City Council approves marijuana outlet in Sorrento Valley

A new retail cannabis facility in Sorrento Valley won approval from San Diego City Council on June 18. The vote was 7-1 with Councilmember Lorie Zapf voting against it.

“As we all know, an overwhelming number of voters supported Prop 63 and I also, along with five of my colleagues, approved responsible regulation of the entire supply chain,” said Council President Pro Tem Barbara Bry making the motion to approve the facility.

Two more facilities are in the process to open in Sorrento Valley. Under San Diego City Council’s rule, the number of dispensaries per council district is limited to four, meaning Sorrento Valley could potentially be the home of all four District 1 facilities in about a two-mile stretch as Torrey Holistics is already in operation on 10671 Roselle Street.

Owner Belinda Smith will partner with OutCo (Outliers Collective) in El Cajon for the new establishment, located in a 1,451-square-foot former bank building on 10715 Sorrento Valley Road. She said she hopes to open by September.

This was the first time that City Council was considering a marijuana outlet, which typically go through a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application via the city’s Development Services Department, including a hearing officer and a Planning Commission hearing. City staff determined that the project is exempt from California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), however, the city received an appeal of the environmental exemption which forced the public hearing at City Council.

The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board had opposed the project due to its proximity to a youth facility and another marijuana outlet, traffic and parking concerns and its violation of the Torrey Pines Community Plan which has a policy that prohibits free-standing retail establishments in the industrial-designated area of Sorrento Valley.

Vicki Estrada, of Estrada Land Planning representing the outlet, said the project meets all codes and ordinances.

“We worked really hard with the community planning group to really get them to understand what this project is all about,” Estrada said. “We tried to educate them and deal with their concerns.”

Planning board members were even invited to tour OutCo in El Cajon.

“Despite going above and beyond and being thanked for how transparent I am, I still got a no from them. They just said ‘Sorry, we just don’t want you in our community, you’re simply too visible’,” Smith said. “From my standpoint, we need to be visible to be successful.”

Marijuana outlets must comply with San Diego Municipal Code, which requires a 1,000-foot separation from public parks, churches, child care centers, playgrounds, libraries, minor-oriented facilities, other marijuana consumer cooperatives, residential care facilities and schools. There is also a minimum distance requirement of 100 feet from a residential zone.

The project meets all the requirements, according to Firouzeh Tirandazi, development project manager for the city of San Diego’s Development Services Department. However, the planning board has argued that both a youth orchestra and cannabis outlet Torrey Holistics are located within the 1,000 feet.

Tirandazi said that city staff requires that a youth facility be the primary business within the building and control 50 percent of the square footage — the orchestra does not.

While the new facility will be located 394 linear feet from Torrey Holistics, Tirandazi said the 1,000 feet from other marijuana outlet uses is measured in a horizontal line. If a natural barrier occurs, then it is measured as a direct route around the barrier—the two outlets are separated by Sorrento Valley Road, train tracks and a railroad parking lot.

City staff also believes that the facility is in compliance with the community plan regarding freestanding retail.

“The project has been designed and conditioned to accommodate an additional tenant space by a non-retail use, therefore it is not considered to be freestanding retail,” Tirandazi said.

Smith said she does not know yet who the other tenant will be in the vacant space.

Estrada said the existing building’s parking lot’s 22 spaces meets the city’s parking requirements, street parking is available and the outlet is adjacent to an unpaved lot on Begonia Street that can serve as parking.

The facility will comply with all safety requirements including exterior lighting, security cameras, alarms and a security guard. A security guard licensed by the state will be present during all business hours, Estrada said.

Smith said she is excited to offer a store with a unique concept, something very different than what is currently in the market.

Speaking in support of the project. San Diego resident Alan Honadle said as the city has taken a proactive step developing a plan to move forward with the cannabis industry, he said it’s very important that the city select the most responsible business owners that it could possibly find.

“From a personal and professional integrity standpoint, the city will not have a more upstanding citizen in this important, high visibility industry than Belinda Smith,” Honadle said.

Those in opposition to the facility included Judi Strang of the San Dieguito Alliance for Drug Free Youth—speaking out for parent groups and the many residences and schools that are located around the site (the closest school, Torrey Hills Elementary, is located 1.7 miles from the location).

“I don’t think the conditional use permit has been properly vetted so parents and community can speak to it,” Strang said.

The Torrey Pines Community Planning Board, which covers Torrey Pines and Sorrento Valley all the way to the Carroll Canyon intersection, has been responsible for reviewing the applications for marijuana outlets.

According to Torrey Pines Community Planning Board Chair Dennis Ridz, the board recently approved an 8,100-square-foot retail cannabis facility at 10150 Sorrento Valley Road.

“We’ve worked with this person for quite a while,” Ridz said of the facility’s operator. “It’s an area that’s off the beaten path somewhat and is close to the highway.”

The fourth outlet is proposed at 11189 Sorrento Valley Road.

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