Glitch in planning rules was key factor in appeal of Taraval pot dispensary
On Wednesday night the San Francisco Board of Appeals sided with a church and a tutoring center in yanking the permit of a medical-marijuana dispensary planned for Taraval Street in the Outer Sunset. The board’s decision rested not only on the testimony of neighborhood residents and businesses opposed to the dispensary at 2139 Taraval St., but also on a glitch in the city Planning Code. That glitch lies in a section of the code that refers to a definition of a recreational facility — one of the kinds of land uses, including schools, from which dispensaries legally must keep their distance — in another specific part of the code.
The problem is that the part of the code purportedly containing the definition doesn’t exist.
That means that when the city Planning Commission approved a permit for Bay Area Compassionate Health on the basis of a Planning Department report stating that the dispensary would be far enough from recreational facilities, the report was essentially making up the rules, according to the Chinese Gospel Church’s appeal.
“To grant BACH a permit for its [dispensary] based on a definition set forth in a non-existent ordinance is to arbitrarily invent new criteria on which to grant BACH’s permit application, something the law prohibits,” the church’s appeal states.
Supervisor Carmen Chu, whose District 4 includes the Outer Sunset location proposed for the dispensary, told the San Francisco Appeal that this technicality was as big a factor in the board’s decision as anything else: “Right now, according to the law, they refer to a definition of a recreational facility in a section of the code that simply doesn’t exist. There is an issue with regards to the code. … It’s a very technical issue, but it needs to be fixed.”
[Board President Tanya Peterson] and her colleagues on the board all professed to be “in favor” of legal medical cannabis, they said. But since several — legal and illegal — pot-delivery services cater to the Sunset District, a brick-and-mortar establishment is further unnecessary, they testified.
This means would-be dispensary owner Greg Schoepp, a wheelchair-bound medical-cannabis patient, is out nearly a year’s worth of rent and whatever he paid to make the necessary upgrades to 2139 Taraval St. (would-be pot clubs must be rented and upgraded during the permitting process). Schoepp left Wednesday’s hearing immediately after the verdict and did not respond to a telephone call seeking comment.
“I’m very surprised the Board of Appeals would unanimously overturn the Planning Commission’s decision,” said Derek St. Pierre, Schoepp’s attorney. “The material presented to [the Board of Appeals] was the same material presented to the Planning Commission [who approved the pot club].”
The San Francisco Examiner reported that San Francisco Unified School District Superintendent Carlos Garcia sent the Board of Appeals a letter opposing the dispensary.
Garcia said in a letter that the location “sits in a densely populated merchants corridor. This area is a popular draw for the students of Lincoln High School. The facility could serve as a resource for providing cannabis to the broader student population of Lincoln High School.”
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