Commercial Sale of Marijuana Halted Until 2019, Council Appoints New Planning Commissioner

By David Alexander

An ordinance calling for a one-year moratorium on the commercial sale of marijuana caused friction between Santa Clara City Council Members.

In a 5-2 vote, the Council prevented the City from defaulting to state law that passed last year permitting recreational use of marijuana in California. Although cities are unable to prohibit the growing of marijuana plants for personal use, they can regulate the commercial distribution of the drug. The ordinance will preclude the sale of marijuana in Santa Clara until the start of 2019.

Vice Mayor Dominic Caserta and Council Member Patricia Mahan — the two “no” votes — expressed concern that holding off on allowing the commercial sale of the newly legalized drug could cost the City tax revenue.

“I am very concerned that we are losing out on an economic opportunity,” Caserta said. “We are making a huge mistake if we are going to wait 13 months to do this.”

 

Acting City Attorney Brian Doyle said he believed the ordinance is in the direction the Council had prompted City employees to take following previous study sessions on the topic. With “the dilemma” of licensing and zoning to consider, he said there simply isn’t enough time to iron out all the details before Jan. 1. Without the ordinance, he said there would be an “element of the Wild West.”

Another problem that would likely arise is the need for more code enforcement, said City Manager Deanna Santana. Should the Council decide to shorten the moratorium, Santana said she would feel more comfortable discussing it after the Council’s priority setting session in December. City employees need enough time to get “all the programming strategized.”

Council Member Pat Kolstad said he “sympathized” with Caserta and Mahan, and that undoubtedly the City would be missing out on revenue, but that the Council needed to be “thoughtful and methodical and look at every angle.”

Mayor Lisa Gillmor said the City should “do it right” and not “go in blindly” with a “knee-jerk” reaction. In a play on words, she added that the Council would move on the subject when it was “fully baked.”

Santa Clara Chamber of Commerce opposed the year-long ban.

Nick Kasper, Director of the Chamber, said the City will have to absorb many costs associated with the legalization of marijuana. For instance, he said to train one police officer on these new law costs the City roughly $30,000.

“I don’t want to play catch-up on this,” Mahan said. “I want to be a leader on this.”

 

New Planning Commissioner

To fill a vacancy left by exiting Planning Commissioner Jan-Yu Weng, the Council appointed Lance Salame to fill Weng’s seat.

Salame is a staff engineer at the Mountain View-based Intuit. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in 1980 in structural engineering and a Master’s in 1982 in computer science, both from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo.

He said he would bring to the Planning Commission the ability to foresee how developments fit into the larger context of the City, especially regarding its impact on infrastructure, and advocate for a “sustainable” and “rational” style of development.

Salame was selected over Charter Review Committee Member Hosam Haggag; Martin Schulter, a retired associate vice president of student affairs at San Jose State University; Jasmine Hao Vu, a clinical research assistant at the pharmaceutical company Glaxo-Smith-Kline Inc.; and Julie White, a manager at Mentor Graphics.

The voting was done in two rounds, with each Council Member able to cast two votes. The top two vote-getters moved on to the next round. Council Member Teresa O’Neill ended up being the swing vote. During the first round of voting Mayor Gillmor and Council Members Watanabe, Davis and O’Neill casted votes for Haggag with Council Members Mahan, Kolstad, Caserta and O’Neill casting votes for Salame. Mahan and Caserta took issue with Haggag’s “disrespectful” attitude.

Since she had cast her vote for the top two vote-getters, O’Neill had to select between them in the second round of voting. She chose Salame.

Salame will serve the remainder of the partial term ending June 30, 2020.

 

Other Action Taken

The Council also approved a historic preservation ordinance. The ordinance incorporates historic designations into the General Plan.

Andrew Crabtree, Director of Community Development, said the ordinance will “codify practices” and “provide greater clarity.” He said that the ordinance defines what constitutes a “major” or “minor” change to a property.

Vice Mayor Caserta said the ordinance “balances property rights with respecting heritage.”

Also on the agenda was a grant application to the Santa Clara Valley Water District. The $484.5 million grant would cover roughly half the cost of the district’s Pacheco Reservoir expansion project. The Council approved the letter of application unanimously.

Bids and Proposals

Finally, the Council unanimously approved awarding a public works contract for a breaker replacement project at the northern receiving station to Newtron, a Martinez-based contractor.

The $704,530 contract was $68,530 over the engineer’s estimate. Because of two subcontractors not being registered with the Department of Industrial Relations, the City rejected the lowest bidder, Michels Corporation dba Michels Pipeline Construction—whose bid came in at $114,329 under the engineer’s estimate. Labor law requires that all contractors be registered with the Department of Industrial Relations.

The City Council will meet again 7 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 21 at City Hall, 1500 Warburton Ave. in Santa Clara.