San Fernando Says “No” to Marijuana Businesses for Now

The San Fernando City Council, in a unanimous decision, voted on Monday, Sept. 18, to ban the marijuana businesses from operating within San Fernando’s city limits.

The ban does not affect personal consumption of the drug for medicinal purposes, but does enlarge the City’s current ban on the medicinal marijuana industry to include any commercialization of the drug within the city.  

Urgency ordinance 1669  was passed 4-0 (Councilmember Jaime Soto was absent) in anticipation of the California voter-approved Proposition 64, which legalizes recreational adult use and commercialization of cannabis in the state effective Jan. 1, 2018.  

City Attorney Richard Padilla said the ordinance, however, is just a “stop-gap” measure so that businesses will not open up shop here without any regulations in place.   

“This is really just a way to preserve the status quo until the City Council, with communication with the City [departments] and outreach with the residents, kind of figures out exactly to what extent it wants to allow certain types of cannabis activities,” Padilla said.

He said the ban would be in effect only until the City has a full understanding of how it plans to regulate the industry.    

“Some cities are comfortable allowing everything from retail sales to a commercial lab. That doesn’t mean you have to do that because other cities have, you know. You don’t want to have retail but maybe do want to allow for laboratory testing type stuff. Those are all issues that the council wants to have a dialogue with the community and voters.”  

Padilla said the industry could potentially create revenue for the City of San Fernando, “but it can also create problems,” likening potential issues inherent with other businesses such as liquor stores, night clubs, and factories.   

The council created an ad hoc committee and hired Diamond Bar-based cannabis consulting firm HdL — which has worked with multiple California cities including Riverside, Lynwood, and Culver City — for further study.   

In July 2017, Mayor Silvia Ballin told The San Fernando Sun/El Sol that the council planned to hold town hall meetings in September. But no dates have yet been set.  

Council Hints at Extending Tax  

In other news, the council suggested it would like to extend the half-cent sales tax, known as Measure A.  The tax, which was approved in June 2013 amidst the City’s financial crisis and has since generated more than $8.1 million, has reduced the deficit by $5.7 million, according to the Finance Director Nick Kimball, who provided an update at the council meeting. 

The City is still short by a little more than $1 million dollars, he said, but is moving in the right direction. The tax is set to expire Oct. 1, 2020 and is expected to generate an additional $8.1 million.  

Funds generated by the tax have been used to pay off debt, establish reserves in self-insurance funds, replace police vehicle equipment, purchase two police vehicles, renovate the Brand Street median, and maintain community and recreational centers as well as maintaining streets.  

Seeing the success of the tax, both Kimball and council members expressed an interest in extending the tax if no other revenue source is found. 

“Once that goes away we are living paycheck to paycheck,” Kimball said.  “We need to establish a reserve. that gives us a little cushion. But without identifying a new revenue source, the city can be back down here,” he said, pointing to the lowest point of his line graph presentation.   

All four councilmember were in accordance with Kimball.

“It’s good that we are getting close to that zero mark, but for me it still isn’t even acceptable to be close to zero. Unless some of those trees from Tree People grow money,” Councilmember Joel Fajardo said, referring to the 750 trees the environmental non-profit Tree People is planting in the city

“I would respectfully want new revenue sources, and I support Measure A, but we have to think of the council and how we are going to structure the budget even without Measure A.”

“I was very concerned back when we were at zero, and I said, ‘well, I want to stay on the city council until we have at least 100 hundred dollars in the reserve,” Ballin said, amusingly.   

Kimball assured the mayor that there are still three years before the tax will expire, so there would be one hundred dollars in the bank.

City Manager Expects “Full Staff” by Year’s End

Monday was newly hired City Manager Alexander Meyerhoff’s first council meeting. Afterward he told the San Fernando Valley Sun/ El Sol he expects to have all three current vacant department head positions filled by the end of the year.

He added feeling very positive by his initial impressions of the City.

“We have incredible staff, the City is working on great projects. And the nice thing about San Fernando, with the scale of the city, you see every time you come here the town looks beautiful,”  Meyerhoff said.

“People take a lot of pride in their community. You notice it as soon as you get here.”