San Leandro zoning board overturns city’s denial of medical cannabis dispensary use permit

A rendering of the Davis Street Wellness Center
retail area at its proposed dispensary on
Teagarden Street. PHOTO/DSWC

SAN LEANDRO
After several San Leandro zoning commissioners downplayed a city staff report opposing the issuance of a conditional-use permit for the Davis Street Wellness Center medical cannabis dispensary, the board voted, 6-1,Thursday night to overturn the city’s denial.

What was before the seven-person appoint board was not the efficacy of a medical cannabis dispensary in San Leandro, but whether the Davis Street Wellness Center’s choice of a site near the affiliated, but financially separate, non-profit Davis Street Family Resource Center, met the city’s conditions for use as a dispensary on Teagarden Street.

The city had argued the Davis Street Wellness Center’s proposed parking arrangement was not suitable because it was shared with another business and unsecure, along with an incompatible land use with neighboring businesses, especially the Davis Street Family Resource Center, which serves underprivileged families and children.

But the zoning board found few qualms with the parking arrangement, with some positively comparing it to a similar arrangement at Oakland’s successful Harborside Health Center. They also disagreed with the proximity of the dispensary, proposed to be located within the existing Davis Street Family Resource Center, but completely cordoned off as a separate unit from the non-profit, would endanger customers and children.

The only dissent came from Commissioner Rick Solis, who continually questioned whether customers of the dispensary would smoke cannabis in adjacent areas. “It is literally a hop, skip, and a jump from a neighborhood with lots of children,” he said. Solis was appointed by San Leandro Councilmember Lee Thomas, and who voted against the Davis Street Wellness Center’s original dispensary permit in July 2016.

But whether or not the controversy between the San Leandro city administration and the Davis Street Wellness Center over the Teagarden site is over is unclear. On Nov. 2, the city staff is scheduled to present the zoning board with a resolution containing terms of approval for the site, along with findings from a forthcoming environmental review.

In addition, the city says, as a condition of approving the conditional-use permit, it will require the Davis Street Family Resource Center to repay the remainder of $500,000 loan it received as part of a Community Development Block Grant to purchase the building at 3081 Teagarden Street. The outstanding loan is currently $330,000. Representatives from the Davis Street Wellness Center say they intend to pay-off the loan.

It has long been the city’s contention that opening a dispensary on the site is a unpermitted use within the loan agreement and subsequently puts it in a liable position with the federal government, which views cannabis as illegal. Furthermore, an entity could appeal the board of zoning’s decision, setting the stage for a contentious fight with the City Council, where the outlook of approving the Davis Street Wellness Center site plan is far less than certain, according to many observers.

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