The Emeryville Planning Commission held a special meeting on December 20th to discuss the issuance of use permits for three cannabis manufacturing applicants. All three applications are a result of our City Council’s decision back in April to adopt regulations to allow cannabis manufacturing facilities in certain areas of the city upon the recommendation of the Planning Commission.
A new Article entitled “Cannabis Related Activities” was added to the Planning Regulations [Article 22 of Chapter 5 of Title 9 (Planning Regulations) of our city’s Municipal Code] that prohibited commercial cultivation but permitted cannabis manufacturing and retail store-front businesses for both medicinal and recreational use.
The new ordinance would treat the manufacturing and processing of cannabis related products such as extracts, concentrates, edible products, and topical products the same as the manufacturing of pharmaceuticals.
Therefore, cannabis manufacturing is allowed with a Major Conditional Use Permit in the Mixed Use With Non-Residential (MUN), Office Technology/Doyle Hollis North (OT/OH), Office Technology (OT), Light Industrial (INL), and Heavy Industrial (INH) zoning districts.
On September 1, 2017 the City Council adopted an ordinance entitled “Cannabis” (Chapter 25 of Title 5 of the Municipal Code) that requires all new cannabis manufacturing facilities to obtain a Major Conditional Use Permit followed by an Operator’s Permit that will be issued by the Police Chief. In addition, and prior to start of operations, the manufacturer will be required to obtain a business license at which time all relevant permits from the State would need to have been secured.
Public Hearing: VersaGenix Cannabis Manufacturing and Delivery Facility
The first applicant was from VersaGenix, who proposed to open a non-storefront dispensary facility in the existing 1,046 square foot building located at 1320 67th Street (adjacent to Prizefighter Bar). The project includes the non-volatile manufacturing, processing, packaging, storing of cannabis products to distribute to other cannabis vendors and operations to support the delivery of cannabis products to end users at offsite location.
The facility will begin operations at 8:00 a.m. and will end no later than 8:00 p.m., Monday through Sunday. Manufacturing and assembly working hours will occur between the hours of 9:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m.. This allows periods of time before and after process manufacturing for preparation, clean-up, and documentation. The total number of employees is not expected to exceed five. In addition, there is no proposed changes to the exterior of the building which helps eliminate additional disturbance to the current flow of the neighborhood.
As with most municipalities looking to incorporate the growing cannabis business model, the Commission highlighted the need to have detailed security plans, which VersaGenix CEO Ryan Burke focused on during his presentation:
“We have a fully developed security plan for all aspects of our operation from the manufacturing side, including waste disposal and how the orders are fulfilled… and all product from the manufacturing all the way to the order fulfillment, whether that is to go to a retail outlet or direct to patient, all of that is going to be tracked along the way.”
In addition, Mr. Burke highlighted that other companies, especially those who would be transporting product, would also have detailed security plans, and the delivery aspect of the business would not create undue disturbance to the neighborhood:
“[Licensed distributors] will have a distribution and transport license, and have Insured trucks and it will be like any other delivery… but we are not talking huge semi trucks, probably box trucks at the most and more likely vans.”
Finally, Mr. Burke laid out a comprehensive plan to deal with waste so as to not cause security issues:
“No cannabis waste will end up in any way in the garbage outside… in fact part of our security… we don’t want anything that identifies cannabis, we don’t want packaging, in the actual garbage.”
Two members of the community who identified themselves as neighbors of the proposed project expressed concerns over public safety, additional traffic, noise and other negative impacts the project could bring to the area. “Because we sit Tri-City between Oakland, Berkeley and Emeryville, there’s a lot of activity, there’s a lot of foot traffic and there’s a lot of crime in the area.”
During their deliberations, the Commission emphasized the uniqueness of the situation and appreciated the applicant’s detailed approach, especially when it came to security. They also appreciated that the use permits for cannabis manufacturing need to be renewed annually, as summed up by Commissioner Keller:
“There are a lot of concerns for the community, for the residents and the businesses. This is really uncharted territory… and there will be a lot of uneasiness… these permits are renewed annually, so if there is a problem, if the residents find there is an issue, and that’s not just security, if they find there is too much traffic, this is one of the few businesses that will be scrutinized annually… so we will have controls and watch this process year after year.”
After discussion, the Commission voted unanimously to approve the use permit 5-0 (Commissioners Guerrero and Kang both with excused absences).
View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 9:08.
Public Hearing: 6613 Hollis Cannabis Manufacturing and Delivery Incubator Facility
The second application was a proposed manufacturing set up at 6613 Hollis. The applicant of the building has used the site to operate a Collective Kitchen and Rotten City Pizza restaurant. The applicant Jonas Bernstein was represented by Jerry Chin.
The proposal was to convert approximately 4,043 square feet of space previously used for the collective Kitchen into a cannabis manufacturing and non-storefront facility. This covered space would be used to serve as an incubator to make space for small cannabis businesses engaged in manufacturing non-volatile solvents, processes, packages and storage of cannabis products.
However, unlike the first application, the Commission had concerns with the uncertainty surrounding the concept, especially since the applicant had not yet secured any of these small businesses that would make up the incubator, and thus there was a lack of detail on how the manufacturing would impact the neighborhood. While concerned, Commissioner Keller emphasized that he liked the idea:
“I support the concept of this, I like thinking outside of the box, but I agree with Commissioner Thomson that there are a lot of unanswered questions here…because we are dealing with this concept of cannabis which is so unknown and we are dealing with a model that is unique, which is what Emeryville is all about, and I am in support of it, but we do have a lot of other considerations to make.”
The Commission tabled the vote on the application for a future meeting and asked the applicant to come back with a more detailed plan and understanding of how things would run and impact the surrounding neighborhood.
View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 1:20:45
Public Hearing: Kikoko Cannabis Manufacturing and Delivery Facility
The final application was from Wall Road Collective for a proposed manufacturing facility in the existing 7,750 building located at 1265 67th Street near the Emeryville Greenway. The building’s prior use was to manufacture coffee products for Kohana Coffee, and pea protein-based milk drink products sold under the brand Ripple Dairy Free Milk.
Wall Road Collective is known for their teas which contain micro doses of cannabis combined with an array of functional herbs, designed by and for women and sold under the brand name Kikoko and they intend to manufacture cannabis infused products in the building, and distribute its products via wholesale channels and online orders from that location. They also intend to take possession of the building and install its manufacturing equipment without making any significant, structural, or exterior modifications to the building.
Much like the first applicant, Wall Road Collective had a detailed plan for security as well as already having a specific tenant/teaming partner lined up and ready to go. They also highlighted that they manufacturing would cause little disturbance to the neighborhood as they are going to implement a TDM plan that would give employees free rides on AC Transit, Bart and other public transportation so there wouldn’t be an increase in vehicle parking. In addition, they are anticipating about four small vans worth of deliveries on a given work day which should not cause an increase of traffic or noise.
The Commission was generally receptive to the application and appreciated the level of detail they brought. Commissioner Banta appreciated that the big concerns like odor and security were covered:
“The issues of security and odor and sound to me seemed to be addressed by adequately to make me believe they would not present a net deficient to the city but a contribution to it.”
Commissioner Thomson also highlighted that they will have an opportunity to review the manufacturing on a annual basis and can address any issues that come up:
“I do feel that many more questions were answered here, we do have a known tenant… and the idea that you still have the annual [permit] renewal for all these applications, that is important… to understand if the operations are working with the neighborhood.”
After discussion, the Commission voted unanimously to approve the use permit.
View the Entire Staff Report →
Watch the staff presentation and subsequent commission discussion above at 2:38:32