Midway Planners Savor First Area Medical Marijuana Dispensary

by on April 27, 2015 · 1 comment

in Civil Rights, Culture, Environment, Health, History, Media, Ocean Beach, San Diego

Midway MedMJ Hancock 3452Report of Midway Community Planning Group

By Tony de Garate / Special to the OB Rag

Like it or not, medical marijuana is coming to the Midway area – and police are calling on its citizenry to prevent the area from becoming overrun with rogue operators.

Only one Midway dispensary has gained legal status so far in the 13 months since the San Diego City Council approved regulations to allow storefronts to legally sell medical pot. But with its abundance of industrial areas that are devoid of churches, libraries, parks and residential housing, the community reeks of dispensary-friendly zoning — and potential opportunities for non-certified medical pot merchants who want to fly under the radar, police say.

“No matter how you stand on it, marijuana is a reality in Midway. But illegal dispensaries are still a concern, and we still have a number of places that are operating illegally,”

 – said David Surwilo, community services officer for SDPD’s Western Division, at the monthly meeting of the Midway Community Planning Group on April 16.

No community looked riper for the pickings than Midway when the City Council passed the Medical Marijuana Consumer Cooperative ordinance in March of 2014. Between April and July of last year, no fewer than 16 applications were reviewed by Midway planners, which is composed of elected volunteers who are sanctioned by the City Council to make land-use and quality-of-life recommendations.

“A lot of people wanted to come here, and I know there were a lot of questions,” Surwilo said.

With the city’s approval of Point Loma Patients Consumer Cooperative at 3542 Hancock St., only two of the remaining 15 applications are still working their way through the process. Many were eliminated from consideration because the law prohibits more than one dispensary within a 1,000-feet radius.

Another feature of the law that may tempt operators to set up fly-by-night shops, Surwilo said: only four dispensaries may operate in each of the nine City Council districts.

Because only four dispensaries have been permitted so far in the entire city, it’s likely one operating now is doing so as a non-certified storefront, Surwilo said.

In other news:

Is medical marijuana process unfair? Planning Group may weigh in. It’s become commonplace for rejected applicants who want to sell medical marijuana to gripe about their fates to the Midway planning committee, and this month was no exception.

Jeff Barfield of RBF Consulting complained his client, Patient’s Alternative at 3571 Pacific Highway, would have been a better choice than the property next door at 3225 Bean St. But when the two proposals appeared on the March 25 agenda of the San Diego Hearing Officer, the Bean Street application, which was filed six days earlier than Patient’s Alternative, got to be heard first. It was approved and, since no two dispensaries can operate within 1,000 feet of each other, the Patient’s Alternative application was rendered moot.

Patient’s Alternative has appealed the decision to the San Diego Planning Commission, which has final say and will hear the matter May 28, Barfield said.  Patient’s Alternative would have offered a new building and better landscaping, sidewalks, off-street parking and bicycle parking — features the city doesn’t consider when issuing permits, he said.

“The city’s ‘first-in, first-out’ approach clearly favors projects that propose the least amount of improvement,” Barfield said.

He called on the planning group to support changing the process to let the city decide which applicant would better advance the “goals, policies and design objectives of the community plan.”

“Without this message, … an opportunity will be missed to improve the neighborhood,” Barfield said.

MCPG Chairwoman Melanie Nickel said she would poll members over the next few weeks and consider placing the matter on the May 20 agenda.

Melanie Nickel re-elected chair

Nickel, who was elected to her fifth consecutive three-year term last month, headed a slate of officers that won unanimous support. Other officers are Kurt Sullivan, vice chair; and Meg Newcomb, secretary.

In addition to Nickel, group members elected last month were: Tod Howarth, Cathy Kenton, Jacob McKean, Sullivan, Mike Swanston, Kristy Swanston, Newcomb and Lyle Butler.

Welcome Back, Carter

Bill Carter, new service lieutenant for the portion of the SDPD’s Western Division that is south of I-8 and west of I-5, introduced himself. Carter moves over from the department’s Internal Affairs Unit but is no stranger to Western. He spent eight years in various capacities in Western and also spent time in the Vice Division.

“I have a bit of knowledge (when it comes to) entertainment-type districts,” Carter said. He can be contacted at wcarter@pd.sandiego.gov.

New Zapf Aide Introduced

Bruce Williams, aide to San Diego City Councilwoman Lorie Zapf, introduced himself to group members. Williams is a former community planner himself, having spent eight years on the Encanto Community Planning Group. He will represent Zapf in Mission Beach as well as Midway.

The Midway Community Planning Group represents the Midway area and Pacific Highway Corridor and meets every third Wednesday of the month. The next meeting is May 20 at 3 p.m. in Room 208 of the West City Campus, San Diego Community College, Continuing Education, 3249 Fordham St.


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bodysurferbob April 27, 2015 at 3:57 pm

you landlubbers need to understand – so-called illegal med pot shops are serving a lot of patients – many, many more than the legal shops. so whatever officer surwilo says, just remember that the city can’t have it both ways – it can’t restrict pot shops to industrial areas and then complain that they’re coming in to our local industrial area, the midway.


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