CITY HALL — Planning officials are harshin’ Santa Monica’s mellow.
The Planning Commission will soon consider adding medical marijuana dispensaries to the upcoming zoning ordinance, which regulates how city land can be used, but city planners are recommending against it.
In a report for next week’s commission meeting, planning officials say that the pot shops would take up too many short-term parking spaces on city streets, cause public safety issues, and are unnecessary due to the number of delivery services surrounding the city by the sea.
In August, City Council voted 4-3 to direct planning officials to draft responsible standards for dispensaries to be considered in the updated zoning ordinance.
In November, planning officials released the draft zoning ordinance that allowed two dispensaries in the health care district, which is the area around Saint John’s Health Center and UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica.
Since that time, however, planning officials have “considered additional issues” and are advising against the dispensaries.
In a letter to Planning Director David Martin, police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks writes that her department does “not recommend a course of action which includes incorporating medical marijuana dispensaries into the community fabric.”
Seabrooks lists more than a dozen instances in which violence has been associated with dispensaries.
Planning officials also stumbled across www.WeedMaps.com, which maps the marijuana dispensaries that deliver within Santa Monica’s boundaries.
There are 15 to 20 locations that serve Santa Monica, they said.
“This puts into question the necessity of having a medical marijuana dispensary in the city to serve those unable to access a dispensary outside the city,” planning officials said in the report.
Bill Leahy of Santa Monicans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, takes issue with several aspects of that assertion.
Many of the dispensaries noted by WeedMaps and in City Hall’s report are not legally recognized by the city of Los Angeles, he said. The Daily Press checked the list of 134 dispensaries that Los Angeles considers legitimate and found only one of the four shops mentioned by name in City Hall’s report on the list. Calls to the planning official who prepared the report were not returned.
Without regulation, Leahy said, the deliveries could be dangerous.
“I always question delivery systems,” he said. “The very nature of inviting people into your home is less safe than a brick and mortar location. I’m not comfortable with unknown people coming into a home with unknown amounts of cash.”
City Hall evaluated the area where they had planned to allow dispensaries and had concerns about the amount of available on-street short-term parking. A dispensary, they said, “may increase the burden in an area with existing parking challenges.”
Planners recommended limiting patients to 15 per hour to reduce on-street parking demand.
Leahy said that the issues would be created by almost any business that moved into the area.
“What other business is there, anywhere, where you would limit the amount of customers?” he said.
If the commissioners decide they want dispensaries, city planners said, they could restrict them to the ground floor and prohibit them from installing signs. They also recommended requiring dispensary owners to install ventilation systems to eliminate the smell of fresh buds from seeping outside.
City planners evaluated three other districts and found them to be unsuitable for a variety of reasons, including the amount of nearby schools and parks.
The Planning Commission is scheduled to discuss dispensaries on Feb. 12. Commissioners will make their recommendation and the entire zoning ordinance will go before council later this year.