Two cannabis companies seeking storefront permits are suing National City, alleging the city mishandled their applications and wrongfully disqualified them.
Cali Mota LLC and BCD LLC each filed civil actions last week with the San Diego Superior Court against the city seeking to restrain it from issuing cannabis licenses.
The City Council is expected to consider approving development agreements for three businesses on Tuesday. If approved, the city will have issued six agreements, the maximum allowed. The city granted the first three agreements in December, including for what is expected to be the first legal cannabis lounge south of Los Angeles.
Jacqueline Luna Reynoso, former National City Chamber of Commerce CEO, and Laura Wilkinson Sinton founded Cali Mota LLC. Robert Valderrama, a former Port of San Diego commissioner who represented National City, Christian Nitu and William Nosal are behind BCD LLC.
In their court filings, the companies argue that the city and its consultant, SCI Consulting Group, failed to follow its own permitting rules and that they did not advance to the final stage of the application process because they were scored incorrectly.
The city’s scoring of applications “reflects an arbitrary and capricious disregard of the City’s stated grading criteria,” reads the Cali Mota case.
Wilkinson Sinton said one example is Cali Mota’s safety plan. The businesses needed 180 points to advance in the process, but missed 80 when SCI concluded it did not provide the city with accident and incident reporting procedures.
In an October letter to the city, the company’s safety engineer Elley Klausbruckner said the procedures were provided and were “very similar” to those of other applicants who did receive points.
“Unless someone is reviewing the titles only, and not the content, we do not see how these procedures could have been missed during the review of this particular report,” said Klausbruckner.
Both companies appealed the city’s scoring of their applications late last year, but the city upheld its decision not to rank them among the top six applicants.
BCD contends the appeal process was also flawed.
National City’s code says that when handling an appeal, both parties must choose a neutral and unbiased hearing examiner. BCD argues that the city appointed a staff member without consulting the business and later allowed another employee to perform the hearing. According to the lawsuit, the company was also not allowed to present witnesses as required by the city’s rules.
The city granted BCD’s appeal in part only and said its new score still fell short of ranking among the top six.
City Attorney Barry Schultz said the city could not comment on current litigation matters.
Mayor Ron Morrison said he was aware of the lawsuits and would “wait and see if the judge says there should be a stay, or the judge says no they don’t have a case” ahead of the City Council vote.
“We knew going into this no matter what limits you put, that you’re gonna get lawsuits,” he said. “This is really a complex thing.”
Neighboring Chula Vista is also in court.
In May, a judge gave the city 60 days to comply with a previous court order to reprocess cannabis applications for storefronts filed by Caligrown, whose CEO is Wilkinson.
After the city disqualified her applications because of “poor formatting and disorganization,” she appealed the rejection, but the business still did not earn sufficient points to advance in the process when a consulting group conducted a rescoring. So, she sued.
Chula Vista already has issued the maximum eight licenses, presenting an issue as to how it will resolve Caligrown’s case.
Wilkinson Sinton said she hopes National City will pause its issuance of licenses and avoid falling into a situation similar to Chula Vista’s.
This content was originally published here.