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

Categories: Marijuana
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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The July 3, 2012 letter from the Mission Miracle Mile BID to Melinda Haag, Attorney General USND California, opposing a proposed medical cannabis dispensary, contained in the August 16th Planning Commission packet for 2520 Mission, is inappropriate for the Mission Miracle Mile BID. The MMM BID was created with very limited functions; it was created primarily as a cleaning and beautification vehicle. This July 3rd letter and attempt to influence city policy is outside of the scope of the Mission Miracle Mile BID and the Board of Supervisors should proceed to a dissolution of the BID..


What's with this greed and intolerance among Mission merchants? Complaining about the threat to their property values if a cannabis dispensary opens nearby, they appear to have zero consideration or compassion for the the loss of revenue to the dispensary operators, their landlord, and all the patients who will have to travel further and/or pay more, if the dispensary is banned from opening.


I see we have multiple people blogging today that know absolutely nothing about real estate values, much less those in San Francisco. As the trustee for The Randy & Rebekah A. Flood Real Estate Trust (owners of multiple apartment buildings in the city), I can tell you first hand that having a "pot dispensary" located in any building on Mission Street will do NOTHING to effect property values in the area. Notifying the feds in advance would bring a sharp response from myself as well as my partners. BEWARE


@TheSnitchSF This is Nuts, but not surprising.


How many freaking dispensaries does this city need.  I'm all for legalization of marijuana, but my neighborhood has got at least a dozen, and I can tell you, the surrounding areas are NOT made safer by their presence.

mrericsir topcommenter

Yet another example of NIMBYs making it impossible to do business in San Francisco.

Benjie Galvez
Benjie Galvez

it's not okay to have a state and city authorized cannabis dispensary on the block, but it's okay to have bars that numerous alcoholics frequently visit...and it's okay to have heroin and crack being pushed on the street just blocks away?


Pot club owners should expect to receive the same treatment anyone else does who proposes to open a new business or build a new development in San Francisco, which is a furious response from an angry mob.   That is how it works in SF.


Apparently Mr. Goldman for Americans for Safe Access must not be a long-time resident of the city if he thinks it is "outrageous" that neighbors would go to any length to stop a proposed new business or development from opening, whether it is a pot club or any other sort of business.


If you plan to build anything or open anything in this city, then someone will raise hell about it. And, if you are not prepared for it, then you should do business elsewhere. 



mrericsir topcommenter

 @SFNative We don't apply the "this business must make the area safer" standard to other types of businesses.  Nor do we place limits on the number of a given type of business, for the most part.


And certainly in none of these situations would we go crying to the feds for other types of businesses.


So why, in your mind, should be be treating pot dispensaries differently?

mrericsir topcommenter

 @SFNative Pot is legal in CA.  We voted for it, remember?


And before you say "but but but it's not legal at the federal level!" let me point out that enforcing federal law is not our problem, nor is it our place to do so.

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