Blogging Bayport Alameda

November 23, 2015

Weedy lot

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:03 am

I was going to not post anything this week because of my general policy on not posting on days when school is out, but this is kind of a big deal.  At the Planning Board tonight there will be discussion about closing a loophole in Alameda’s zoning code .  The type of activity to guard against squeezing in through the loophole?  Commercial cultivation of marijuana.

From the staff report:

In recent months, the State Legislature has adopted three pieces of legislation that seek to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana in California.

AB243 establishes a regulatory and licensing structure for cultivation sites under the Department of Food and Agriculture.

AB 243 includes an important regulatory deadline for local governments.  AB 243 contains a provision stating that cities, if a city or county does not have a zoning ordinance regulating cultivation, then the State will become the sole permitting authority as of March 1, 2016.  The assembly bill author has committed to change this section, but representatives from the League of California Cities have contacted local governments throughout California, advising them to enact emergency ordinances so they will have provisions in place prior to the March 1, 2016 deadline in the event that the State does not amend that section of AB 243 in a timely manner.

That’s the background and here’s the recommendation:

Given the rapidly and continually changing State regulations on the issue of marijuana and the specific concern with AB 243 regarding State and local licenses for cultivation, staff is recommending that Planning Board recommend that the City Council adopt a prohibition on commercial cultivation of marijuana in Alameda.

Currently, the City of Alameda Zoning Code permits “agriculture and horticulture” in all residential districts and most commercial districts in Alameda.   An immediate and explicit prohibition on marijuana cultivation throughout the City will ensure that:

  • The Alameda community will not be faced with a situation in April or May of 2016, whereby a commercial cultivation operation requests a business license for an inappropriate location in Alameda and makes the argument that the City must issue the business license because “agriculture” is permitted by right and the zoning ordinance does not explicitly make a distinction between agriculture and marijuana cultivation.
  • The Alameda community will preserve the opportunity to have a more robust discussion about medical marijuana dispensaries, cultivation, and delivery at a later date when the State’s regulatory structure becomes clearer.  At that future date, the community, the Planning Board and the City Council may choose to consider alternative regulatory approaches which might allow certain services or facilities at certain locations under specific conditions and through a specific public review process.  For example, the community could decide at a future date that indoor commercial cultivation might be appropriate with a conditional use permit in specific locations, such as the Harbor Bay Business Park or Alameda Point.

It’s unclear why — unless staff believes that this City Council won’t be able to come to consensus in three months — that this initial step is dispensed with and a discussion on the policy around pot cultivation happens now.  It would seem that any decision now, even one that is supposed to be a stop gap would muddy the waters when it comes to a discussion about which policy direction this Council would like to go in with regard to commercial cultivation of marijuana.  A temporary moratorium would be a be a better option until such time that the community has a chance — given that attitudes about the legalization of marijuana has vastly changed over the years — to express their opinions on the issue.



  1. Wouldn’t a ban on MJ cultivation impede an Alameda renter’s ability to raise extra income to keep up with rent increases by rapacious landlords? And I like the nod to Bay Farm’s agricultural roots- allowing Ron Cowan to level the HB Club and plant MJ.

    Comment by Captain Obvious — November 23, 2015 @ 7:14 am

  2. Unless you have had a large scale marijuana grow house next door to you, you have no idea how horrible it is. The smell seeps into your own house. When the fans are in operation to release the humidity, the smell and thickness in the air can be so bad that even non-asthmatics have a hard time breathing outside. Not to mention the electrical wiring issues, fire danger and general concerns about someone coming by and hitting the wrong house in a home invasion designed to get drugs and money. The day Alameda PD took down the operation was the day that our wonderful little neighborhood could go back to being a nice place to live.

    At the State level, marijuana cultivation should be absolutely banned in any residential neighborhood for the safety of everyone.

