Published : Wednesday, November 29, 2017 | 6:56 AM
[Updated] A City Commission could decide next week to approve requiring a Pasadena property owner to evict an illegal marijuana dispensary tenant from her building.
The move would be the first-ever such forced eviction demand against a property owner made by the City in its battle against illegal marijuana dispensaries here.
Pasadena Code Compliance Manager Jon Pollard is making the recommendation based upon the property owner’s alleged unresponsiveness to City efforts to determine the complete identity of the marijuana dispensary operator and her allowance of the illegal “public nuisance” to continue operations unabated on her property.
The owner of the property at 775 E. Washington Boulevard, which houses the subject dispensary reportedly called “The Spot,” is identified by City officials as Amelia Caltacci.
Caltacci has been issued a “Cease and Desist” notice and four administrative fines totaling $2,013 by Pasadena, but responded only to two of the fines, officials said.
According to Pasadena Public Information Officer William Boyer, “Other landlords have been working with the City to take appropriate action to evict illegally operating marijuana businesses.”
In a staff report, Code Compliance Manager Pollard recommended that the Commission order the owner to first give the tenant business a three-day notice to quit “by reason of conducting unlawful activities which are a public nuisance and in violation of the Pasadena Municipal Code,” and later file for eviction and an unlawful detainer action against the tenant named by Caltucci, Jairo Mejia.
Caltacci has reportedly not provided additional information about the tenant’s full identity, and despite several citations issued in the name of Mejia and received at the business’ address, the City has not been able to definitively identify Mejia.
The City has subsequently stopped issuing citations to Mejia and is now focusing on the property owner.
Local cannabis advocate and attorney Michelle Brooke sounds resigned to the idea of more dispensaries being evicted from properties.
“They’re probably going to have to close the doors, unfortunately,” she said Monday. “Because Pasadena isn’t the progressive city that we think it is.”
According to the Code Enforcement staff report, City officials confirmed the presence of a marijuana dispensary using “Weedmaps,” a mobile phone app which listed the business name as “The Spot.” Pollard said he called the property owner that same day.
Caltacci confirmed that the marijuana dispensary was operating on her property, saying she thought that the operation of marijuana dispensaries were legal, Pollard said.
He said he advised her that while the new state law – the Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act – allows the sale of cannabis from licensed outlets beginning January 1, 2018, that law is not yet in effect, and individual cities, like Pasadena, may enact stricter laws. (Subsequently, the City Council in fact did approve multiple new marijuana-restrictive ordinances.)
Between May 9 and November 3, the City’s Code Compliance Section issued four administrative citations, requiring them to pay a $108 fine on the first, $218 on the second, $560 on the third, and $1,127 on the fourth. Caltacci only paid for the first and second citations; those for the third and fourth have not been paid, according to the City.
On November 2, the report revealed, Code Compliance hired two private investigators to conduct a “controlled purchase” at the dispensary on November 2, a month after the third citation.
Investigators Manuel and Benjamin Palacio, reportedly were provided with cash by which to purchase marijuana at the shop, and at about 1:24 p.m. reported back to Pollard with a small white paper bag that had been folded at the top and stapled shut.
“Inside the paper bag was a small plastic container similar to a twist-top prescription container that held five grams of ‘Fuego O.G.’ marijuana bud,” the report said.
The private investigators also reported that they saw signs and placards “advertising the availability of cannabis” during the approximately 13 minutes they were inside the marijuana dispensary.
“As of the date of the most recent administrative citation (November 3), Amelia Caltacci as owner of the subject property has allowed as public nuisance to persist in the form of an illegal marijuana dispensary despite the City’s issuance of the ‘Cease and Desist’ notice and four administrative citations with fines totaling $2,013,” Pollard said in the staff report. “Based on Caltacci’s continued violation of law, this matter is being referred to the Code Enforcement Commission for a hearing of facts surrounding the matter and a recommended order.”
During the hearing on December 7, the Code Enforcement Commission will consider ordering Caltacci to take a number of corrective actions, including evicting the illegal marijuana dispensary from the leased space, and filing an unlawful detainer action against the operator.