Jurist Article: California Supreme Court rules San Diego should have considered environmental impact of marijuana zoning ordinance
The Supreme Court of California ruled Monday that the City of San Diego improperly failed to consider the environmental impact of its new zoning ordinance limiting the creation of marijuana dispensaries.
The Supreme Court reversed the decision of the court of appeal affirming the finding of the City of San Diego that adoption of an ordinance authorizing the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries and regulating their location and operation did not constitute a project, holding that the court of appeal misapplied the test for determining whether a proposed activity has the potential to cause environmental change under Cal. Pub. Res. Code 21065.
The City did not conduct any environmental review when adopting the ordinance, finding that adoption of the ordinance did not constitute a project for purposes of the California Environmental Quality Act, Cal. Pub. Res. Code 21000 et seq. (CEQA). Petitioner filed a petition for writ of mandate challenging the City’s failure to conduct CEQA review. The trial court denied the petition. The court of appeal affirmed, concluding that the City correctly concluded that the ordinance was not a project because it did not have the potential to cause a physical change in the environment. The Supreme Court reversed and remanded the case for further findings, holding that the City erred in determining that the adoption of the Ordinance was not a project.
The Jurist writes..
San Diego Ordinance O-20356, put forward by the city council in 2014, sought to impose a number of limitations on where marijuana dispensaries could legally be established. The ordinance restricted marijuana dispensaries to certain types of commercial or industrial zones. The ordinance limited any given city district to no more than four dispensaries, which could not be placed within 1000 feet of “sensitive areas,” such as parks and schools, or within 100 feet of residential zones. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Section 21065 requires environmental impact studies for any project that “(1) is undertaken or funded by, or subject to the approval of a public agency and (2) may cause either a direct physical change in the environment, or a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment.” The city found that the zoning ordinance in question did not fit this definition of a project and declined to conduct an environmental impact study which led to this lawsuit.