By Daniel Borsuk
The number of cannabis businesses seeking Contra Costa County land use permits to legally operate retail or commercial cultivation operations became a bit more crystal clear after the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday selected four retail applicants and seven cultivation applicants to proceed in the demanding planning process.
The supervisors’ 5-0 action means applicants in the competition will need to satisfy a series of requirements including filing and receiving State and County cannabis licenses and complying with Conservation and Development Department (CDD) land use permit requirements.
The Supervisors’ action in narrowing down the field of appropriate cannabis retail and commercial cultivate operators comes nearly three years after California voters passed Proposition 64 that paved the way for the legal possession and use of cannabis for persons 21 years old or more in the Golden State. Prop. 64 opened the door to the legal sale, manufacture and distribution of cannabis in California.
Supervisors are expected to revisit the status of the nine applicants’ permit compliance in March when land use permits could be granted to applicants who successfully meet CDD requirements.
Supervisors followed the recommendations presented by the 10-member Cannabis Proposal Review Panel that had scored the 21 business candidates vying for Retail Storefront Land Use Permits and 18 candidates competing for Commercial Cultivation Land Use Permits.
County representatives from CDD, the Health Services Department, Department of Agriculture, and Contra Costa County Fire Protection District served on the Cannabis Proposal Review Panel earlier this year that scored each applicant based on location, business and operation plan, security plan, community benefit, and equitable geographic distribution.
Supervisors voted to permit four of the 20 initial Retail Storefront applicants to proceed in the permit process. Those applicants were Authentic 925 at South Pacheco with 1,155 total Cannabis Proposal Review Panel points, The Artist Tree in El Sobrante with 1,140 points, Embarc Contra Costa at North Pacheco with 1,130 points, and Garden of Eden for South Pacheco with 1,105 points.
Getting the green light to proceed among Commercial Cultivation candidates were: Lifted Spirit with its Brentwood proposal that garnered 1,175 points from the Cannabis Review Panel; 703 Chesley, LLC with 1,125 points placed second; Element 7- Chestnut Street of Brentwood placed third with 1,120 points; Element 7- Willow Way in Byron with 1,090 points placed fourth; Casa Resta Farms of Brentwood and Diablo Valley Farms of Brentwood each collected 1,080 points and tied for fifth place, and Diablo Valley Farms placed sixth with its Brentwood proposal that collected 1,080 points. Magic Flower Gardens, LLC with 1,055 points placed seventh for its Richmond plan.
Supervisors heard a number of complaints from Brentwood residents who protested that permitting marijuana cultivation operations in an agricultural area known for its pumpkins, corn, nuts, and cherry production will be spoiled by the introduction of cannabis operations that could attract crime, devalue property values, and trigger an array of other negative environmental impacts.
“The Element 7 – Chestnut Street development will bring down our home values,” protested Rubin Garcia Scott who lives on Chestnut Street nearby the proposed Brentwood cultivation development. “It will bring crime. Already we have had homes broken into.”
Chestnut Street farm owner Shelley McMahon protested, “Now I’m going to wake up to the stench of cannabis. I am not really happy about this. Who is going to buy my farm? We are known for growing corn, cherries, and alfalfa, not cannabis.”
Supervisors heard from several speakers supporting retailer Elemental Wellness’s application that placed eighth in the Cannabis Proposal Review Panel scoring with 1,075 points. Pittsburg resident Jack Frank, who uses cannabis products for medicinal purposes, said having a store in Pacheco would mean he would not have to travel to an Oakland store for reliable product advice from store personnel who are “knowledgeable about their products.”
Supervisors were also advised that the county ordinance would have be revised to address the transferability of cannabis land use permits or changes in owners of cannabis businesses.
“If a cannabis permit terminates because a change in ownership results in one or more new persons owning a total of 20 percent or more of the business, the business may not operate until a new permit is obtained,” CDD Director John Kopchik wrote in a statement to supervisors.
Formation of Police Tax Zones Approved
Contra Costa residents in planned new subdivisions were granted the opportunity to tax themselves for additional police protection provided by the Sheriff’s Office. Supervisors approved three requests for the formation of proposed County Service Area P-6 – Police Services – for subdivisions in unincorporated areas of the county. Property owners in the newly created Police Zones will vote in a February 11, 2020 election to either pass or reject the police tax measure that will fund the enhanced police services.
Supervisors approved the formation of Police Zones for eight property owners along Center Avenue in Pacheco, for a five-lot El Sobrante development by Pandher Subdivision, and for a four-lot development on Gloria Terrace in unincorporated Lafayette.