While Santa Rosans are in a pitched battle over Measure C, a rent control referendum to be decided on June 6, there’s another C that’s already changing the community in more significant ways — cannabis. As Mayor Chris Coursey put it, “Right now cannabis seems to be more viable as a business than housing, unfortunately.”
That’s only too true. Since even before the city started issuing permits for medical cannabis businesses last year, there has been a rush for warehouse space, a competition that has been driving up rents throughout the city. It’s a “green rush” that could end up being a deterrent for the one thing that most Santa Rosans agree the city needs most — housing.
The council got a taste of the problem last week when a developer of a 185-unit housing development attempted to stop a cannabis operation from opening near his project in the West End neighborhood. The business, a startup called Fleuron Inc., plans to grow and process medical cannabis in a vacant 11,000-square-foot building on Maxwell Court. The council rejected the developer’s complaint but did a little soul-searching on what’s happening with this influx of pot businesses. “I think that we’re at the point, or we’re very close to the point, where we need to talk about how much is too much in various areas of the city,” said Coursey.
I would submit that we’re past that point.
Here’s another example of how this “green rush” is changing the face of our city.
Before my family and I traveled to Costa Rica three years ago, I visited various sporting goods stores in hopes of getting some soccer balls donated for the remote village where we would be running an after-school camp. I explained that we hoped to leave the equipment behind for the children, many of whom had little of anything to call their own. But I got nowhere. Sports Authority said no. So did other well-known chain stores, some of which made me fill out lengthy online forms before being turned down.
Almost out of time, I checked with T&B Sports on West Steele Lane in Santa Rosa, a local company that had been a mainstay during my family’s Little League days. A day later, I walked out with 14 new soccer balls, some shin guards, goalie gloves, a few uniform tops and a half dozen or so hand pumps.
(I’ve frequently used this story when making my case for shopping at locally owned businesses — even if it costs a few dollars more. It pays dividends. Businesses like these are invested in our community and are most likely to step up when donations are needed for local schools, sports teams, etc.)
Some of you already know how this story ends. A little over a month ago, the T&B Sports store in Santa Rosa closed and was replaced by, you guessed it, a marijuana operation. The building, with its 22,378 square feet of space, sold for $4.25 million and, as reported recently by PD writers Kevin McCallum and Robert Digitale, will become a medical cannabis manufacturing, lab testing and wholesale distribution company operated by a New Tropic Collective Inc. of San Francisco. Keep in mind this plant is located just up the block from the Children’s Museum of Sonoma County, Charles M. Schulz Museum and Snoopy’s Home Ice.