At a meeting on April 24, Planning Commissioners voted to recommend that City Council extend the moratorium on cannabis dispensaries in Santa Clara until June 2020. Because the state’s legalization of recreational cannabis also gives municipalities a high degree of local control over commercial cannabis, the City has a multi-department team consisting of staff from Police, Fire, City Attorney’s Office, Planning and Finance to develop a framework for legislation regulating the industry.
Staff recommended to Commissioners that, although the regulatory framework will likely come to fruition before June 2020, there are many steps in the process and the extension will allow adequate time. Commissioners debated on whether the extension would result in lost revenue from taxes on cannabis products as well as further delay the establishment of the industry in Santa Clara, but ultimately most decided that the extension on the moratorium was necessary to establish proper regulatory standards.
Sean Kali-rai, president of the Silicon Valley Cannabis Alliance, spoke at the meeting and informed commissioners about Assembly Bill 1356 that’s currently working its way through various legislative committees. He cautioned that if the bill ultimately passes, municipalities that have banned commercial cannabis could end up losing local land use control and end up with more dispensaries than would otherwise have been the case. City staff advised commissioners that the bill is targeted at cities with outright bans, not moratoriums.
“This bill was really designed to push city councils — where they have passed Prop 64 with over 50 percent majority — to say you have to move forward or the state is going to do it for you,” Kali-rai said.
The topic of live music prohibitions was revisited from last meeting as another Alcoholic Beverage Control use permit was on the table for an AC Marriott located at 2950 Lakeside Drive. The permit was approved by the Commission and a condition prohibiting live music unless it is incidental to the primary use of the venue was dropped.
Later in the meeting Commission Chair Sudhanshu Jain reignited discussion calling for a change in zoning code to make live music more accessible in the City. Gloria Sciara, Development Review Officer, explained that there’s actually a specific live music permit that venues have to apply for that costs nearly $10,000 and would cover ongoing entertainment events. None of the current members of the Planning Commission had ever experienced reviewing an application for such a permit.
The permit is required as a section of the zoning code that currently states, “…neighborhood bar and/or restaurant which serves or sells alcoholic beverages with an area of less than one thousand five hundred (1,500) square feet (including any outdoor seating), dancing or live entertainment shall not be permitted.”
City staff added that the zoning code update currently underway may help make it easier for venues to have music while still allowing the Police Department and other departments to address any criminal or nuisance issues that may arise.
Commissioner Shawn Williams’ resignation will be accepted by City Council on May 7 and Council will subsequently interview three applicants and make a decision to fill the one remaining open seat on the Planning Commission.
The May 8 meeting has been cancelled and Commissioners are scheduled to meet again on May 22.