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North County Report: Oceanside Approves Limited Retail Access to Medical Marijuana

The Navy is working on plans to house tens of thousands of migrants, Encinitas pushes back hard against affordable housing options and more in our weekly roundup of North County news. 

A driver makes a marijuana delivery in San Diego. / Photo by Vito Di Stefano

When Oceanside adopted its initial commercial marijuana rules earlier this year, the City Council chose not to allow retail sales, due in large part to concerns over public safety.

At the time, Police Chief Frank McCoy said the City Council was moving too fast — despite the work of a six-month subcommittee that had just wrapped up — and he didn’t have time to study how dispensaries would affect law enforcement.

Last week, the City Council called on McCoy for an update, who said it was still too early to tell how dispensaries affect law enforcement. That recommendation ultimately led the Council to continue its ban on storefront dispensaries but allow two delivery-only permits.

When the rules were approved in April, McCoy relied on anecdotal evidence from Colorado to recommend the city not allow dispensaries. Since then, he has surveyed police departments in San Diego, Santa Ana, Long Beach and Los Angeles, which allowed medical dispensaries in 2017.

None of the cities could firmly cite increases in crime due to legal dispensaries, but police from San Diego and Los Angeles said there appeared to be increases in burglaries and violent crime. Those conclusions were only anecdotal, however, since they don’t actually have a way to track crime related to the businesses.

Each city said the presence of illegal dispensaries continues to be a problem. And each said it has had to hire or dedicate existing personnel to crack down on the glut of illegal dispensaries, in addition to new regulations that require police to play a role in licensing and inspecting legal dispensaries.

In light of McCoy’s report, the Oceanside City Council agreed to give out two permits to local delivery-only business. The previous rules required those businesses be headquartered outside the city limits.

Deputy Mayor Chuck Lowery, who was part of the committee that helped draft policy recommendations for the city, said this was a big step.

“This is 1,000 light years ahead of what we’ve got right now,” he told the Union-Tribune.

The City Council also relaxed some regulations on commercial growing operations in agricultural areas and allowed cultivators to seek waivers when they are located too close to one another, or to certain “sensitive use” facilities like homes, parks or playgrounds.

Oceanside’s agricultural area, Morro Hills, covers about 3,300 acres and is facing a slow-growth initiative that could carve the area into 2.5-acre lots.

But rather than see thousands of cultivators in Morro Hills, the City Council approved Mayor Peter Weiss’ proposal to limit the city to five commercial growers.

Camp Pendleton Could House Migrant Detainees

In response to President Donald Trump’s zero-tolerance policy for illegal border crossings, and the executive order he signed last week seeking to reduce the number of families separated under the policy, the U.S. Navy is working on plans to erect “temporary and austere” camps to house detainees.

One potential site is Camp Pendleton, which could hold up to 47,000 people in the coming months, according to an internal memo prepared for Navy Secretary Richard Spencer and obtained by Time magazine.

The plan has not yet been approved, and officials at Camp Pendleton were unaware of plans to detain immigrants there, according to the Union-Tribune.

People who work with immigrants in San Diego have condemned the plans, and one immigration lawyer expects it could cost as much as $500 million to detain immigrants for six months.

“That is an enormous waste of government resources,” Ginger Jacobs told the U-T. “It would be far less expensive to allow the asylum-seekers to live in their own communities with GPS monitor ankle bracelets on, so ICE can keep track of their whereabouts.”.

As Deadline Looms, Encinitas Removes Potential Affordable Housing Options

At the end of a marathon meeting that lasted until 2 a.m., the Encinitas City Council removed four parcels of land from its long-awaited affordable housing plan.

The Council was reacting to strong pushback from residents who have the ability to decide zoning changes in the city and have not been afraid to threaten a “no” vote on high-density housing, the Coast News reports.

By removing the sites, the city is now below the 1,600-units that are strongly recommended by the California Department of Housing and Community Development, which oversees municipal housing plans, as well as the city’s outside legal counsel.

The move also puts Encinitas in violation of a state law that requires 50 percent of sites selected in a housing plan be vacant.

Councilwoman Tasha Boerner-Horvath and Mayor Catherine Blakespear cast the only votes against the sites’ removal. They also opposed the Council’s decision to remove a city-owned parcel, dubbed L-7, earlier this year, which was done for similar reasons.

The Council’s decision also comes on the heels of a Planning Commission meeting that ran until 1 a.m. a few days earlier. The commissioners unanimously agreed to re-consider several of the 19 sites that could be rezoned for high-density housing.

The city has just one more meeting in July to finalize its plan. It then needs to be submitted to the county to appear on the November ballot, in accordance with a recent court decision.

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