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  July 27 Agenda Portends a Long Night
July 24, 2010

The July 27, 2010, City Council meeting has all the signs of another marathon all-nighter. It is the last meeting before the Council takes its August break, not to meet again until September 7.
Potentially controversial items include three dealing with marijuana and two with the North Shoreline.
Last week, the City Council voted on the first reading of an ordinance to regulate marijuana dispensaries. It squeaked by on a 4-3 vote but requires a second reading (Item H-13) to be adopted. The City Council seems to be split between a majority that wants Richmond to set a new precedent for marijuana availability and a minority who want an ordinance more in line with cities like Oakland that limit the number of permits and impose strict regulations.
I was in the minority, but realizing that legal marijuana sales appear to be in Richmond’s future in a big way, I have introduced Item L-4 that will place a measure on the November 2010 ballot to tax marijuana a sales. If we are going to be the pot capital of California, we might as well make some money from it to offset potential impacts and maintain other services. I have suggested 10%, but the marijuana lobby will argue it is too much and will penalize medicinal users. Oakland and Berkeley recently went for 2.5%. The fact is that more than 90% of dispensary patrons are healthy recreational users. Recreational users who pay $200 to $400 an ounce could kick in an extra $20 to $40 for City services. Legal marijuana advocate Sen. Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) has already proposed a state tax of $50 per ounce, and 10% would be far less than that. Perhaps the cash flush and always compassionate dispensary proprietors will provide a discount for true patients.
In the spirit of “in for a penny; in for a pound,” I have also introduced item L-2 that would direct staff to prepare an ordinance for the September 7 Council meeting to license, tax and regulate large scale marijuana production facilities. The City can realize substantial revenue and benefit from jobs created by this industry. Unlike Oakland, Richmond has areas formerly used for agriculture (mostly flower growing) where marijuana can be grown securely outdoors, thus obviating the need for expensive and energy wasting indoor hydroponic growing facilities.
There are two, not necessarily competing, measures on this agenda relating to the North Shoreline. I have introduced Item L-5, which, like last week’s Point Molate casino measure, is an advisory vote about the General Plan designation for land west of the Richmond Parkway and south of Pt. Pinole Regional Park. My measure would preclude future development of dense residential, commercial or industrial development but would allow a large variety of low impact uses including agriculture, parks, recreation, public, cultural and institutional uses and open space.
Councilmember Rogers has introduced Item L-3, not necessarily conflicting with L-2, that directs staff to study a zoning change that would begin with the same uses described in Item L-5 but would include an alternative that allows some commercial development if the Richmond Rod and Gun Club can be relocated out of Richmond. Rogers’s theory is that the potential increase in land value resulting from removal of the Club can pay for its removal. The landowners who can successfully contrive the removal would be rewarded by increasing the development potential of their land, and the remaining undeveloped area would also be more valuable to the public without the gun club.
You can click on the agenda items listed below to access the entire staff reports and referenced documents.
ADOPT an ordinance (second reading) adding Chapter 7.102 (Medical Marijuana Collectives) to the Richmond Municipal Code - City Attorney's Office (Randy Riddle 620-6509).
DIRECT staff to draft an ordinance similar to the City of Oakland's that would license and tax large-scale marijuana farms in industrial areas to supply the city's future unlimited number of marijuana dispensaries, and review policies that could include smaller and medium-sized farmers - Councilmember Butt (620-6581).
CONSIDER directing staff to prepare a plan to preserve the North Richmond Shoreline Development in order to permit all stakeholders to work together to save the shoreline for recreational shoreline uses by developing a workable plan to achieve a voluntary relocation of the Richmond Rod and Gun Club - Councilmember Rogers (620-6581).
CONSIDER placing a measure on the November 2010 ballot that sets the business license fee (tax) for medicinal marijuana businesses at 10 percent of gross receipts, or such as other rate as the Council may set - Councilmember Butt (620-6581).
CONSIDER submitting to Richmond voters at the November 2010 Election an advisory measure on whether the city should incorporate community low-intensity commerce and recreation land uses for the North Shoreline into the General Plan - Councilmember Butt (620-6581).