San Diego City Council greenlights Linda Vista pot facility
The San Diego City Council agreed by a 5-4 vote Tuesday to allow a marijuana production facility in Linda Vista, ending a months-long battle for what appears to be the last available conditional use permit.
The decision came even though city hearing officers had already approved 40 such permits — the most allowed under current city rules. Staff recommended that this permit application be rejected because the city had reached the limit.
But one of the 40 prior approvals is pending an appeal to the city Planning Commission next week.
A majority of City Council members said the applicant being considered for approval Tuesday -- 1028 Buenos Avenue, Suite B -- deserved the permit due to an error made by city staff earlier this year.
“They are under a separate track because of what happened in January,” said Councilman Chris Cate. “I don’t see how we have hit the 40 cap” if the other application is still in the appeal process.
The permit application from 1028 Buenos Avenue, Suite B, which has been operating as Urbn Leaf since 2016, had been pending since the application was completed in 2017.
But its approval was delayed after city planners wrongly exempted the application from environmental rules because they overlooked the fact that a dance studio that includes children among its customers was within 1,000 feet of the proposed production site. By the time that error was noted, permit applications from other pot entrepreneurs had been filed and approved.
A lawyer for the applicant said her client should not be penalized for a mistake by the city.
“It is fundamentally unfair to invoke the 40-permit cap to deny the Buenos MPF,” attorney Robin Madaffer said, referring to the marijuana production facility application. “Despite the delay, the Buenos MPF has been in the queue since 2017 and was ahead in the process until the (California Environmental Quality Act) exemption error.”
Madaffer included a notarized letter from the owner of The Movement Dance Center, who said she supported the permit application because she was moving her studio outside the 1,000-foot restriction zone and Urban Leaf was a good neighbor.
The conditional use permit granted to 1028 Buenos Avenue, Suite B allows the operator to manufacture and distribute a variety of marijuana products, including smokable pot, vaping canisters, edible products and marijuana-infused drinks.
Some of the councilmembers who voted against the measure said they had concerns about the dance studio and about the fairness of the applicant whose appeal is pending.
Tuesday’s permit approval sets up a possible legal fight with other companies that had hoped to secure one of the last marijuana production permits to be approved. Two other law firms sent council members letters urging them to deny the Urbn Leaf permit.
“It’s going to put you in a legal morass that you really do not want to be in,” lawyer Cynthia Morgan-Reed told city council before the vote. “If you support the motion to move forward today … you’re creating a legal liability for the city.”
Councilmembers Cate, Barbara Bry, Chris Ward, Mark Kersey and Scott Sherman voted to approve the permit. Council President Georgette Gomez and Councilmembers Jennifer Campbell, Monica Montgomery and Vivian Moreno opposed the motion.
Planning officials told the council they planned to review the 40-permit cap and the overall approval process.