Santa Rosa unlikely to revisit density rule for growing number of marijuana stores until 2020
When Santa Rosa approved its current rules governing the cannabis trade, it planned for the possibility that pot stores might want to operate on the same block, raising concerns about the density of outlets offering marijuana for sale to adults.
So the city’s first bid to regulate cannabis businesses, beginning in January 2018, barred pot shops from operating within 600 feet of each other. A preliminary review process was established to winnow out stores that could violate the density rule.
Twenty-one proposed stores concentrated in seven areas were flagged as a result, with only 10 moving forward to join 13 other new planned shops that the city has approved in the past 15 months. In total, Santa Rosa could see at least 23 new marijuana retailers resulting from its first wave of applications. It also has three dispensaries that opened in the medical-marijuana-only era; one of those is relocating and earned city approval for its new site.
The second wave of applications is set to begin in June, city planning staff said last week.
All the while, many are displeased, both within the cannabis industry and within the ranks of neighboring residents, businesses and schools, by the city’s process and rules governing where pot shops can locate.
City officials have been exposed to those complaints on multiple occasions over the past year. The feedback comes as Santa Rosa seeks to both carve out a welcoming space for cannabis commerce — and the tax dollars it could bring — while safeguarding neighborhoods and reassuring existing businesses.
Still, the three City Council members who drive cannabis policy last week stopped short of any substantive changes to the 600-foot buffer Santa Rosa requires between new pot shops. The same setback applies to proposed cannabis outlets and schools.
The panel, composed of Ernesto Olivares, Chris Rogers and John Sawyer, agreed to consider a different way of evaluating proposals in the same vicinity but punted on any revision of the buffer, following the recommendation of city officials who said they lacked the data and experience needed to put forward an alternative. They suggested the panel revisit the issue in a year.
Any changes to the rules will come too late for Justin Miranda, the former proprietor of Highway 420, a medical-marijuana delivery company on Sebastopol Road that also included clothes and art for sale and a recording studio. Miranda applied to expand his business into a retail store, after Santa Rosa decided to allow only brick-and-mortar dispensaries to operate cannabis delivery services.
Miranda faced competition: A well-funded outfit called Phenotopia, which applied to sell cannabis in the Dutton Plaza strip mall across the street — within the 600 feet of Miranda’s property.
The two were pitted against each other at a March 12 City Council hearing that turned into one of Santa Rosa’s more contentious cannabis discussions to date.
The City Council voted 5-1 in favor of Phenotopia, but several council members bemoaned the choice.
“It’s clear from these hearings tonight that we have two good applicants and have inadvertently created a problem that the market could and should address,” Councilwoman Victoria Fleming said March 12 at the hearing.
A frustrated Miranda, reached Friday while on a cross-country road trip, said he has laid off his employees and closed up shop.