Sunset abstaining from pot clubs

Mike Koozmin/The S.F. ExaminerA planned second location in the Sunset for Apothecarium

The cannabis industry is booming in California and nationwide, but it appears the Sunset will remain sheltered from the multibillion dollar green rush.

Tough zoning controls that would make it very difficult — if not impossible, as some marijuana advocates claim — for legal marijuana stores to open on commercial corridors in the Avenues are expected to be approved by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

Most of The City is off-limits to medical marijuana dispensaries under current zoning rules.

But with legal sales of marijuana in California possibly exceeding $1 billion annually, and with more money on the horizon if the state legalizes recreational marijuana next year, many of San Francisco’s 27 existing dispensaries are seeking to open up second locations.

On paper, expansion to The City’s west side is an attractive option. The neighborhood has commercial strips in the so-called green zone, where dispensaries are legal, but there are no dispensaries yet.

The closest dispensaries are on Geary Boulevard east of Park Presidio in the Richmond, and on Ocean Avenue near City College of San Francisco. As with most businesses, to get a permit to run a marijuana club in San Francisco, an applicant must follow all applicable zoning rules under a process called “discretionary review.”

If an application for a pot club follows all the rules, the permit is typically granted.

However, under zoning controls pushed by Supervisor Katy Tang, who represents the Sunset, a dispensary would have to go through the conditional-use permit process.

That means a dispensary would also have to show that it’s “necessary or desirable for the neighborhood and is compatible with” the surrounding neighborhood, according to the Planning Department.

This would make it easier for neighborhood opposition to halt a pot club in its tracks. And thus far, the Sunset has proved unwilling to allow pot clubs.

A proposal to open up a Sunset dispensary on Taraval Street in 2010 was approved by the Planning Commission, but later revoked at the Board of Appeals following a neighborhood outcry.

Tang’s proposal would apply to commercial stretches on Judah, Irving, Noriega and Taraval streets. There are currently two applications for new dispensaries on Taraval Street and one — a second location for The Apothecarium, a dispensary on Market Street near Church Street — proposed for Noriega Street.

Tang’s tougher requirement is not new. A 2012 law passed by the Board of Supervisors required pot clubs in the Sunset to have the tougher review process.

However, a 2015 cleanup of The City’s zoning code reversed the 2012 law.

Tang’s proposal is aimed to “correct those … unintended consequences,” she said Monday.

There is a total of 14 pending applications for new medical marijuana dispensaries in San Francisco, according to the Planning Department.

The tougher rules could be approved at the full Board of Supervisors meeting today. If approved, they would go into effect May 12.

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