Santa Rosa supports the cannabis industry, but not at the expense of much-needed new housing.
That’s the message the City Council is set to send Tuesday when it considers shrinking the size of the welcome mat it rolled out to the cannabis industry last year.
The council is set to ban cannabis businesses from a 30-acre industrial area some consider prime property for future housing, particularly apartments for those attracted to living near the new downtown SMART station.
The move is not a sign the city is pulling back from its openness to the fast-growing cannabis industry, but a recognition that the imminent arrival of rail service puts the small industrial area on a fast-track to transition to housing, said David Guhin, director of Planning and Economic Development.
“We don’t have any other place in Santa Rosa that’s like this,” Guhin said of the Maxwell Court industrial area.
The out-of-the-way spot between an asphalt plant and the rail station became a flashpoint for controversy last month when the council allowed a medical cannabis cultivation operation to locate there, but only after getting an earful from irate developers opposed to the idea.
The developers, Rick Deringer and Loren Brueggemann, argued that cannabis businesses are incompatible with the apartment complexes they plan to build nearby, as well as the city’s long-range vision for the area as a transit-oriented housing hub.
The two men are proposing to build a total of 257 apartments on opposite sides of the rail line just south of the site for which Flueron Inc. won approval. Brueggemann’s Pullman Lofts would be on east side of the tracks and Deringer’s DeTurk Winery Village on the west.
Despite the criticism from the developers, the council felt obliged to grant the permit to Flueron, which by all accounts followed city guidelines.
But the council did agree to consider restricting future applications in the area, which has a unique zoning meant to transition the area from industrial to residential uses over time.
The zoning passed for the area in 2010 “is intended to allow those industrial uses to continue until the area is ready to convert to mixed-use residential and neighborhood retail.” That zoning is due to be revisited in 2020, meaning the council could decide to speed up the transition then.
In addition, current city policy allowing cannabis cultivation is only an interim one, with the draft of a comprehensive law due out by the end of the month, Guhin said.
That draft proposes not allowing cannabis businesses in the Maxwell Court zone for just this reason, and the city wants to make sure people in the industry understand that, Guhin said.
“We want to make sure people understand what the direction is and how we’re moving forward,” Guhin said.
Removing the area from availability to the cannabis industry should have little impact on the industry, which is actively purchasing properties in the city and applying for permits, Guhin said. The city has to date approved 16 cannabis businesses, comprising 2.7 percent of the city’s total 10.3 million square feet of industrial space.
If the other 19 cannabis businesses in the pipeline are all approved, that number might increase to 7.2 percent, and would make cannabis one of the city’s Top 10 business types in industrial areas by the number of businesses, Guhin said.