City to Weigh Appeal of Spurned Cannabis Applicant Tonight

Published : Wednesday, August 7, 2019 | 4:49 AM

The City Zoning Board of Appeals on Wednesday will take the case of Sweetflower Pasadena LLC, which was fortunate enough to be one of six applicants chosen to open a commercial cannabis store, only to allegedly flub the next phase in the race against other finalists to secure a location before all great spots are spoken for.

Sweetflower submitted an application for a conditional use permit (CUP) to open a retail outlet at 827 East Colorado Avenue that was rejected on grounds that it was incomplete for lack of a location map prepared by a licensed surveyor.

The staff report of the Planning and Community Development Department is recommending the Board of Appeals uphold Director David Reyes’s conclusion that Sweetwater’s submission was incomplete.

Submitted June 12, Sweetwater’s submission for a prized Council District 3 location was actually the first under the wire.

But it may have been rushed as some applicants, who submitted days later, asked for subsequent clarification as to the surveyed map requirement and had it confirmed, thus avoiding a fate similar to Sweetwater’s.

Sweetwater saw the problem, argued that the map is not required under its Municipal Code, or its cannabis retailer regulations, and asked the City to apply a “complete and good faith standard” in reviewing its application.

That did not happen, at least not the way Sweetwater would have understood it to happen, and the submission was rejected June 27. The same day, Sweetwater submitted a second application for the same locale but with a new map.

The application was denied because the submission said the new map had merely been “reviewed” by a surveyor, when the City required it be “prepared” by one.

On July 3, along with its appeal, a third application was submitted with the right kind of map, but it was too late, the City said. District 3 was another company’s to cultivate, that company being Harvest of Pasadena LLC.

The staff report said that there is no requirement in state law or in the Pasadena Municipal Code (PMC) that the contents of an application “be set forth in the PMC.”

Staff concluded that: “The appellant was well informed in advance of submission requirements of its application as to the City’s requirements for a complete application. All other CUP applications received for Commercial Cannabis Retailers have complied with the requirement to include a location map prepared by a licensed surveyor.”

Gregory Sanders, and attorney with the firm representing Sweetflower, Nossaman LLP, said the firm’s policy was not to comment on issues prior to hearings.

By all appearances, if the appeal is denied, Sweetflower’s bid could be over and Pasadena could end up with only five dispensaries – if remaining applicants continue successfully toeing the line – instead of six.

There don’t appear to be a sufficient number of other available Pasadena locations to satisfy all the the requirements need to qualify.

In addition to Harvest, the remaining applicants include Atrium, Varda (Tony Fong), Integral Associates Dena, and MME Pasadena Retail (MedMen).

The next step is for their CUP applications to go before the Planning Commission for approval.

“Given the stakes,” staff said, “it is anticipated that the result of the Planning Commission’s actions will likely be appealed to the City Council.”

The Zoning Board of Appeals will take place at 6:30 p.m. in the City Hall Council Chambers, Room S249. 100 North Garfield Avenue.

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