A week after a city council-requested delay requested by the city council whose district would be hardest hit, a proposed zoning change was tabled again that would increase the number of cannabis retailers in part of the city.
The opportunity to increase the number of cannabis stores in Council District 3 has generated a great deal of interest as the council grapples with the question of how some valuable commercial space for cannabis retailers who can make millions doing business in the city can be can be distributed fairly.
At the April 19th session, the council stood ready to consider changing the zoning until Councilor John J. Kennedy hit the pause button.
Kennedy asked for the delay because three cannabis companies want to open in his district under the city’s fledgling cannabis regulation, even though current city laws only allow for one pharmacy in each of the council’s six districts. The zoning change, if approved, would allow three to open three at:
- 169 W Colorado Blvd. (the place permitted by the harvest);
- 70 W. Union Street; and
- 827 E. Colorado Blvd.
At the last minute, Kennedy officially sent the prosecutor a confidential letter to postpone the hearing and allow further discussion.
The delay is critical, Kennedy said, citing the need for “stronger dialogue” on the issue and finding legal counsel to ensure that anything he said on behalf of his district reflects the city’s position in pending legal proceedings not endanger.
Kennedy’s concerns appeared to be at the center of the latest Dela on Friday, which Kennedy referred to Mayor Victor Gordo, the city administrator and city attorney.
“Councilor Kennedy raised a number of questions and concerns that he discussed with the mayor,” said Lisa Derderian, city spokeswoman. “The Mayor asked Councilor Kennedy to speak to City Administrator Steve Mermell about it, which he did. As a result of this conversation, the city administrator agreed that there were some points that deserve additional consideration and consequently, after consulting the city clerk and the city attorney, the point was removed from the agenda. The council may decide to bring it back on this forum or in another setting if it so wishes. “
While six highest-scoring applicants were invited to apply for the coveted spots, only three retailers received approval – two in other districts and one in Kennedys.
The city’s code, coupled with a cap of a retailer and a district, prevented two others – SweetFlower Pasadena LLC and The Atrium Group LLC – from moving forward. And those two both applied to be in Kennedy’s ward, which only one allows.
SweetFlower was ready to appeal a court ruling after a judge ruled in favor of Pasadena and its retail cannabis application process in late February.
In its lawsuit, Sweet Flower argued that it had been treated unfairly compared to other claimants, alleging the city was violating its own laws. In a preliminary ruling on Feb.25, a judge said officials acted appropriately in denying Sweet Flower’s petition to open a retail cannabis store.
In the lawsuit, Sweet Flower pointed out a controversial aspect of the application process: the city’s requirement that a licensed surveyor create a map of the proposed location in the store. It was supposed to ensure that the store front was far enough away from places like schools and substance abuse centers as required by city law.
City officials rejected Sweet Flower’s application because the card was not properly prepared.
Meanwhile, two of the original top six applicants are in the city – Varda (3355 E. Colorado Blvd.) and Integral Associates Dena LLC (908 E. Colorado Blvd.).
Critics of the process claimed that communicating between its attorney and city officials gave Integral a head start in meeting an important mapping requirement in order to obtain a permit. This created an unfair playing field that could have steered the process in the direction of Integral and delayed – and even jeopardized – the chance for five other applicants to obtain the desired location and an operating permit.
A 2019 study commissioned by the city found that while the city could have better communicated with businesses about the requirement, there was no evidence of undue influence on city employees.
Monday’s entire city council meeting will continue to take place, including a hearing that would kick-start the city’s nascent police commission. It starts at 4:30 p.m. at https://www.pasadenamedia.org/kpas/.