objections for these facilities and that every obstacle has been cleared to accommodate them,” Lippett said. “The objections of nearby longstanding churches, youth serving organizations, treatment and recovery centers in the path of an MPF or retail outlets are dismissed out of hand.”

Lippett and Judi Strang, a local representative for PTAS and parent groups across the county, both questioned the need for more in the supply chain.

“The amount of pot and marijuana products that are going to be produced in this building will saturate our area,” said Strang. “Considering this is one of 40, you’re going to have a glut of marijuana in the city of San Diego and the County of San Diego, the state of California. This pot is going to leave our area and go other places. This is hardly anything anyone would consider good for public health, safety and welfare.”

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