    Also, when I was a kid, wherever you went, you could smell cigarette smoke. Cigarette smoke is mostly gone now, but marijuana smoke is on the rise. I am not convinced this is any improvement.

    Comment by JohnB — November 23, 2015 @ 8:30 am

  3. 1. Worse than that, Captain, would be the wholesale eviction of tenants so greedy landlords could convert the vacant units into Mary Jane grows, thus increasing their profits 100 fold if not more.

    Comment by Not. A. Alamedan — November 23, 2015 @ 8:41 am

  4. @2 JohnB, I totally agree. Our neighborhood had a young man selling marijuana from his mother’s basement for years. He obtained the marijuana from his connection at the Green Door marijuana dispensary in San Francisco. You couldn’t believe the amount of car traffic, foot traffic and marijuana smoke by his clients. You could walk two blocks away from this residence in any direction in the neighborhood and smell the marijuana in the neighborhood each night. After the City appropriately handled the situation on some related issues, the marijuana dealer and his mom moved in 2010 and it is a MUCH better place to live. I think any property owner in Alameda would adopt a NIMBY position if faced with a marijuana dispensary or indoor grow next to their home. I applaud the City of Alameda for being proactive on this issue given the State’s approval of the new marijuana bills.

    Comment by Jason — November 23, 2015 @ 9:10 am

  5. 3 = Well, then, you could report the greedy landlord to the Feds, who would throw the landlord in jail and seize the property, auctioning it off on the steps of the courthouse. Hey this could be a win-win for tenants after all.

    As long as marijuana remains a Schedule I controlled substance, legalizing it locally is asking for trouble Federally. And you know how the Federal government must love Alameda after the Robert Crown Beach Affair…

    Comment by vigi — November 23, 2015 @ 9:42 am

  6. Lets focus on the issue. Any growing of marijuana in Alameda must be banned. There are other resources in which to secure it, thus eliminating the small and problems that can be caused by growing it here. Let the council know how you feel and ask them to at least place a temporary moratorium on any growing or marijuana on the island.

    Comment by William — November 23, 2015 @ 1:51 pm

  7. Just to be the devil’s advocate, or smartass, here…Giant hangars, municipal power supply, away from residences, prexisting tenants manufacturing a recreational drug (alcohol), Alameda would be probably hard-pressed to find a more lucrative tenant to fill the city coffers with taxes and fees. Just sayin.

    Comment by jeff — November 23, 2015 @ 3:11 pm

  8. AMP would really be green power in that case. We could also put a big piece of cheese in the middle and catch El Chapo while we’re at it.

    Comment by MP — November 23, 2015 @ 3:36 pm

  9. Many factors would make the point a good spot, except one big one, that I can see. The point is upwind of all the people. I’ve never been near a large scale growing operation, but I imagine the smell could be quite oppressive and annoying. Seems like there are lots of places in CA better suited for growing. I would welcome a renewed discussion of a dispensary and whether it would make sense to keep some green money in town. Do dispensaries make much money for local cities yet?

    Comment by BMac — November 23, 2015 @ 3:48 pm

  10. I’ve done clean up of illegal grow sites in State Parks and BLM Land and they are totally disgusting. Tons of trash, chemicals and Poisons.

    Comment by frank m — November 23, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

  11. #10 that’s a separate issue. The future is legal, regulated and inspected just like somebody running a commercial nursery.

    Comment by jeff — November 23, 2015 @ 4:09 pm

  12. #11 I’d really like to think that. I just don’t think we will ever have the resources to regulate the illegal grows.

    Comment by frank m — November 23, 2015 @ 4:30 pm

  13. I think people with medical cards should be allowed to grow a couple plants between their tomatoes for personal consumption in their yard. I’m pretty sure pot clubs do contribute significantly to municipal coffers. Commercial grows should be zoned like everything else. With ongoing liberalization I’d be happy to see some agriculture next to Spirits Alley if it helped City. Vigi, as far as federal scheduling of reefer, F-k the feds.

