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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Mission Property Owners Ask Feds to Close Medical Marijuana Club That's Not Yet Opened

Posted By on Thu, Aug 16, 2012 at 7:45 AM

click to enlarge A federal case - 420MAGAZINE.COM
  • A federal case

Opening a new store, building a backyard deck, erecting a skyscraper -- getting stuff built in San Francisco, known to wonks as "the planning process," is nothing if not participatory.

Residents, merchants, and even neighborhood regulars who live elsewhere are welcome to challenge development projects, many of which have been derailed, altered, or abandoned over the years following public input.

This public process has proven not quite sufficient for a group of property owners in the Mission District. They've asked the federal Justice Department to shut down the Morado Collective -- a dispensary proposed for a property owned by Gus Murad (of Medjool fame) on the 2500 block of Mission Street -- provided that the Planning Commission even approve the dispensary's permit at a hearing today.

Why would neighbors go to the feds to kibosh a new business? Owners of "white-linen" restaurants and other family-friendly businesses feel a pot club would hurt their bottom lines -- and they think it's the only way their wishes can be respected and the club nipped in the bud.

A group of Latino LGBT and HIV/AIDS activists are behind the Morado Collecive, which would occupy a few hundred square feet of space in the restaurant/hostel/bar complex at 2520 Mission. And so is Murad, who achieved a level of fame for his rooftop bar at Medjool -- where, it turned out, planning commissioners partied on the very deck that violated city zoning code.

That's all behind him. Murad is not involved with the pot club, the would-be operators told the SF Examiner in the spring, but he paid the permit application fee, and is still the landlord, according to records.

A few months ago, the area already had one pot club -- Shambhala Healing Center, which shut down at the end of June under pressure from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag.

The property owners who make up the Mission Miracle Mile Business Improvement District didn't like Shambhala -- and they really don't like Morado Collective.

The owners voted in June to oppose the dispensary -- and on July 3, local realtor James Nunemacher, the BID's president, went further, penning a letter to Haag "seeking the federal government to close this facility should it open."

"We look to your office to practice judicial consistency in this matter since earlier this year your office took actions to close the medical cannabis dispensary at 2441 Mission St. on the grounds that it is in too close in proximity to youth-serving institutions," the letter reads (page 29 on your PDF). "Such an establishment, even if it lawful by federal law, is incompatible with the family shopping that predominates the immediate area in the daytime and the dining/entertainment venues that are active in the evening."

Nunemacher, a realtor with Vanguard SF, did not return a telephone call or an e-mail seeking comment. It's worth mentioning that he was at one point friendly enough with Murad, a former Small Business Commission member, to attend Murad's wedding in Morocco, as you will see in these photos.

  • James Nunemacher
  • Vanguard SF

Attorney Victor Marquez, the point man for the project, also did not return a telephone call or an e-mail seeking comment. And a spokesman for Murad did not respond to a request for comment.

Calling in the federal government to shut down a business that has yet to open is quite ballsy. In fact, it may be unprecedented. What would rile property owners to this extent?

Phillip Lasser, who serves as agent for the BID, told SF Weekly on Wednesday that property owners are concerned about plummeting property values should the dispensary open.

A pot club would harm the "multi-million dollar investments" at "white-linen restaurants" like nearby Foreign Cinema. "It's incompatible here amid what we're trying to create, an improvement to what we had before," he said.

They're also concerned about the kids -- the company that may yet buy from Murad the New Mission Theater and renovate it into a 600-seat movie venue has talked about hosting kids at the venue. "That should invalidate the entitlement for the MCD," Lasser said.

Going to the feds is necessary because the Planning Commission is likely to approve the dispensary, Lasser said. The proposal obeys all local and state laws, and planning staffers have recommended approval. This makes going to the feds the best -- and only -- way to make sure the club doesn't open, or doesn't last long if it does open.

Lastly, the BID was merely being neighborly. "We thought it would be fair to let [Murad] know ahead of time" that the project is opposed, Lasser said. So instead of, say, calling or e-mailing him, they alert the feds?

"It was done with respect to who he is and what he accomplished," Lasser said. "We want to make sure he's not going to incur economic damage" if the feds shut down the club after Murad invests money in it.

Cannabis advocates are, predictably, apoplectic.

"People who go to a dispensary aren't worthy of going to their block in the Mission? That's an outrageous insult," said David Goldman, a retired schoolteacher and Castro resident who serves on the core committee of Americans for Safe Access's San Francisco chapter. "It's outrageous enough that anyone in San Francisco would go to the federal government rather than work with local authorities if they have concerns about a dispensary."

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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