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Giant new Cow Hollow dispensary approved, despite property’s problematic permitting past

Giant new Cow Hollow dispensary approved, despite property’s problematic permitting past
Image: Google Street View
By Joe Kukura - Published on April 22, 2022.

On the day after 4/20, the SF Planning Commission approved a sprawling new cannabis dispensary called Rose Mary Jane at the corner of Lombard and Steiner Streets, which will take up both the former Chubby Noodle Marina space and an adjacent real estate office. But these plans have been choked up for years, because apparently, the commission and the SF Department of Building Inspection spaced out on some permits way back in 2004.


Image: SF Planning Department

 

To understand the bizarre and complicated history of this property, let’s look at the image above. The dispensary will take up 2205 Lombard and 2207 Lombard Street (2209-11 Lombard will not be part of the dispensary). But it’s those upstairs units at 3251 and 3253 Steiner Streets that have created a long, strange trip for this proposed pot shop and the building’s owner.

Back in the early 2000s, those were residential units. As explained in this massive set of documents the Planning Commission considered, one tenant had electrical problems back in 2004. So the landlord requested permits to perform the necessary overhauls, and the city told her those units were illegal.   

As her attorney John Keviln explained to the Planning Commission, “When she went down to the city to pull a permit to fix some electrical issues in 2004, she was told by three city agencies — DBI, Planning, and the Assessor’s Office — that the units were commercial, and they would not process a residential electrical permit, and she must use [the space] as commercial use.” So she evicted the tenants and spent $80,000 converting each space to office uses. 

Fast forward to last year, when the dispensary started applying for permits after Chubby Noodle moved out of the downstairs space. At that point, the Planning Department denied her permits, because they said the office conversions were illegal, and the space should be residential. This directly contradicts what they told her in 2004. 

“The department acknowledges that incorrect information regarding the authorized land use may have been reflected,“ a Planning Department representative said Thursday. Still, the department recommends disapproving the dispensary, at least until the units were converted back to residential, to increase the city's housing stock.

The oversight body at the Planning Commission, though, sympathized with the owner, and voted to allow the dispensary without forcing her to reconvert the upstairs units. A string of recent scandals at the Department of Building Inspection may have affected trust that city agencies are working well together. 

“Someone made a mistake at the DBI, and it comes back to us here at the Planning Commission to correct it,” commissioner Theresa Imperial said Thursday. “This mistake was probably an honest one, instead of a corrupt building inspector approving an uninspected project.”

A few local residents also expressed concerns about clustering too many dispensaries in this part of the Marina. This dispensary would be just two blocks from Apothecarium, and there are more dispensaries in the pipeline for Lombard Street, but all of them are outside the 600-foot limit required to separate dispensaries in San Francisco. (Rose Mary Jane is also angling for a Castro location.)

The Planning Commission approved the dispensary by a 5-2 vote, but the property is still not in the clear. The commission also denied a variance on the Steiner Street-facing garage door affiliated with the two upstairs units, so that’s all going to have to be resolved before the dispensary can be built out and can open.

And this, my friends, is what it’s like trying to do business in San Francisco.