A packed agenda awaits the City Council as leaders face a weighty slate of topics just a week after their final February meeting. The Council will have its first discussion of the future of marijuana sales in Santa Monica since Californians legalized cannabis for recreational use last November. The Council will also vote on a controversial modified noise ordinance that will allow loud protests in the City’s commercial areas. New traffic lights on Montana Avenue, upkeep of vacant buildings and a historic post office renovation round out the agenda.
At the City Council meeting, staff will recommend leaders prohibit recreational marijuana businesses in Santa Monica.
Staff members will recommend the City err on the side of caution when it comes to pot, despite overwhelming support of marijuana legalization in Santa Monica. Back in November, Proposition 64 passed in a landslide in the City with 71 percent of voters casting their ballots in favor of legal weed, according to data from the LA County registrar of voters.
Proposition 64 legalized possession of up an ounce of pot for anyone over the age of 21. Smoking is allowed in a private home or at a business licensed for on-site cannabis consumption. Businesses looking to open under the new law will have to get both a state and local permit. Even without dispensaries or recreational pot shops in city limits, Santa Monica staff expects cannabis related tourism will grow in Santa Monica.
Recreational use of pot is now legal in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, Washington and Washington, D.C., although Congress blocked the sale of recreational weed in the D.C. area.
Despite state legalization, marijuana remains a Schedule I Controlled Substance under Federal Law. Under the Obama Administration, the US Attorney General’s Office instated a policy of non-interference with states that legalized marijuana as long as strict regulations were robustly enforced. Trump’s Attorney General recently hinted he may reverse the policy.
“I am dubious about marijuana,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently told the room at the National Association of Attorneys General’s annual winter meeting. “States can pass whatever laws they choose but I’m not sure we’re going to be a better, healthier nation if we have marijuana being sold at every corner grocery store,”
More than twenty years after California voters legalized marijuana for medical use, Santa Monica still does not have a single dispensary.
Back in 2015, the City Council updated the zoning ordinance to authorize two medical marijuana dispensaries in the City. Dispensaries could open up along Wilshire Boulevard between Lincoln and 20th Street or along Santa Monica Boulevard between 23rd Street and Centinela Avenue.
On Tuesday, the City Council can direct staff to draft an ordinance to create a permit for medical dispensaries.
The Council will consider adding an exemption to the City Noise Ordinance to allow non-commercial activity on public property between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m., except the Pier and the Promenade. The change is supported by the local hotel union because it would allow loud protests in commercial areas. The ordinance allows for restrictions near residential buildings but not hotels.
Post Office Building
The historic lobby of the former US Post Office at 5th and Arizona is slated for a makeover. The lobby will serve as a visitor reception area and a commissary for employees and guests at Skydance Productions, the media company responsible for films like Jack Reacher, Star Trek and Mission: Impossible. If the City Council gives the go ahead, the historic wood walls and ceiling will be cleaned and recoated, the terrazzo lobby floors will be repaired and restored and even the original maple tables will be repurposed for the commissary. The Landmarks Commission staff will review and approve any modifications inside of the Landmark building.
Traffic Lights on Montana
City staff is urging the council to replace four traffic signals along the Montana Avenue corridor immediately – beginning with the 7th Street signal. A staff report describes the forty-year-old signals as “functionally obsolete” and “unworkable.” Recent rain saturated the soil beneath the intersections and caused the underground wiring conduits to fail. City engineers discovered that much of the conduit has rusted away and is irreparable, according to staff reports.
The total cost of fixing the four intersections will exceed $1 million.
Vacant Property Maintenance
A new ordinance would require building owners to keep up vacant buildings and projects left in a state of partial construction. Of 29 vacant properties in Santa Monica known to staff, the City has received complaints about 12 of them over the last year. However, existing law does not allow staff to address complaints about properties that have remained empty for years due to incomplete construction.