Retail in Redondo? City seeks cannabis ordinance

Redondo Beach Police Officer Keith Turner supervises the boarding up of Redondo’s Finest, a cannabis dispensary, closure last March. Photo by Kevin Cody

Redondo Beach took a step closer last week to allowing retail marijuana, with a 5-0 city council vote to accept the recommendations of the Cannabis Steering Committee.

The city attorney will now draft an ordinance, for up to two stores, with a five percent tax to go to the general fund.

Included in the vote, byway of councilman Nils Nehrenheim, is for any stores to be clear of walking paths to schools, to add the South Bay Galleria as an option for a dispensary, and to invite organizers of a retail marijuana initiative to address the council. 

“I’m certainly open to the retail option,” said Mayor Bill Brand, who was not in attendance at the Oct. 5  meeting. “But the devil is in the details…. I won’t be supporting something the community doesn’t support.”

The seven-member Redondo Beach Cannabis Steering Committee (CSC) was formed in 2018, after recreational marijuana was legalized statewide.

“The 5-0 vote is definitely good news,” said Jonathan Cvetko, CSC member and executive director of the United Business Cannabis Association, based in Los Angeles. Cvetko lives in Redondo Beach. 

“But it was concerning to me that the councilmembers went out of their way to invite (the initiative organizers) in.”

 

PARAMETERS

The city council agreed to a list of 17 CSC recommendations.

The first is to (still) allow outdoor personal marijuana cultivation, up to six plants. The second is to permit licensed retail, for non-storefront delivery, storefront or a combination of the two. 

Prohibited would be delivery services which originate outside of town. 

The state-required 600-foot buffer zone from schools and other sensitive areas would expand to 1,500 feet. Retail licenses would be limited to two, a maximum of one per district, with at least 1,000 feet between locations.

Councilman Zein Obagi noted that while 65 percent of Redondo Beach residents voted to approve the state measure to legalize, this is another step. 

“They didn’t approve, necessarily, retail stores,” said Obagi.

More discussion followed. 

KeriAnne Lawson, chief program officer from Beach Cities Health District, talked about kids and exposure to alcohol signs. 

“What they see in their retail environment affects their choices,” she said. 

“There’s a lot of liquor stores around,” said Nehrenheim.

 

QUESTIONS

A group called Economic Resource and Development Coalition of Southern California (ERDCSC) is gathering signatures for a Redondo Beach initiative, aimed for the November 2022 ballot. 

It would allow up to three dispensaries in town.

“I’ve read it and it’s not good for Redondo Beach. Let us come up with our own ordinance,” said city councilmember Laura Emdee. 

The next step is for the council to review the staff’s draft ordinance and send it to the planning commission, which will give input on eligible locations.

“The ballot initiative circulating now would remove our ability to control this,” said Councilmember Christian Horvath. “It shows we need to be ahead of this. I would like to have an ordinance in place sooner than later.”

He noted that financial contributions to Nehrenheim’s 2021 campaign came from two initiative backers, including Barry Walker, an ERDCSC board member. Walker is also the executive director of Dub Brothers Management, the parent company of TradeCraft Farms, a marijuana dispensary based in Los Angeles, with two retail locations.

“It gives me pause, and I find it concerning,” Horvath said.

Councilmember Todd Loewenstein also received donations from initiative backers.

“If they think a contribution is gonna sway my opinion on something, they’ll be sadly disappointed,”  Loewenstein said.

He suggested that inviting the initiative organizers to address the council is not for promotional reasons.

“It’s so people can understand what the repercussions are of something like this,” said Loewenstein. “I’d love to take more time on this issue, but I’d rather us decide as a council. Our hand, in some ways, is being forced by this.”

Efforts to reach Nehrenheim for comment were unsuccessful. 

 

CHOICES

Public comment at the Oct. 5 council meeting ranged from making sure minorities have full opportunity to own a retail marijuana store, to general support, to “trust me, you don’t want this in your backyard” (a man from District Four). 

“I want to see a map come back to us,” Nehrenheim said, referring to how zoning might look in relation to walking paths to schools, near liquor stores and more.

The initiative would prohibit additional sales tax on marijuana. It would also require the opening of a 30 day application period if the number of marijuana retailers is fewer than three.

Initiative co-organizer Walker told Easy Reader in August that the tax revenue part of the initiative as written would be open for negotiation. He said he is not opposed to a city tax. 

“The primary issue here is we have outsiders trying to dictate the policies of a city without giving any control to the city itself,” said CSC member Cvetko.

Walker also owns Cozy Nomad Designs antique furniture, a pop-up shop in Riviera Village. 

Both Manhattan Beach and Hermosa Beach have ordinances prohibiting cannabis retailers.

“This is the beginning of a process,” Redondo Beach City Manager Joe Hoefgen said, as more meetings are to come on the subject. 

“Of course we’d love the revenue,”  Loewenstein said. “But if retail marijuana causes more problems than it solves, then, no.” ER

 

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