Borrego Sun - Since 1949

Borrego Springs in 2022: Crosswalks at Christmas Circle, and a Cannabis Café?

 

Last updated 4/25/2021 at 9:34am

San Diego County Public Works Project Manager Sam Chrun was at the April 1 Sponsor Group meeting to provide an update on traffic calming measures and crosswalks at and around Christmas Circle. County staff have completed the design work and expect County Board of Supervisors approval in June followed by bidding. Construction is expected next winter or spring.

The design includes:

- A traffic calming crosswalk and speed table (a speed table is flat-topped, lower and longer than a speed bump) from Christmas Circle to the island between Kesling’s Kitchen on the south side and Fredericks and Carlee’s on the north side,

- A crosswalk from the island to the north,

- A sidewalk bump-out on the south side to slow down traffic entering the circle near Kesling’s Kitchen and create a shorter and safer crosswalk to the island,

- A similar design of crosswalks and speed table, but without the bump-out, on the east side of Christmas Circle near Wells Fargo Bank.

Two additional island pop-outs will be added a few hundred yards to the west near ABDNHA and Jilberto’s, to create better visibility and a shorter walking distance for safe pedestrian crossing of Palm Canyon Drive. The overall project also includes the completion of missing portions of sidewalk along Sunset Drive and Palm Canyon Drive.

Many in the community have been pursuing pedestrian-friendly traffic calming projects for Palm Canyon Drive and Christmas Circle for over ten years. Residents generally spoke in favor of the project and were appreciative that these much-needed safety improvements would finally become reality, and thanked county staff for the progress report.

The current project does not address the needs of pedestrians crossing Palm Canyon Drive further to the west near the Mall and the Center, or pedestrians crossing to Christmas Circle from overflow parking on Avenida Nordeste during Christmas Circle events. It is hoped that these further improvements will be pursued in following years.

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San Diego County Planning Manager Don Chase was back this month with an overview presentation of the “Socially Equitable Cannabis Program,” a moniker created in January by the County Board of Supervisors to direct county staff to develop measures to provide economic access and equity in the cannabis industry. The motion states that: “A Social Equity Program will help rectify the injustices caused by the War on Drugs and is to be in place prior to the issuance of the first permit.”

To explore program components including social equity, onsite consumption and permitting, county staff are conducting broad stakeholder outreach among residents and the public, community organizations, community sponsor groups in unincorporated communities like ours, government agencies including law enforcement, public health, and environmental. Staff are also engaging with racial justice advocates, and business interests including farmers and potential cannabis permit holders.

The goals of the revised zoning ordinance would be to allow cultivation and retail microbusiness in agricultural zoned areas, and manufacturing and distribution in areas zoned industrial. The ordinance would create a new county-wide cannabis permitting system for retail, cultivation, manufacturing, distribution, and testing, as well as a system for microbusiness licensing. The ordinance would also include permits for on-site consumption at permitted facilities and events.

Planning Manager Chase also outlined a list of 10 county, state and federal agencies that are responsible for regulation and enforcement of both unlicensed and licensed cannabis businesses. More details can be found in his presentation that is available online: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/dam/sdc/pds/cannabis/Cannabis-Overview-Slides.pdf

Meeting participants once again emphasized the uniqueness of Borrego Springs as the gateway community to Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, our tourism economy around state park visitation and dark skies, the fact that our land that is zoned agricultural on the north side of town is also next to our wildflower fields that attract visitors from far and wide.

Currently licensed facilities must have enhanced security measures including guards, cameras and security lights. There was a question about whether our local dark sky ordinance would prevail over a county-wide security and lighting requirements in the permitting program. Planning Manager Chase suggested the potential for ambient light mitigation measures.

While some were supportive of increased availability of cannabis locally to seniors, others suggested that online and telephone ordering and home delivery are already available and medical cannabis could be retailed through existing pharmacies. Another concern expressed was about onsite consumption at retail businesses, “cannabis cafés,” that could create the potential for impaired drivers. Our very limited county law enforcement staff at the Sheriff’s office would be ill-equipped to deal with the potential for increased public safety needs created by cannabis production and retail businesses.

Chair Rebecca Falk expressed the importance of supporting programs designed to redress economic social inequities including those that exist here in Borrego Springs due to past discriminatory restrictions and CC&Rs. She also noted however, that our tourism economy, the State Park, our Dark Sky, and security and public safety issues must be considered.

Should a broad one-size-fits-all “Socially Equitable Cannabis Program” be applicable to all of San Diego County from Borrego Springs to Barrio Logan, and from Santa Ysabel to San Ysidro? Or should the county-wide permitting process leave some scope for local communities to retain their advisory role in permitting of cannabis production and retail? Planning Manager Chase assured attendees that county staff are collecting all inputs from this broad stakeholder outreach to inform the design of the final permitting program. He can be reached at Donald.Chase@sdcounty.ca.gov or 619 985-3116.

The Sponsor Group provides community input to the County Board of Supervisors on matters related to planning and land use. As is clear from my monthly reports in the Borrego Sun, numerous issues related to land use and planning continue to demand attention from the Borrego Springs community. Examples of relevant open issues are:

– New county initiatives for zoning of Solar and wind farms in unincorporated areas of the county,

– A regional water conveyance system route through Borrego Springs being pursued by the San Diego Water Authority,

– Tracking progress of the Watermaster Board to reverse the depletion of our water table,

– San Diego County is in the process of updating the General Plan and we need to continue to understand the implications for Borrego Springs. For the first time, the county is also introducing an Environmental Justice Element in the General Plan, which may qualify us for dust mitigation as an environmental health and clean air concern.

If you would like to contribute to the important work of the Sponsor Group, working with members on some of these issues, please contact the Chair Rebecca Falk at rebfalk7@gmail.com.

The next regular meeting of the Sponsor Group will be held on May 6, 4:30 p.m. via teleconferencing. The Sponsor Group appreciates participation of all residents and stakeholders.

For further information and to be added to the Sponsor Group email list to receive agendas and agenda packets, contact the Chair at rebfalk7@gmail.com. Address U.S. mail to: Community Sponsor Group, P.O. Box 1371, Borrego Springs, California 92004-1371, or visit: https://www.sandiegocounty.gov/content/sdc/pds/gpupdate/comm/borrego.html

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