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Council Overturns Planning Commission Ruling, Approves Permit for Cannabis Shop

Retailer still needs four more City, State licenses to open its doors

Published on Tuesday, January 28, 2020 | 5:39 am

Integral Associates Dena LLC is one step closer to opening its cannabis shop, Essence in Pasadena, near the intersection of East Colorado Boulevard and Mentor Avenue, next door to the Hotel Constance.

The City Council Monday voted Monday to overturn a 4-3 Planning Commission decision last October to disallow a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) application to the company. The Planning Commission ruled against Integral on the grounds that the proposed location was less than 600 feet from a residential zone.

The council vote was 5-0, with Vice Mayor Tyron Hampton abstaining, and Councilmember Steve Madison recusing himself over a possible conflict involving the law firm he works for. Councilmember Victor Gordo was not present at the meeting due to a family emergency.

“I think that City staff clearly demonstrated that the applicant met the proper criteria to obtain the CUP,” said Councilmember Margaret McAustin, who made the motion to approve the permit.

“Obviously my position was that the law was pretty clear,” said Integral founder Armen Yemenidjian, who added, ‘We just want to open and make the City proud.”

Integral, one of six City license finalists, still needs three more department license approvals—business, public health, and City cannabis— along with a State license, before it will be allowed to open its doors for business in the City.

“I’m still nervous,” added Yemendjian after the decision. “It’s my job as the boss to be nervous.”

Reflecting the pitched battle that cannabis retailers have waged to do business in Pasadena, representatives from one of the City’s six applicant finalists—Sweet Flower—argued against Integral, and City staff’s interpretation of where property lines should be measured.

Sweet Flower CEO Tim Dodd criticized the City’s measuring of the location from the residential zone, and said that the proposed shop was 566 feet away from a residential area, and was therefore “non-compliant.”

The City’s cannabis code states that “No retailer shall be established or located within 600 feet, measured from the nearest property lines of each of the affected parcels, of any existing residential zone.”

The Integral location was an “anomaly,” said City Planning Director David Reyes, because it is actually “split-zoned” with half of the building commercial, and the other half residential.

City staff said that they were looking at “zones,” rather than uses of buildings, since many buildings in Pasadena are used for both residential and commercial uses.

The hearing discussion also brought about a larger discussion on the nature of the City’s cannabis ordinance.

Allen Edson, NAACP Pasadena Branch president, criticized the ordinance, saying it goes “against economic justice.”

Edson said that the nation’s Black and Latino citizens were victims in the “War on Drugs,” and have been “consistently left out of the cannabis industry.”

“Let Brown and Black have a piece of the economic pie,” he said.

Councilmember John Kennedy asked the council about a “social equity discussion” in judging applications for the City’s cannabis laboratory and cultivation companies, the other elements of the City’s cannabis industry.

Assistant City Attorney Teresa Fuentes told Kennedy that those applications have “already been scored, using the same criteria as retail applicants.”

That information has not yet been released yet.

“One at a time,” Fuentes said.

But City Manager Steve Mermell said there would be “an opportunity to put a finer point on that (discussion) further on down the line.”

Councilmember McAustin noted that the hearing “brought up a lot of interesting issues, but the facts are pretty clear, and the question is narrow.”

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