Head Banned

The neighborhood nicknamed ‘Dispensary Row’ has sparked, um, a  row over zoning that’s kept new marijuana businesses away from the family-dominated district.

San Francisco’s first and only neighborhood to revoke the marijuana welcome mat was the Outer Mission/Excelsior District, doing so when Sup. Ahsha Safai’s measure prohibiting new marijuana dispensaries in District 11 passed last July. That moratorium went up in smoke when City Hall passed its new recreational cannabis laws for 2018, but it still sends a chill that has kept new cannabis businesses from setting up shop in the neighborhood.

The Excelsior and Outer Mission acquired a cluster of medical cannabis dispensaries (MCDs)  in the early days of retail marijuana permitting, provoking significant neighborhood pushback and earning the nickname “Dispensary Row” in media reports at the time. But the green has faded, and dispensaries’ once-hot interest in this neighborhood has puffed and passed.

There are 47 applications currently before the San Francisco Office of Cannabis to open marijuana retail locations. Not one of these applicants is trying to open in the Outer Mission or Excelsior, in the wake of Safai’s dispensary limit and neighborhood agitation.

“People were very frustrated about our neighborhood being targeted,” Safai tells SF Weekly. “Because of the way the so-called ‘green map’ was created, one of the biggest requirements was you previously had to be 1,000 feet from a school. That drove a lot of medical cannabis dispensaries to our neighborhood.”

That 1,000-foot limit has since been reduced to a 600-foot buffer zone. But the change has done little to buffer concerns that the Outer Mission and Excelsior were attracting a less-than-outstanding crop of marijuana shops.

“We don’t get the cigar-lounge, beautiful [dispensaries],” Sup. Safai said at a Board of Supervisors meeting last year. “We get the bars-on-the-door, armed security guard. It is a very different type of business in our district.”

There are only three dispensaries in District 11 (although two more Ocean Avenue cannabis shops sit on the district’s immediate border). And while D-11’s Green Cross dispensary has dedicated parking and a luxe vibe, others have generated complaints.

“A lot of the MCDs we have on Mission Street were creating traffic and parking issues, loitering issues,” Safai tells us. “People would park in driveways, they would sit on people’s doorsteps, they would smoke marijuana anywhere they could find a place to pull over and hang out. It was creating a lot of nuisance issues.”

“If you come home and pull into your driveway and someone’s parked there, and it’s because there’s two dispensaries down the street, it’s going to cause problems,” he says. “We had to go down and talk to those dispensaries about being better businesses and neighbors.”

SF Weekly will note that there are no longer bars on the doors of the two other District 11 dispensaries, Mission Organic Center and Connected Cannabis (formerly Cookies SF and Tree-Med).

But there’s also no new cannabis businesses lining up to open in this district, despite its having one of the highest retail vacancy rates in the  city. Sup. Safai doesn’t feel this is because of neighborhood sentiment, but instead because the school buffer zone has gotten smaller.

“Now that the green zone has changed, people want to be somewhere else,” he says.


Read more stories from SF Weekly‘s Excelsior issue:

X Marks the Excelsior
What’s the difference between the Excelsior, Outer Mission, and Crocker-Amazon? Here’s our spreadsheet cheat sheet to these borders.

On the Outskirts But Certainly Not ‘Sleepy’
The little neighborhood at the far end of Mission Street has its fair share of news-worthy drama.

A Thrilla at Manila
Manila Oriental Market, the pan-Asian grocery at the corner of Mission Street and I-280, is a treasure.

Infinite Appetite, Finite Budget
Its main drag looks a lot like Queens, N.Y., which happens to be the most diverse place in the U.S.

Excelsior’s Princess Diaries House Keeps the Dream Alive
Anne Hathaway got her angst on in a historic Excelsior firehouse. Go there and relive your teenage dreams!

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