San Fernando Council Introduces New Member, Purchases New City Service Vehicles

San Fernando’s newest councilmember, Hector Pacheco, sat in on his first meeting on Monday, Jan 7.

Pacheco, 32, an entertainment industry lawyer and fourth-generation San Fernando resident, won his council seat this past election by running on then-mayor Sylvia Ballin’s ticket, and receiving more votes than two sitting city commissioners and a former councilmember running for re-election.

In his first meeting — and the first for the council in 2019 — it was announced that City officials are spending more than $100,000 to replace two of its service vehicles. The more expensive vehicle, a 2019 Ford T-350 Transit Van, costs $65,472.93 and will be replacing the Water Division’s utility van.

City Finance Director Nick Kimball told the San Fernando Valley Sun/ El Sol the high price tag is a result of the van being specially equipped for daily tasks like water sampling, collection, and responding to water related service calls as well as regular maintenance and repair to the city’s water infrastructure.

The van currently used by the Water Division — a 2006 Ford E-350 —  is being replaced due to braking issues and its inefficient rate of burning oil. Its limited and restrictive front cab  makes the vehicle very difficult to drive safely, according to the staff report.

The second vehicle acquired by the city is a 2019 compressed natural gas (CNG) Ford Super Duty F250SRW XL 2WD purchased for $42,729.65 using clean air quality grant funds. It is replacing a 2006 Ford Escape used by the police department for parking enforcement.

Both vehicles being replaced will be sold by auction.

Cannabis Industry Regulation Proposal

The meeting was also the council’s first public hearing regarding the proposed cannabis ordinance following months of discussion, debate, and community input.

Pacheco said that he is “not one to stand in the way of innovation” and thinks it is important “to be creative and to find dynamic businesses to keep San Fernando moving forward.”

He then compared the regulations for alcohol in the city and offered concerns about operations being too close to parks and children, which garnered some deep sighs of discontent and incredulous chuckles from the audience that included operators and advocates for the cannabis industry.

In fact, many in attendance were from the cannabis industry, and most who spoke during public comment urged the council to allow retail operations in the city.

The current proposed ordinance allows for cultivation, manufacturing, commercial distribution, and lab testing — but no storefront retail or delivery services (unless they are medicinal deliveries originating outside city limits).

Those speaking in favor of retail said that not allowing it would actually create more illegal weed shops and, of course, a loss of revenue.

Jonathan Svedko, executive director of Angeles Emeralds and member of the Los Angeles County Cannabis Advisory Working Group, recently partnered with the City of San Fernando to hold a record expungement clinic for persons with cannabis and non-violent criminal records.

He spoke in favor of allowing retail shops, saying that California law allows the delivery of marijuana, medical or non-medical, to any jurisdiction.

Svedko reminded the council that Proposition 64, which legalized marijuana for adult recreational use in 2016, sets aside 20 percent of the state cannabis tax revenues for law enforcement, DUI checks, and drug prevention and education programs. Prop 64 also prohibits any grants of these funds to local governments which have banned retail sales of cannabis.

“This now means legalized cannabis transactions will be allowed in your city. But you will have no way to benefit from the tax revenues your residents are generating, “ Svedko said.

Public Reaction Negative

Lucas Vigil, a San Fernando High School student, said, “I’m kind of speaking for the youth in your community. I believe that you should overlook the financial benefit that you may get through taxes or permits and really look into how the youth and the community are affected.”

Sergio Cuevas, a San Fernando resident, said “I get the tax revenue. There is a million other things you can do within the mall, within the city that can bring in revenue besides marijuana.”

Cuevas later told the San Fernando Valley Sun/ El Sol that half of those people speaking in favor of retail don’t even live in the city.

“They just want to come and profit here. The only thing they are looking for is profit,” he said.

At the end of the discussion, the council members shared their final thoughts. Councilmember Robert Gonzales seemed to be leaning toward allowing retail, since, he said, it’s already happening with deliveries.

Pacheco suggested “maybe putting on some hard caps” for a number of permits, re-examine potential buffer zones, and reconsider what locations are a “sensitive” receptors. “I do thank the business community and all the individuals from the industry because you are on the forefront and we need your input and insight.”

Ballin said she agreed 100 percent with Pacheco and is “especially concerned” about having the buffer zones around the parks.

New Mayor Joel Fajardo agreed to continue the conversation and that the proposed ordinance be revised with the suggestions presented at this meeting. He also moved that the public hearing be extended so that the community still has a chance to provide input.

Although there is no timeline on when the ordinance will be passed, Fajardo said he hoped the item would be finalized by July.

Councilmember Antonio Lopez was absent at the meeting.