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Wednesday, September 12, 2012

East Bay Resident Manages to Keep S.F. Pot Club Closed With Dubious Claims

Posted By on Wed, Sep 12, 2012 at 8:13 AM

Keepin' em closed
  • Keepin' em closed

It might be difficult to do business in San Francisco, but it's certainly easy to undo a business.

All you need to do is say that a park or an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting hall is the same thing as a school, and you can keep a business closed for, say, seven months while its operator shells out money for rent with no income.

That may be enough to put the business out of business before it ever was in business. And here's the kicker: You don't even need to live in San Francisco to do it.

Just ask onetime supervisor candidate Leon Chow, who made political hay in the Excelsior District earlier this year when he employed this strategy to oppose businesses, specifically marijuana business.

Chow, who dropped out of the race after it was revealed he probably lives in Walnut Creek, must now make his case in person at San Francisco City Hall today in order to keep the Green Cross from opening on Mission Street. And that's looking a tad unlikely.

Almost two years have passed since the Green Cross applied to open a brick-and-mortar pot club on Mission Street near Silver Avenue in the city's Excelsior/Outer Mission District. Once opened, the dispensary promises a dozen new full-time jobs for the area.

However, Chow, continuing a trend of Chinese-speaking residents standing up to medical cannabis, organized rallies in April to oppose proposed pot clubs in the Excelsior, three of which received approval from the Planning Commission in February.

One dispensary has since survived a neighborhood appeal, and another is expected to receive a building permit soon.

In July, Chow filed an affidavit that claims, among other things, the Planning Department should never have approved the Green Cross' plans to open on the 4200 block of Mission Street because, he said, it was too close to a daycare center, a nearby park, and an old folks' home.

City law prohibits pot clubs from opening up within 1,000 feet from a school or a recreation building that primarily serves youth. In his appeal, Chow states that all of the above qualify as "recreation" or youth-serving uses. And why not? The same gambit worked in the Sunset, when Chow and other primarily Chinese-speaking residents, supported by Supervisor Carmen Chu, successfully convinced the Board of Appeals to revoke another pot club's permit for being too close to a daycare center and church.

But they might not have such easy luck this time. Aside from the fact there are new members sitting on the Board of Appeals, Chow's general understanding of city law seems to be a tad flawed.

Turns out, you can have a daycare center within 1,000 feet of a dispensary, according to city law. And the nearest "recreation center" is the Mission YMCA, which is 1,100 feet away, according to the response brief filed by the Green Cross.

Chow, it should be noted, has gone underground since the story broke in July that he may not actually live in the Excelsior District. He did not respond to requests for comment -- and has not responded to requests from the Green Cross to meet and (ahem) hash out their differences prior to today's hearing.

Will he show up at City Hall today to tell the Board of Appeals why a park is like a school, and why an Alcoholics' Anonymous meeting hall is like a YMCA? Only Chow knows -- and, well, he isn't saying.

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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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