You’ve Got Questions, We’ve Got Answers
We’ve answered more of your land use questions below.
Remember, you can always send questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Q: In regard to outdoor/mixed light ordinance, will the City look to other counties that allow outdoor/mixed light based on square feet/acres?
A: At this time it appears the City finds outdoor/mixed light too problematic to address. Though Los Angeles does have agricultural zones and other areas where outdoor grows could be placed, the City is not going to license outdoor cultivation. Odor and theft considerations are probably the leading reasons for this decision.
The Southern California Coalition did address the issue, asking the City to allow outdoor and mixed light grows, pointing out the environmental advantages and the fact that failure to license these types of grows meant 40 percent of the licenses at the state level would not be available in Los Angeles. We also pointed out that failing to offer these licenses was a form of unfair competition.
The City obviously feels more comfortable with indoor cultivation and will be offering those licenses. In 2010 the City’s first cannabis ordinance ordered every dispensary to begin growing on-site or close. Though most dispensaries were in small, antiquated store fronts, they managed to set up clean and safe grows that didn’t generate complaints from neighbors, fires, waste disposal issues or theft.
Additionally, cultivators in Los Angeles take great pride in building state-of-the-art cultivation sites that are clean, safe and don’t impact neighborhoods. Given the professionalism of these women and men, it’s not surprising that Los Angeles grows some of the best cannabis on the planet. The City can license with confidence because entities that haven’t caused problems in the past aren’t likely to do so in the future.
The Southern California Coalition will continue to press the City to allow outdoor/mixed light licenses.
Q: The new zoning ordinance only allows stores to be located in M1-M3 not MR1-MR3. Many people are already located in MR zones. What can we do?
A: If you think you are “zoned out” we strongly advise you to consult a land use attorney as soon as possible. Every situation is different, and may have different solutions. We can only offer generalized information. We urge you, in the strongest possible terms, to see a lawyer and get specific information about your particular situation.
The purpose of the MR1 zone is “to protect industrial land for industrial use and prohibit unrelated commercial and nonindustrial uses.” No residential and/or institutional uses are permitted. This criteria also applies to MR2 zones.
If you’re a Prop D compliant shop you can stay where you are. This is only fair, since the City has never specified zoning for dispensaries in any previous ordinance, just used sensitive uses to control where you could set-up and imposed restrictions on locating in residential zones. Imposing new zoning restrictions this late in the game would be massively unfair and most likely trigger litigation.
For everyone else, this is really a problem, because if the stated goal of the zoning classification is to provide land for manufacturing then retail establishments are not welcome. This is unlikely to change because the designated land use controls what activities can and cannot take place within the zone.
The Southern California Coalition has pointed out to the City that they have allotted too few zones for cannabis activity and in some cases have pushed all categories of licensure into certain zones, pretty much guaranteeing that landlords will demand high rents with impunity, greatly limiting affordable land. We have asked the City to open up more zones and will continue to pressure them to do so.
The other mechanism of relief, some sort of variance, which would allow you to stay where you are, is something else the City needs to consider. So far it has been reluctant to do so, because it would mean the City would have to abandon limited immunity for some form of licensing.
We will keep pushing for a robust regulatory scheme that would include licensing.
Q: Does the City have a numerical limit for collectives or other categories of license?
A: The City has never placed a numerical limit on collectives. In early ordinance drafts from previous years they did float the idea of caps, but it was ultimately abandoned because the cap would either invite litigation, or, if it was based on population, would promote additional dispensaries rather than limit them. Los Angeles residents keep increasing, hitting four million recently.
It appears that new categories of licensure will not be subject to numerical caps, but numbers will be controlled by assigning specific zones, and prohibiting businesses in residential zones. Retail outlets that serve the public will be subject to sensitive uses.
This is very tricky. You have to look carefully at the interplay between zoning, sensitive use, how distances are measured and any other rules that limit land to see if there’s actually enough space for everyone.
The conclusion that the Southern California Coalition came to was that the City cannot restrict zoning the way it currently does, enforce both local and state sensitive uses at 800 feet, use an “as the crow flies” standard for measurement and abandon the alley abutment rule, without limiting available land for retail pretty significantly.
This is problematic since many locations may wish to move or expand. Additionally, any time a landlord seeks to re-finance or sell the building housing a cannabis business, the cannabis business has to move. The City is allowing reciprocity, which means the 44 million tourists who visit each year will be able to patronize retail cannabis businesses. We also host neighboring jurisdictions which do not have much access, like Ventura County. Prop 64 sales are expected to be significant. Existing facilities will have to be able to expand or add locations and new entities may well be required to accommodate the expanding market.
We have explained all this to the City, and asked them to open up additional zones, adjust the sensitive use radius to 300 feet (half a standard city block), as well as use footpath measurements and reinstate the alley abutment rule. Schools would remain at 600 feet.
Some unexpected help has appeared. In the State’s new Medical and Adult Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (the MAU), cities may select their own sensitive use radius. Additionally, an earlier prohibition that local law could be more restrictive than state law but not less, has been removed. Lastly, the sovereignty of local law over state regulations was reinforced. This may mean that the City is not bound by the state standard of 600 feet, but can determine its own sensitive use radius.
The Southern California Coalition will continue to work with the City to open up as much land as possible for licensure.
An update on last week’s question: In the wake of the passage of SB 94, some cannabis bills at the state level have been re-tooled. AB 64 is one of those bills. It now amends Business and Professions Code Section 26053 (c) removing the requirement that multiple licenses each require a separate and distinct location.