City Council notes: ‘pot zoning’ expansion, Comcast vote, Country Doctor OK

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Ray Angel

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Ian Eisenberg

A series of zoning changes that could increase the number of allowable pot retailers on Capitol Hill took a pass through the City Council’s planning committee Tuesday. Under the measure proposed by Mayor Ed Murray as part of a wider set of changes to the city’s marijuana rules, pot shops could open closer to parks and libraries by cutting in half the current 1,000 foot buffer rule. On Capitol Hill, that seems to open up the possibility for I-502 retail locations on or near Broadway, E Olive Way, E Madison, and 15th Ave, according to an unofficial map (PDF) provided by the Mayor’s Office.

The 1,000-foot buffers were initially passed in 2012 as a part of I-502. This summer, state legislators passed a bill that allowed significantly more local authority over pot zoning. Ultimately, Murray and pot business owners agree that recreational and medical marijuana should be evenly available across Seattle, but differ on the number and concentration of shops.

During public comments, planning committee members heard mostly from I-502 business owners and supporters who favored the zoning changes, but wanted Council members to go even further in reducing the “as the crow flies” buffer zones. Council members discussed the possibility of bringing the buffer down to 250 feet, while some commenters advocated for the state minimum of 100 feet.

“We have a black market that we’ve got to get rid of, and the way to do that is to get stores into our densest neighborhoods,” said Chris Cody, a medical shop owner and member of the Coalition for Cannabis Standards & Ethics.

Uncle Ike’s owner Ian Eisenberg said he supported reducing buffer zones but urged Council members to wait for the state Liquor and Cannabis Board to release a study on the demand for marijuana statewide. However, Murray policy advisor David Mendoza told the planning committee it should act quickly so medical shops seeking recreational permits wouldn’t be left in limbo when trying to determine if they meet zoning rules.

Ray Angel, the longtime owner of Angel’s Shoe Repair, also spoke in favor of the zoning changes. Angel found himself in the middle of the 15 Ave pot drama that has played out over the past year when he lost his lease to an I-502 permit lottery winner this summer.

After the signs for Ruckus (formerly known as Tok) went up last month at 15th and E Republican, Angel told committee members he was a “victim of the first pursuit of marijuana stores” in Seattle. In the meantime, Angel is waiting to reopen his cobbler business inside an Eisenberg-owned building across the street. UPDATE: The free play arcade that had popped-up in Eisenberg’s building has now been cleared out. A check of city permits reveal that construction plans are in motion to add a second level to the building that was home to a longtime veterinary clinic. CHS reported this summer that a project from Full Tilt ice cream is lined up to make its home in a portion of the building.

On the medical side, Mendoza said around 60 Seattle shops have closed voluntarily since the State Legislature passed new rules to bring the largely unregulated medical system in line with the highly regulated recreational one. That leaves around 50 medical shops in Seattle that could be licensed under I-502. If City Council members pass the 500 foot buffer option, roughly half of the medical shops could be licensed in their current location while the other half would need to move.

Murray’s rule would also prevent the clustering of pot shops on a single block by requiring a 500 foot buffer between pot retailers. Even though the buffer would not effect current shops, several commenters, including Eisenberg, said they opposed the rule and favored an option to allow two retailers within a 1,000-foot radius.

Black market pot delivery services continue to be a thorn in the side of I-502 retailers and city and state regulators. Mendoza said the City would be working “very soon” to shut them down.

During the meeting, City staffers gave a rundown of the current pot business landscape in Seattle:

I-502

  • 19 retail locations now open
  • 4 retail locations pending
  • 32 fully licensed producer/processors
  • 73 pending producer/processors

Medical

  • 118 storefronts (August 2015)
    • 49 storefronts with business licenses issued before January 1, 2013
    • 69 storefronts without business licenses or issues on or after January 1, 2013
  • 4 delivery services with business licenses

The committee did not vote on the measure and will take up the issue in a future meeting.

City Council Notes
Here are more of the issues the Seattle City Council is talking about this week. If you see something you like, or something you don’t, you can find contact information for council members at seattle.gov/council.

  • Bigger Country Doctor OK’d: The council’s planning committee approved a bill Tuesday that will open the way for Country Doctor’s planned 19th Ave E expansion. The legislation allows exceptions to the current size restriction on medical uses within Neighborhood Commercial 1 zoned areas of the city. 19th Ave E, for example.
  • Comcast cares: Wednesday, the Public Safety, Civil Rights, and Technology Committee will take up a new 10-year deal “to enter into a renewed Cable Television Franchise Agreement with Comcast Cable Communications Management, LLC.” You can learn more about the $8 million deal here (PDF).
  • Bike rules: Meanwhile, the safety committee will also take up some proposed changes (PDF) to Seattle’s traffic laws including adding “a definition of electric-assisted” bikes and allowing a “bicycle or moped to disregard a traffic control light that fails to activate because of weight of the bicycle or moped.” Good rule.
  • Low impact development: Thursday afternoon, the Seattle Public Utilities and Neighborhoods Committee will discuss a slate of legislation to help encourage “low impact development” in the city including eliminating rules that create barriers to adding elements like “bioretention, rain gardens, preservation of native vegetation” and changing sidewalk codes to minimize “impervious surfaces” and “loss of vegetation.”
  • Gender Pay Equity: Tuesday, the Gender Pay Equity Committee approved “a resolution re-affirming the City’s commitment to gender pay equity and expressing the City’s intent to join 100% Talent, a regional Gender Pay Equity Initiative, as a founding member, and to help implement the Initiative as a means to strengthen gender pay equity in Seattle and the region.” The resolution supports the 100% Talent initiative, a program from the The Seattle Metropolitan Chamber and Women’s Funding Alliance.
  • REDI? Seattle is moving forward with legislation to be part of a Regional Equitable Development Initiative Fund to create a pool of “resources” that will be used to “secure land near existing or planned high-capacity transit.” The plan calls for a $21 million pool including $1 million from Seattle.

