Blogging Bayport Alameda

March 15, 2019

Hot mic

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:05 am

Wow, I guess I did not expect the level of hostility that happened during the Planning Board meeting with regard to the Webster Street Cannabis dispensary permit application.

Remember, these are all appointees of Trish Spencer who was one of the biggest cheerleaders on the City Council for cannabis.  In her desire to appoint slow growth members to the Planning Board, the unintended happened as well: a more conservative Planning Board.

The biggest problem that the Planning Board seemed to have with the application was (1) the proximity to the youth serving establishments, (2) lack of parking, and (3) the consumption lounge on site.

The lack of parking, I thought, was actually a benefit for the site, but as they were talking a point about the deliveries and possible double parking on the street was a concern.  A neighbor pointed out that the Little Caesars across the street is really terrible about people double parking to pick up pizza there, it actually might be good for the dispensary to have a dedicated loading zone of some sort to avoid those issues.

The proximity to youth, well, given that the City Council already adjudicated that issue, it is not an issue that the Planning Board really has any ability to consider.

The opposition to the on-site consumption lounge was the thing I was most surprised about.  Mostly because I assumed that people would rather have folks consume their product in an environment where there will be air filtering rather than lighting up on the street or similar.  When one of the Planning Board members likened the consumption lounge to an opium den, it was not looking very good for this use permit.

In the end the Planning Board voted 4 – 2 (Sandy Sullivan and Rona Rothenberg against) to approve the use permit but without the consumption lounge.  The applicant’s lawyer seemed very low key about the importance of the consumption lounge during earlier questioning but then seems not that pleased that part got booted.  Naturally the applicant can appeal the decision to the City Council if they so choose.

The one compelling argument about the siting of the dispensary there came from OGC member (not speaking in his formal capacity) on the overall equity of zoning spaces for cannabis businesses in neighborhoods which are historically Black and other people of color, but yet these businesses are being opened and operated by vastly different people who have been historically incarcerated for the selling or even possessing the same product.   There’s really nothing that the law — both State and Alameda’s law — which has addressed that disconnect in any meaningful way.

Anyway, here’s a little back and forth which happened with hot mics while people were clearing the chamber:

Sandy Sullivan: It’s not appropriate for the neighborhood.

Rona Rothenberg: I agree.

Ronald Curtis: It’s the only place they can do it

Sandy Sullivan: There are lots of other places they can do it, they go back to city council and say we failed one that’s surrounded by kids.


  1. Yes, the City Council decided to re-write (“adjudicate” is a bit lofty) its definition of Youth Center last year. Readers can come to their own conclusions about whether the Council did that to make adjustments after this one particular dispensary applicant’s (or the applicant’s landlord to-be)’s purchase of the building next door to a youth center). And, yes, I guess that “is not an issue that the Planning Board really has any ability to consider”.

    Nevertheless, in the exchange quoted above, the Board gave us a mini-reenactment of the youth center “adjudication”, with Mr. Cutis repeating the justification for the re-write given by city staff and others, and Ms. Sullivan the response:

    “Ronald Curtis: It’s the only place they can do it

    Sandy Sullivan: There are lots of other places they can do it, they go back to city council and say we failed one that’s surrounded by kids.”

    Comment by MP — March 15, 2019 @ 7:20 am

  2. Thanks Sandy and Rona for looking out for the youth center next door! After Frank’s post about the security guard getting shot during a robbery of a dispensary, I’m surprised our planning board approved this. Sandy is correct – it is not appropriate for the neighborhood — and it does not belong next door to a youth center.

    Regarding the comments from Ronald Curtis “It’s the only place they can do it”. What the hell does that mean, and why is that? His comments suggest that a dispensary will never get approved anywhere else but Webster Street — which mirrors what Trish Spencer said when she made this ordinance her “biggest accomplishment”.

    So I guess his goal was — approve it to keep it out of his neighborhood?

    Comment by Karen — March 15, 2019 @ 7:27 am

    • I think he might have been referring to the limited number of sites in Alameda zoned for cannabis use. Particularly retail sites.

      Comment by Lauren Do — March 15, 2019 @ 8:16 am

      • The zoning identifies Park Street, and the North Park Street district as a possible location for a dispensary.

        I have my doubts that it will ever get approved on Park Street; they wouldn’t even allow a container project on Park Street.

        Comment by Karen — March 15, 2019 @ 8:22 am

      • I’m not a user, yet, of either medical or recreational C., so I don’t have a dog in this fight, except to see our laws applied fairly. Park Street Tavern has only been open about a year and they have a ‘consumption lounge’ (a bar) onsite, Ruby’s Tumbling is right next door. The Tavern has been open less than a year and their business model is almost entirely a consumption lounge, and isn’t West Wind Karate a couple doors down the street? What’s up with that, folks?

        Comment by abronto4900 — March 15, 2019 @ 10:42 am

        • Agreed. I’m neither for nor against cannabis businesses, but am uncomfortable with what feels like unequal treatment when it comes to the product being sold.

          Comment by Lauren Do — March 15, 2019 @ 11:18 am

        • I generally agree that alcohol and marijuana should be regulated same, but until cannabis is federally legal and its purveyors van use the banking system, it’s an all cash (and lots of cash) business at great risk of armed robbery. That alone is a very good reason to regulate locations.

          Comment by dave — March 15, 2019 @ 11:27 am

        • At the PB meeting, the topic of all cash transactions came up and the applicant said that while there might be some cash transactions, they will have banking and will take credit cards.