    Comment by MI — November 23, 2015 @ 5:56 pm

  14. I heard a blurb on KQED a while back that Harborside Health is Oakland’s 2nd largest payer of sales and business taxes. Only the Walmart on Hegenberger paid more.

    The key to successful legalization is to tax but not too heavily. If it’s a legal & legitimate business, the illegal & environmentally hazardous grow sites will go away. Legal farmers do things in a much more clean & safe manner; they also enjoy economies of scale. A reasonable tax will clean up the business (see: Prohibition, repeal of) but if the tax is too high, there may still be incentive to grow illegally.

    Comment by dave — November 23, 2015 @ 6:15 pm

  15. Jeff is right. Most of the complaints are based on problems which stem from experience with illegal, unmonitored operations. If you lived nextdoor to a Speakeasy or a still operation during Prohibition, you’d probably have had similar complaints. If grow operations are regulated, filtration systems, etc. could be required to handle the odor. They would be subject to HazMat and OSHA and all the rest. A moratorium on grow operations might be prudent while technology develops in states like Colorado to address some of these concerns. As for dispensaries, Alameda is absolutely STUPID not to allow them. There is a lot of money going off the island and being spent at Harborside. I have a friend who has an office in the office building next door and there is no problem. The Harborside security is outstanding. They have plenty of parking. IDs and medical marijuana cards are required at every visit. If you sit in the parking lot and watch, people (many of them over 50 BTW) go in, make their purchase, and leave. It’s like a visit to Costco. Nobody hangs out in the parking lot and lights up. There are security guards both inside and out. There are a number of YouTube videos available if you want to watch. The official tour video is here (it gets a little boring at times but it will show you what it looks like and answers some questions)

    Comment by Denise Shelton — November 24, 2015 @ 8:20 am

  16. #15. You just gave an excellent reason why Harborside should stay in Oakland and Alameda should remain dispensary free.

    #13 I am sure the Feds have the same tender feelings for you 🙂 mad much?

    Comment by Jason — November 24, 2015 @ 8:39 am

  17. 16, why so glib? The feds have had a long history or suppressing any research of medical efficacy of psychotropics, including marijuana. Why? Harry Anslinger was J.Edgar’s partner in this crime. Reefer Madness and all that. The drug wars have helped create the costly ( socially as well as $$) and punitive prison culture we now enjoy. Anybody who does not take umbrage is not paying attention.

    Comment by MI — November 24, 2015 @ 10:44 am

  18. Still a lot of Illegal Grows’ going on in CO where it is ‘legal and regulated.

    Comment by frank m — November 24, 2015 @ 3:15 pm

  19. #18 I don’t get the point you are making

    Comment by Jeff — November 24, 2015 @ 3:24 pm

  20. 19. I think the article explains itself. Apparently there is still incentive for illegal grows in states where regulated marijuana is legal. Illegal sellers are out to avoid tax.

    Comment by MI — November 24, 2015 @ 6:07 pm

  21. 18-20: All of the illegal grows in the Greeley Tribune article were perpetrated by Mexican and/or Cuban nationals [illegal aliens],on BLM [Federal] land, with intent to engage in illegal interstate commerce. These grows have nothing to do with whether MJ is legal in that particular state or not. I doubt avoiding state taxes was their objective.

    Comment by vigi — November 25, 2015 @ 10:06 am

  22. I agree with Lauren: a moratorium–even a long-term one–is a far better legislative tool in this situation than a change to the zoning code. Using the appropriate tool for the job applies to ordinances as well as mechanical and household projects.

    Comment by Jon Spangler — November 25, 2015 @ 10:07 am

  23. #20 I get that part, but you seem to be equating clandestine criminal operations with a hypothetical legal business operating in the open like any other normal company. I don’t get the point, other than to tar them both with the same brush.

    Comment by jeff — November 25, 2015 @ 10:49 am

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