If you were expecting thoughtful deliberations at this past city council meeting on Item 5B, re-shaping the Cannabis map, you would be disappointed.
Council members are supposed to discuss and deliberate before moving an item. Lately. that has not been the case. At Monday’s City Council meeting the hotly debated cannabis map was up for discussion.
Council member Shyne went first and two minutes later she made a motion: “I am prepared to move this item forward,” and 15 seconds later John Erickson seconded the motion. None of the other council members had a chance to speak yet.
Meister went next: “I really would appreciate if we didn’t make a motion before all of us have a chance to ask questions and be heard because it makes you feel like you have to say hasn’t been heard. Then Meister began her questions which were articulate and important.
The Mayor Pro Tem was very prepared: Have any other requests to the buffer zone been requested or made previously? The answer was 3 times but no changes.
Meister continued: On applicant’s letter it talks about parcels and West Hollywood park is divided into parcels. Is Plummer Park divided into parcels? The answer was no. Meister continued: West Hollywood Elementary and its parking lot, are those separate parcels? To which the answer was, no. But for the purposes of changing the Cannabis map, the City Staff determined that West Hollywood Park is not ‘one parcel’ but a number of parcels’.
John Leonard, Community & Legislative Affairs Manager explained ‘the staff made a previous incorrect interpretation’ and Meister queried: and its took 4 years or 5 years to figure that out? Leonard replied. “This is when we examined it closely”.
Meister continued to dissect the facts with tremendous understanding and depth, and she continued: So let me give you another example, So if a commissioner lives in a double lot in a condo and staff draws the radius are they drawing the radius out of the double lot or just the parcel the commissioner lives? (A commissioner would need to recuse themself from a vote if they lived within 500 feet of a development). Again the answer was the lot, not the parcel.
Meister continued discussing sensitive use, versus the park and the changes. Her thoughtful inquiries and staff answers were valuable tools in understanding what was in front of the council. Meister asked why Plummer Park or West Hollywood Park are judged differently to which Leonard talked about bringing them in line. Meister questioned why they are not consistent.
Meister continued to discuss lack of a ‘disclaimer’ on the reference map that has been used for the past 4-5 years to determine Cannabis eligible zones to which Leonard agreed that perhaps they will need to use a ‘disclaimer’ in the future and the original map was for reference purposes only.
Meister ended, if we had known in 2015 that the sensitive during discussions.. -didn’t we know that the park would be under construction? Leonard replied: “Staff used the sensitive use that was in place at the time.” Meister raised concern’s to the dynamic of Cannabis added to the high-rent district.
The sum total of all the questions and answers by Meister showed a process that had little vision or foresight among city staff or the previous council during the Cannabis process.
As discussions came to a close, Shyne watched Meister with intensity and was gracious in her reply. She began, “first of all, Mayor Pro Tem Meister, I hope that you know that a lot of us make motions upfront and if I ever make a motion is not to take into account what you or my other colleagues have to say, she went on with a question for John Leonard, “Is there a question about the timeline to be approved.?” Shyne then asked for a study to find out how rents might be affected in support of Meister’s argument.
D’Amico echoed the concern about congestion of cannabis areas in the ‘high rent rainbow district’ and offered an amendment for staff to study the amount of acceptable cannabis businesses within the area from Hancock to Robertson along Santa Monica and Melrose High, and the Melrose Triangle area. D’Amico’s ideas were included in the final motion to ask staff to study the ‘right’ amount of these cannabis licenses allowed in the area’
Horvath wanted to make sure that the map is not voted on by a ‘political body’ and that staff should determine the direction.
Shyne concluded: “the park is very close to Rocco’s which serves alcohol and is a nightclub, the whole rainbow district is bars, and people also drink and go in their cars and crash, but we don’t go and say we can’t have any bars near our parks. So I am ready to move this forward.”
The final vote was 5-0 in favor of supporting the new Cannabis map.
It was clear that the entire City Council benefitted from the discussions and questions proposed by Mayor Pro Tem Meister and Council member D’Amico’s amendment. Future agenda items should only be voted on after all the Council members have had a chance to speak and ask questions to the benefit of all.