Locally-based San Leandro dispensary, not yet in business, may lose permit

SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL
Over the past two years, San Leandro has approved three conditional-use permits for medical cannabis dispensaries. None, though, have yet to open for business. But now, the locally-backed group controversially approved by the city council last summer is at risk of losing its permit.

In July 2016, the city council approved the dispensary permit for a group connected to the Davis Street Family Resource Center. The decision to choose the Davis Street Wellness Center, a move some attributed to the lobbying strength of Davis Street’s well-connected city insiders, came after the city approved its first-ever dispensary permit in September 2015 for the Oakland-based Harborside Health Center,

But after nearly year of financial disputes between Davis Street’s founder Rose Padilla Johnson and the city over a delinquent, since paid, loan to the venerable San Leandro non-profit for helping women and children, and opposition over the proposed location of the medical dispensary to be known as the Davis Street Wellness Center, the fate of the permit is up in the air Monday night.

The council will have to decide Monday night whether to rescind the conditional-use permit or postpone any discussion about the proposed dispensary’s fate until after the August recess on Sept. 7.

Council support for the Davis Street Wellness Center permit last July included a one-year deadline that ends this Tuesday for the group to garner approval for the location of the dispensary. The deadline was slipped into the ordinance at the last moment by former Councilmember Jim Prola and is proving highly problematic for the Davis Street Wellness Center.

In the staff report published last week, the city is holding steadfast to the one-year deadline. In fact, in one dispute between Johnson Padilla and the city over the timeline, San Leandro City Manager Chris Zapata emailed to her a video clip showing her agreeing to the one-year deadline during the July 2016 council meeting.

In addition, the city has rebuffed the permit-holder’s desire to open the dispensary on the property of the Davis Street Family Resource Center on Teagarden Street. As the dispute continued, the issue was scheduled to come before the city’s Board of Zoning and Adjustments on July 6.

Prior to the scheduled meeting, according to a staff report, “the applicant was then notified that staff would recommend that the Board of Zoning Adjustments deny approval of the application because staff was unable to make the necessary findings for approval.”

An attorney for the Davis Street Wellness Center sent the city a letter on June 21 requesting postponement of the BZA meeting to Sept. 7. The BZA meeting was later cancelled, therefore, making it unlikely the Davis Street Wellness Center could make the July 18 deadline.

“As a result of the above factors, the applicant will be unable to secure approval of a Conditional Use City of San Leandro permit within 12 months of the issuance of the dispensary operating permit, which was a condition of approval for the medical cannabis dispensary operating permit,” according to the staff report.

Despite a series of moratoriums prohibiting dispensaries in San Leandro and a city council majority often predisposed to focusing on the risks cannabis use posed on children, the city granted its first permit to Harborside in 2015. The direction of the council, at the time, expressed a wait-and-see outlook on granting any future permits.

But the Davis Street Wellness Center bid, which had been rated by the city staff as the second-best choice for the initial permit, quickly ramped up efforts to lobby city officials. Among them, is former San Leandro Councilmember Gordon Galvan, a well-known city insider, who also sits on the Davis Street Family Resource Center Board of Directors.

The city council then reversed its stance toward expanding the number of dispensary permits to three. Davis Street Wellness Center was granted a permit in July 2016 and Blum San Leandro was also given a permit last October.

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