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Neighborhood resists pot dispensary

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A medical marijuana dispensary that hopes to take root in the residential Outer Sunset district is raising the hackles of some neighbors, who say they would rather the dispensary plant itself somewhere else.

The proposed project would place a dispensary on Taraval Street between 31st and 32nd avenues, and so far has not proven popular. Supervisor Carmen Chu, whose district includes portions of the Sunset, says “99 percent” of the feedback she has heard opposes the project. Meanwhile, project sponsors say they’re there to stay and will try again next year if they fail this time.

In fact, the battle may portend things to come, say The City’s Planning Department staff and medical cannabis experts.

The regulations San Francisco imposed on dispensaries between 2005 and 2008 limit new venues to areas that are not zoned residential and are 1,000 feet away from schools and recreational facilities. There are currently 23 permitted dispensaries in The City, down from 43 nonpermitted venues in 2005.

The resulting “green map” of areas where dispensaries are permitted to be shows the vast majority of The City is off-limits to the businesses, Planning Department Zoning Administrator Larry Badiner said.

“I think it’s presenting problems because when we analyzed the ordinance and looked at where they can be permitted, there are very few places in The City you can locate,” he said. “There are just dots and islands across The City.”

Some of those islands are in areas where dispensaries naturally gravitated, even before they were legal — places like the Mission district, South of Market and Divisadero Street — and where they still thrive. But most are strewn across neighborhoods further afield.

Planning Department Legislative Analyst Tara Sullivan said the department has seen an uptick of interest in opening new dispensaries; she said she receives requests for information about a potential site about twice a week. But many of the venues don’t fit the tight regulations imposed by The City, and others are in neighborhoods where there is likely to be significant opposition.

None of this is intimidating project sponsor Greg Schoepp, a longtime San Francisco resident and medical cannabis user who said he and his partners have already leased the site for five years, and promises that if he fails to get the project through this year, he will try again next year. He said it took him 14 months to find the Taraval street site, and that the Sunset district is exactly where he wants to be.

Chu said she would consider a moratorium on new dispensaries.

Said Sunset resident Greg Syler: “I just don’t think it’s conducive to a neighborhood like the Sunset where it’s primarily families. … The Sunset has had a lot of trouble with [marijuana] growing operations and prostitution.”


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