This weekend, we inaccurately reported that the Planning Commission would approve up to four Conditional Use Permits for cannabis retail business – that is not accurate. The Planning Commission can only recommend, the council has the final decision.
There has been some controversy over placing some of the dispensaries downtown – and in the top two tiers, the staff has for the most part avoided downtown with only two of the seven top recommendations being in the downtown – one located at 325 G St and the other at 514 3rd St.
The Tier 1 locations are “viewed by staff to meet the zoning considerations and are in a location with a site layout that minimizes the potential to impact adjacent uses and the community.” Tier 2 meet zoning considerations but warrant more consideration for the potential impact.
The sites in the downtown “warrant special consideration to ensure they make a positive contribution to the fabric and do not disrupt existing and future merchant activity.” Staff also has concerns about Olive Drive, “given concerns about congestion at the Richards/ Olive intersection.”
Here I focus on the issues of downtown dispensaries. Staff notes that the applications in the transition areas or edges of downtown “caused the most friction with adjacent neighbors and/or presented staff with concern in regards to compatibility with adjacent uses.”
Staff feels “that careful consideration should be given for locating any dispensary but especially the downtown area. Staff recommends the Planning Commission provide thoughts related to locating any dispensaries in the downtown area.”
As we noted in last month’s commentary, a key concern has been the idea that these businesses will generate between 150 and 200 daily customer visits per dispensary.
Of course, if you talk to potential owners, they will point out that there will be a lot of deliveries and that many patrons will arrive by bike or foot. Nevertheless, even though we would figure that 150 to 200 visits would be spread out throughout the day or in the form of deliveries, there are concerns about parking and traffic impacts.
As noted in our commentary, a person who runs a marriage and family therapy business across the street from the proposed F Street Dispensary, at 416 F Street, is concerned about parking issues, claiming that, as it is now, parking and traffic are “out of control.” She told the commission, “It almost makes me want to move my practice to another city.”
In her view, allowing a dispensary to move into a commercial zone in the downtown, “it’s just completely to a point where the city’s going to shut down.”
Another person who operates a salon next door to the proposed Manna Roots dispensary at 117 D Street “questioned the impact on the downtown area of cannabis dispensaries.”
In her view, the impact “could negatively impact efforts underway to revitalize the downtown core area.”
As we pointed out previously, we want to have a thriving downtown with businesses that draw people in. We want people to come and spend their money in the downtown. And yet, business owners are expressing a concern that a business that draws in too many people to the downtown is bad.
I would go so far as to point out that these businesses are not retail businesses but instead businesses that are probably better off not being in the downtown core area themselves.
I have had a chance to tour some of these potential locations. Some of them have parking on site that would probably accommodate most customers. People hear numbers like 150 to 200, but for some reason envision those people all at once, rather than spread throughout the day. Assuming nine hours of business hours, even 200 people would arrive on average one every three minutes. If you have a place with eight parking spots, even if you have customers staying an average of 30 minutes, you are not having a huge impact on the site.
Staff asks the Planning Commission to discuss the merits of the two different locations within the Tier 2 group.
All Good Wellness – 325 G Street
This location is designated as Retail with Offices in the Core Area Specific Plan. It is located on a block that has mix of restaurant, banking, retail hardware, and offices along with private parking lots and the G Street public parking lot. The location is in the Core Commercial area of the Core Area Specific Plan which allows for retail use but is not located in the more intensive Retail Stores designated area of the Core Area Specific Plan.
Good People Farms – 514 3rd Street
This location is designated as Retail Stores in the Core Area Specific Plan. It is also located on the Third Street Special Character Area which serves as the principal bike and pedestrian connection to the University. This location is located on a block that is within the City’s designated Retail Stores zone which is intended to promote a pedestrian shopping experience. It has multiple parking areas within walking distance. The block contains retail, banking, cafes and is located in the core of the core.
Staff notes: “While the locations are both located in the Core Commercial area of downtown, All Good Wellness offers some parking, is across the street from a public parking lot and is on a generally lower intensity retail/pedestrian activity area. The Good People Farms 3rd Street location does not have parking, consistent with other nearby uses and is located in a higher intensity retail area on the principal east/west bicycle/pedestrian linkage for downtown.”
One of the variables is number of significant concerns raised by neighbors. That is a concern with the Tier 3 sites, with staff noting, “If an applicant was able to overcome some of the challenges prior to the City Council hearing, they may be able to be considered a Tier 2 location.”
This is a problem I have with this process. We should be encouraging businesses coming into the core area that will draw customers – and hopefully customers who will then stay in the core area for other uses or to frequent other businesses.
Is this just Davis being unfriendly to new business prospects? It seems like every time new things are proposed, the concern is with traffic impacts and parking, and the positive impact of the influx of more business is downplayed.
Still, at the end of the day, we have to wonder – are people really complaining that a potentially thriving business is coming into the downtown? If we got a very popular restaurant, entertainment establishment or retail establishment, would the complaint be that it would draw in too many people and contribute to traffic and parking problems, or would we be thankful for additional business coming into the core area?
Is this really about parking and traffic or is it about the nature of the business itself? And if so, why did so many people vote for Prop. 64 in Davis, if they didn’t actually want dispensaries?
And unfortunately, it looks like city staff is accommodating those concerns, by downgrading locations that have neighbor complaints.
I get it, staff wants to take the path of least resistance, and if there are two otherwise comparable sites, one that has lots of complaints from neighbors and one that doesn’t, why wouldn’t staff select the one without complaints?
I think there are other factors to consider here that extend beyond simple land uses, and one of the big ones is whether we think cannabis dispensaries enhance or detract from the quality of our downtown.
—David M. Greenwald reporting