Resident, church keep Sunset district pot fight alive

A Sunset district resident and a local church are trying to stop a medical cannabis dispensary from opening in their neighborhood.

In May, the Bay Area Compassion Health Center received a permit from the Planning Department to open a pot club in a former chiropractor’s office at 2139 Taraval St. The permit was approved despite opposition from numerous neighborhood residents, the local police captain and Supervisor Carmen Chu, who represents the area.

Kenneth Chow, a local resident and father who runs a tutoring business on the same block as the proposed dispensary, and the Chinese Gospel Church, located next door to the closed office, both filed appeals opposing the dispensary last week.

Parents in the largely residential neighborhood say the dispensary poses a threat to children, he said.

“That hurts my business,” he said, adding that the dispensary poses a criminal threat on top of other concerns. “They cannot have cannabis around a school area. I don’t want to take that chance.”

Dispensaries must be located at least 1,000 feet away from schools and parks, according to city law. While the nearest school, Abraham Lincoln High, is nine blocks away — more than the required distance — Chow said there are youth groups, his tutoring service and other “facilities that primarily serve children” nearby.

Would-be dispensary operator Greg Schoep, a general contractor and owner of a Balboa Street hardware store, said staff from both the Planning Commission and Planning Department ruled that it is acceptable for a dispensary to operate in the area.

“We did our due diligence, and we were approved [by a 5-1 commission vote] on our merits,” said Schoep, a medical cannabis patient who has used a wheelchair since he was shot during a home invasion in 1982. He said the club’s security would help calm safety fears.

“Right now, it’s the patients’ rights that are being trampled on,” Schoep said. “It’s about the medicine, and safe access to medicine in the Sunset.”

Medical use of marijuana has been legal in California since state voters approved Proposition 215 in 1996. There are 24 dispensaries in San Francisco, but only one on The City’s west side and none in the Sunset district, according to the Department of Public Health.

Both sides will argue their case at the Board of Permit Appeals on Nov. 17. Four of the five board members must vote against the dispensary to halt its opening, according to Vincent Pacheco, legal assistant at the Board of Permit Appeals.

Following the board’s decision, either party can request a rehearing or appeal the decision to the San Francisco Superior Court, Pacheco said.

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