Redwood City welcomes cannabis retail

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After a nearly two-year-process to regulate how walk-in cannabis stores would be allowed to open in Redwood City, the City Council approved zoning amendments this week permitting the business to open, by right, in zoning districts where general retail is allowed.

With a 6-0 vote, the council approved two ordinance changes ushering in a maximum of six cannabis storefronts to the city. Permits would be granted in a merit-based process which would assess the proposed location, neighborhood compatibility, proposed security and safety plans, the businesses labor plans and a business plan.

Councilwoman Diana Reddy praised staff’s recommendations around merit-based permitting while Mayor Diane Howard and Vice Mayor Shelly Masur suggested only those proposals receiving high merit ratings receive permits, slowing the number of cannabis retailers popping up at the same time.

“I want to give us permission to start with the very best and see what happens because I think that’s what will gain the trust of our community,” said Howard.

Once six storefronts are developed, staff estimates $960,000 of revenue will be generated for the city after adopting a 4% cannabis excise tax rate. Cannabis storefronts would be buffered from each other and from sensitive areas like parks and schools.

Various zoning districts would welcome the marijuana storefronts by right including neighborhood commercial, general commercial, mixed-use corridor, mixed-use waterfront and mixed-use neighborhood zoning districts. Stores smaller than 5,000 square feet would be permitted, by right, in the mixed-use transitional zoning district and stores smaller than 2,500 square feet would be permitted, by right, in the light industrial incubator zoning district.

The storefronts would also be conditionally welcomed in the industrial park and industrial restricted zoning districts only if the structures are 30,000 square feet or larger due to an existing general retail regulation within both districts. Lowering the threshold would affect all parcels in both districts and would directly counter the argument that retail cannabis is similar to general retail, said staff.

Councilwoman Janet Borgens raised concerns the stores would be located in disadvantaged communities, citing current research and specifically drawing attention to Roosevelt, Jefferson, Woodside and Marsh Manor plazas.

“These plazas were created to provide amenities for those neighborhoods so I do have a concern that they would be placed close to neighborhoods, especially if those neighborhoods are coming out and saying they don’t want those businesses there,” she said.

Borgens also raised concerns that cannabis products would be consumed in public spaces. Both Assistant City Manager Alex Khojikian and Police Chief Dan Mulholland said state and local laws directly prohibit such acts. Mulholland said a series of fines would be levied on those caught violating public cannabis consumption laws.

David McPhearson, the consultant with HdL Companies overseeing the regulation of marijuana sales in Redwood City, also noted security hired by cannabis retailers must be licensed by the state and receive approvals from the police department to carry firearms.

Because the zoning changes would affect Woodside Plaza, near Councilman Ian Bain’s home, he recused himself from the discussion.

(650) 344-5200 ext. 106

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