People who establish charter schools in San Diego will no longer have to obtain costly, and time-consuming, conditional use permits before beginning operations, following a vote Monday by the San Diego City Council.
The change came in a unanimous vote to approve around three dozen amendments to the city’s land development code.
At an earlier news conference, leaders of a couple of relatively new charter schools said their plans were nearly derailed by the city’s laborious requirements.
Demi Brown, principal of Empower Charter School in Linda Vista, said her campus opened three weeks late last year because of “a maze of city regulations.” They were only able to begin operating after receiving help from numerous city officials, she said.
Tom Keliinoi, chairman of Elevate Charter School in Tierrasanta, said the city requirements were crippling. Created to instruct children in military families in the Murphy Canyon area, the school had to spend its first year in La Mesa, with a one-third reduction in the size of the student body, he said.
A conditional use permit is required for establishments that significantly deviate from a neighborhood’s normal zoning, and can cost tens of thousands of dollars and 18 months to two years to obtain. A prospective charter school that wants to enroll more than 300 students would still be required to get a CUP.
“Instead of spending thousands of dollars on consultants, (the schools) can actually take those resources and spend them on the kids they’re trying to educate,” Councilman Scott Sherman said of the amendment. “It’s a common- sense approach to solving a problem here in the city.”
Charter students are strongly opposed by teachers’ unions, but since the amendment only dealt with zoning processes, the more political issues were not addressed.
The amendments made numerous, mostly minor, changes to San Diego’s land- use regulations.
One of the exceptions, though, was for medical marijuana dispensaries, which are required to be separated by up to 1,000 feet from other collectives, homes, schools, churches and the like.
If a freeway, flood channel or other major topographical feature lies between the dispensary and the sensitive use, the distance is now to be measured by the most direct route around the barrier, instead of as a crow flies.
Amanda Lee, of the city’s Development Services Department, told the council members that the change was requested by the Planning Commission to make the requirement consistent with what’s imposed on businesses that sell alcoholic beverages.
Another amendment streamlined the city’s requirements for home-based businesses.
–City News Service
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