In a complete and surprising reversal, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors was forced to bow to pressure from a small group of citizens opposed to seeing San Diego County becoming host to dozens of boutique wineries.
In a memo written by Carolyn Harris from Ramona, a major supporter of the measure:
"This morning the San Diego Board of Supervisors accepted the recommendation of the DPLU [Department of Land Use] to rescind their approval of the Boutique Winery Ordinance, which was scheduled to go into effect on 23 May 2008. What I understand is the following:
The County has received a "Notice of Intent to Sue for Violations of CEQA - Boutique Winery Ordinance" from lawyer Marco Gonzales, representing the anonymous "San Diego Citizenry Group". They declared intention to sue the Board of Supervisors and/or County of San Diego on the grounds that the proposed Boutique Winery Ordinance's provision for direct sales and tastings is likely to have a significant effect on the environment and must therefore first be supported by an environmental impact report, as opposed to a mitigated negative declaration.
* County Counsel has consulted with CEQA experts and have advised the Board of Supervisors that if the County loses the suit the County will be liable to the San Diego Citizenry Group for a cash payment for their legal fees, as well as the legal fees that the County would spend to defend the suit.
* Therefore, in order to avoid the expense of defending the suit and the probable payment to the plaintiffs, the Board of Supervisors rescinded their action of 23 April approving the Boutique Winery ordinance.
There was no discussion at today's hearing on the subject,which was added as an "urgency ordinance" just yesterday and approved5-0 with the other dozen or so items on the consent calendar.
* During an upcoming meeting of the Board of Supervisors in June they will consider recommending that pending the completion of the EIR [environmental impact report], the "boutique sized" wineries be allowed to make direct sales and provide tastings at the winery subject to an administrative use permit."
Harris notes that it is interesting what power the California Environmental Quality Act has in the hands of a few people who have a check book and know how to use it.
Knowing Harris, this is just the end of the beginning ... there is more to come, and I expect in my lifetime that San Diego will be home to a flourishing cottage industry of boutique wineries.