San Francisco just quietly passed its second dispensary ban of the legal marijuana era. The first came when the Board of Supervisors banned dispensaries in Chinatown about two years ago. Now, a second ordinance blocking the legal sale of recreational bud has blossomed in the Bayview neighborhood.
The seeds for the ban were sown last summer, after a proposal to turn an empty Walgreens into one of the biggest cannabis retail shops in town drew backlash from neighborhood NIMBYs. The board overwhelmingly approved District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton’s Bayview Industrial Triangle Cannabis Restricted Use District by an overwhelming 10-1 vote.
In an April meeting held over Zoom (occasionally interrupted by a barking dog, as all Board of Supervisors meetings are these days), Sup. Walton described the patch of his district affected by the ban as “less than five blocks, and a very small sliver of the Bayview.”
Walton also adds that the ban “does not prohibit any other marijuana uses such as manufacturing, distribution, or cultivation.” That means that the Bayview’s many indoor cannabis growers can continue to operate their legal marijuana grows in that neighborhood.
Sup. Walton did not respond to a request to explain his rationale for the dispensary ban. But his legislation claims that “Bayview neighborhood community members have expressed concern over the impacts of cannabis-related uses on the neighborhood and its residents, and the disproportionate concentration of cannabis-related uses in their neighborhood.”
However, San Francisco Planning Department data show that there currently isn’t a single dispensary open and operating within in the Bayview. One was slated to open this week, but that has been delayed due to the current civil unrest roiling San Francisco and the rest of the country. Four other Bayview dispensary permit applications are currently under SF Office of Cannabis review, yet none of them is located within the five-block range of this dispensary ban.
Community opposition to cannabis heated up in the Bayview last summer, when plans were submitted to turn the shuttered Walgreens at the Bayview Plaza shopping center into a massive, 9,500-square-foot marijuana shop. The Bayview Merchant Association organized a grassroots campaign tofight an out-of-state dispensary chain from moving in.
“There has been no communication whatsoever from the property owners,” former merchant association president Mel Washington complained in a San Francisco Bayview editorial last July. “This is not the best place for this store.”
That Seattle-based chain called Have a Heart caved in to the pressure, and withdrew its dispensary request for the location last August. Have a Heart is applying at other locations in the city, but those applications are complicated by a controversial takeover attempt by the marijuana magazine High Times.
Still, this Bayview microhood certainly could benefit from an economic jolt. Nearly one out of every four storefronts there was vacant even before COVID-19, and parking spaces on the Phelps Street part of the district are occupied almost entirely by rundown RVs.
Probably the best-known attraction in these five blocks between Phelps and Third Streets is Sam Jordan’s Place, once San Francisco’s longest-running African American-owned bar and now the namesake of its street Sam Jordan’s Way. But that bar closed last November, adding another unwanted vacancy to the blighted neighborhood
Mayor London Breed declined to sign Walton’s dispensary ban legislation. But she didn’t veto it either, so the ban still went into effect June 1. The mayor’s office did not respond to requests for comment on this article, so we reached out to the only supervisor who voted against the ban.
“I generally don’t support blanket geographic prohibitions on the location of cannabis uses,” District 8 Sup. Sup. Rafael Mandelman tells SF Weekly. “I had voted against a prior effort to ban cannabis storefronts from Chinatown for the same reason. There are already a number of existing limitations on the location of cannabis businesses, and there is a Conditional Use process that affords neighbors the opportunity to make the case that a new cannabis business won’t work well at a particular location.”
Walton’s dispensary ban is a small part of a larger piece of neighborhood renewal legislation called the Bayview Industrial Triangle Redevelopment Plan, which hopes to revive the area by attracting grocery stores, theaters, and an anticipated 17,000 new housing units. But the plan makes little mention of how to achieve these lofty aspirations, and banning essential businesses may not be the best way to attract outside economic development.
However, the ban is now law, and support for the legislation among the Board of Supervisors shows that City Hall is comfortable with marijuana prohibition in individual neighborhoods — a sign that cannabis dispensary bans might start sprouting up all over town.