 

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13 thoughts on “City Council notes: ‘pot zoning’ expansion, Comcast vote, Country Doctor OK

  1. It’d be nice if they could also add to the laws regarding bikes that using crosswalks and sidewalks to circumvent abiding by traffic laws should be illegal. If you start on the road, you stay on the road (and follow the roadway laws). Temporary excursions onto sidewalks and crosswalks to avoid those laws should be illegal – it inhibits the predictability of the movement which makes it more unsafe for the scofflaws, whether they believe it or not.

    • As one of those “scofflaws”, I have to respectfully disagree. I’m sorry, boss, but ensuring my bones don’t get crushed into mulch by some distracted driver is my top priority. If that means a “temporary excursion” (yeah, like I’m taking some holiday to Hawaii) into a sidewalk or crosswalk, so be it.

      HOWEVER, I would say that once my bike is on the sidewalk, the pedestrian is king. Always yield to pedestrians. Slow down to a crawl or hop off when you approach walkers. I despise people racing down sidewalks as much as anyone. It’s simple common sense and courtesy.

      Until we have sensible bicycle infrastructure on every major road in this city (I’m looking at you, Denny), you’re still gonna see cycles on the sidewalks. You want them off? Then advocate for more bike lanes. Let’s be on the same page on this…I’m not looking for a stupid Bike Vs. Car Vs. Pedestrian War here.

      • Yours is a classic rationalization. You would be just as safe staying in the street and obeying traffic laws. Instead of stopping at a red light, and proceeding when it turns green, many cyclists jump into a crosswalk (while still riding), and therefore break the law by crossing while that light is green for motorists, because they are too impatient to wait for the light. Do you really think this is OK?

        Sidewalks are a different matter….it is legal to ride there, as long as you yield to pedestrians….at least you are polite enough to do that.

    • Yeah, no. Often there’s no good way to transition from a bike lane or path/sidewalk to roadway at an intersection without using a crosswalk. Or, the intersection doesn’t have a bike sensor (so you either need to get on the sidewalk and push a beg button, or just avoid the intersection altogether). Or, the intersection feels completely unsafe and is avoided through a crosswalk or sidewalk.

      People on bikes don’t want to use a crosswalk/sidewalk and mix with pedestrians; they want infrastructure that feels safe. The solution isn’t to make sidewalk/crosswalk usage illegal, it’s to build non-shitty bike infrastructure.

      • One great example of this (of the many) is trying to get into the left turn lane while headed east up S. Jackson St. In order to make a left turn onto 12th from the bike lane, you have to cross two lanes of traffic, one of which is lined with street car tracks. This is not impossible to do but sometimes it requires slowing down to almost a crawl (or increasing your cadence while going uphill) to allow traffic to pass before being able to merge into and eventually across both lanes. Not a problem unless there are cars or usually buses behind you that are getting very impatient waiting for you to move so that they can make a right turn. I ride this route every day and try to cross traffic in order to follow the rules of the road but some days my inner scofflaw gets the best of me and I use the cross walk because honestly, it just feels a lot safer. I don’t really mind dealing with any of this and actually consider it part of riding a bike in the city. But it is an example of how better bike infrastructure can help cyclists get around easier without upsetting drivers by riding in crosswalks.

    • Sorry, but no. The reason we do this is mostly out of safety. Try going from zero, pedaling to keep up the pace, turning left with drivers trying to get through the green light as quickly as possible. I had way too many close calls.

      No, I’m not a crazy lycra-wearing dude. I’m an asthmatic woman that rides out of economic and environmental reasons. My safety worries me and my family. And sometimes going through crosswalks like so is safer.

  2. “several commenters, including Eisenberg, said they opposed the rule and favored an option to allow two retailers within a 1,000-foot radius.”

    Hm, so let me guess… The Tok location is within 500′ of Ian’s desired locale? And, of course the arcade is gone. The only reason he opened it was to keep them from opening first. I am glad this plan backfired and I hope they don’t change the buffer because I would love to see what he does long-term, considering he became everybody’s favorite when he offered Ray a space (not to mention Full Tilt). Somehow I doubt he will continue to hold the multi-million dollar property for an arcade and shoe repair shop.

  3. I’m OK with the pot shops, but I hate the marketing. Ian Eisenberg’s neon “Hey Stoner, Around the Corner” sign is pretty obnoxious. Next, I expect he’ll put up a Joe Camel-style cartoon billboard.

    If he can’t behave himself, then brace yourselves for an arms race of “edgy” advertising for pot shops.

    It actually makes me appreciative that liquor stores, breweries, and distilleries have more common sense (or maybe they’re regulated?) Or maybe they should put up signs like “Hey boozer, choose your beverage here…”