          Comment by Lauren Do — March 15, 2019 @ 11:32 am

        • This article re forms of payment is from March 2018, so things may have changed since then or may be about to change.

          Comment by MP — March 15, 2019 @ 11:51 am

  3. People are purchasing and consuming alcohol in businesses all up and down Webster Street (and Park Street for that matter) and nobody has raised a red flag. Why is this different?

    Comment by Allan Mann — March 15, 2019 @ 8:54 am

    • That is a valid question. Someone else can chime in on whether a liquor license (or a use permit) was denied on Webster St in the past few years. I remember the issue coming up, so someone was raising a red flag, but I don’t remember the outcome.

      But also valid, among others, is the question of why (all within a one or two year period) the City Council first decided that there should buffer zones around certain uses (youth center) and then, after a property was purchased within one of the buffer zones created by the City Council, the Council quickly re-wrote the buffer zone definition? (Yes, some argued that the building next door was not a youth center, and that the redefinition was only precautionary; I never really bought that one) Ms. Bey raises the question – I am inferring – about the likelihood of such quick legislative action occurring if the location in question were not on Webster St.

      Comment by MP — March 15, 2019 @ 9:16 am

      • Circle K asked for beer and wine sales. The already existing concentration of liquor stores/bars near the site, which had a history of police calls/issues related to alcohol, neighbor concerns, and the fact that we shouldn’t be so conveniently selling alcohol to people that are just popping in to buy gas for the car they are actively driving led to the denial. Stewart Chen called Marilyn a racist for her decision, but not the other council members that voted the same way.

        Comment by BMac — March 15, 2019 @ 9:29 am

        • yes, that one

          Comment by MP — March 15, 2019 @ 9:58 am

  4. I’m honestly as pro pot as any gen Xer who spent the 90’s in a haze of shitty Mexican brick weed and gunge rock, but when the public faces of cannabis in town are our awful ex mayor and that asshat threatening to give brownies to our kids, I tend to not really give a shit if we ever get it here. The Oakland clubs are close enough, and frankly, you’ve got to either buy off the grid or go as far as Berkeley to get it for a decent price.

    Comment by Rod — March 15, 2019 @ 2:05 pm

  5. The Main Street representative, Gerald Ficker (sp?) said twice during the hearing that City Staff directed them to the site. The implication was that, they were confident that the location was OK notwithstanding a very obvious establishment right next door providing summer day camps, youth martial arts classes, and after-school tutoring, much less a Muslim mosque on their other side frequented daily by families. Across the street on Webster is an art school featuring classes for children as well as another martial arts school. Please bear in mind the city’s definition of youth center would have included those establishments at the time that staff allegedly directed the potential dispensary applicant to this location in early Spring 2018. Planning Board President Sullivan and Member Rothenberg cited the above uses, as well as the twice weekly Farmers Market frequented by several preschool programs and children with families made that location for a dispensary to be an incompatible use.

    Another bombshell was a petition presented by a Webster street merchant who with several others collected 50 signatures from Webster district merchants in opposition to the dispensary location, citing incompatibility, parking, and possible danger for the users of the marijuana lounge as they exit the establishment. Mr. Flicker was unable to provide any specifics as to how the staff would be able to determine impairment. The effects of cannabis edibles are not apparent until at least 20 minutes after consumption and last 4-6 hours. The danger occurs when new users continue to eat the brownies or cookies beyond the recommended dosage because the effects are not as immediate as when marijuana is smoked. The man who rear-ended State Controller Betty Yee’s car last July in the Posey tube had consumed a significant amount of marijuana edibles which took effect after he started driving.

    The 50 merchants who signed the petition are mandatory paid members of WABA. They were also critical of WABA for neither engaged their input in having a dispensary located on Webster nor even informing them of WABA’s on-going support for such businesses at city hearings. In contrast, the Harbor Bay Park Business Association membership voted at their annual meeting to express their opposition to allowing any marijuana businesses in their business district which sits in a C-M zone (Commercial Manufacturing) which is included in the amendments that remain to be resolved.

    Comment by Serena T Chen — March 15, 2019 @ 6:15 pm

  6. My biggest problem is there is no parking. They are building one on Broadway in Oakland right off 7th so people from Oakland will most likely but it there. People in the area will find it hard to find parking in front of their houses and business in the area will have to compete for street parking. I know Marina Village supposedly doesn’t want them there but they already have a tobacco store so what is the difference. They also sell alcohol at CVS and Lucky’s. There is plenty of empty storefronts and parking. Another possible site is old Bank of Marin site at South Shore. I don’t know if the building is owned but the Shopping center or the Bank? But there used to be a liqueur store right next to it. No kids around just a nursing home I believe.

    Comment by joelsf — March 15, 2019 @ 7:40 pm

    • there is a city parking lot within approx. 100 feet of this dispensary.

      Comment by trumpisnotmypresident — March 16, 2019 @ 10:35 am

  7. The city staff has prepared this map to identify all of the locations available to dispensaries. This map presumes the exclusion of recreational, cultural, dance and martial arts establishments that do not “exclusively” serve youth, do not operate more that 5 hours per day except for Alameda Recreation and Parks rec center. From July 24, 2018 staff report: July 24, 2018 staff report And it presumes that areas zoned C-1 (commercial neighborhood) and C-M (commercial manufacturing) will ultimately be adopted/re-adopted and included.

    Comment by Serena T Chen — March 15, 2019 @ 7:48 pm

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