Retail cannabis businesses are closer to being welcomed within Redwood City limits as planning commissioners approved zoning guidelines permitting storefronts in various areas of the city. 

After a nearly two-year-process to regulate how walk-in cannabis stores would be allowed to open in Redwood City, the Planning Commission voted to recommend the City Council approve zoning amendments permitting the business to open, by right, in zoning districts where general retail is allowed. 

“I’m wholeheartedly concurring with the recommendation to allow, subject to all the other permitting requirements, retail cannabis storefronts in zones which permit general retail use,” said Commissioner Bill Shoe, who took issue with the council limiting how many storefronts would be allowed within the city.  

If approved by the City Council, various zoning districts would welcome the marijuana storefronts by right including neighborhood commercial, general commercial, mixed use corridor, mixed use waterfront and mixed use neighborhood zoning districts. Stores smaller than 5,000 square feet would be permitted, by right, in the mixed use transitional zoning district and stores smaller than 2,500 square feet would be permitted, by right, in the light industrial incubator zoning district. 

The storefronts would also be conditionally welcomed in the industrial park and industrial restricted zoning districts only if the structures are 30,000 square feet or larger due to an existing general retail regulation within both districts. Lowering the threshold would affect all parcels in both districts and would directly counter the argument that retail cannabis is similar to general retail, said staff. 

Community members, unaware of the city’s efforts to bring in retail cannabis sales, expressed displeasure in the industry and implored city officials to not permit the businesses within city limits. Some called the drug dangerous with the potential for attracting crime while others raised concerns children and teens would have access to the shops. 

City staff noted facilities are highly secure, equipped with cameras and often requiring government-issued IDs to be checked up to six times before purchasing products. The state requires individuals to be at least 21 years old to purchase cannabis products and state law prohibits public consumption of the drug. 

“The eight original dispensaries we had in [in Oakland] had within a 500-foot radius from them that the crime elements dropped almost dramatically down to almost nonexistent statistically,” said David McPhearson, the consultant with HdL Companies overseeing the regulation of marijuana sales in Redwood City.

Regardless of zoning district, all cannabis storefronts would be required to be at least 600 feet away from sensitive places such as playgrounds, day cares and schools. Commissioners recommended the council consider lowering that requirement near day cares due to the low likelihood a small child would access the storefront. 

Commissioners also recommended the council consider raising the 600-foot requirement near parks. The City Council will consider the commission’s recommendation during a council meeting in the fall. The commission recommended staff present a detailed report to the council on concerns raised during the hourslong discussion by both commissioners and the public. Commissioner Ernie Schmidt voted against the plan because of concerns it wouldn’t attract enough business downtown.

In other business, the Planning Commission also approved the plans for a 91-room hotel with 71 on-site parking spots on the corner of Veterans Boulevard and Brewster Avenue. The project, which received rave reviews from the commission, will replace a gas station. Staff said the hotel is likely to be part of the Hilton franchise, as part of the company’s boutique line. 

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