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Sunset District Has a Pot Club, Bitter ‘Hood Battle to Follow

Anyone who says, “It’s just a pot club, what’s the big deal?” doesn’t live in the Sunset District along the Taraval Street corridor. There, a pot club has set off an oft-contentious, sometimes vicious squabble between neighborhood residents and merchants convinced that a cannabis dispensary would ruin the neighborhood and cannabis activists advocating for safe access to medicine. But it’s not just the residents and merchants that are driving the debate — documents obtained by the Appeal suggest that reports from the planning department were manipulated by official or officials unknown, for reasons about which one can only speculate.

However, one chapter in the fight wrapped up last night, or in fact at 3 o’clock this morning, when the Planning Commission voted 5-1 to approve the Bay Area Compassionate Health Center’s application to do business at Taraval at 32nd Avenue. Commissioner Bill Lee was the lone “nay” vote.

Paul Hansbury, one of BACH’s operators, said that he and co-operator Greg Schoepp, owner of Crown Lock and Hardware on Balboa Street, “pretty much expect an appeal” of the decision, which could ultimately end up at the Board of Supervisors.

Counted among BACH’s enemies were Supervisor Carmen Chu — who was accused of fomenting the opposition movement, which was largely Chinese-speaking Sunset residents — the local police station’s captain — who was accused of having a hand in “politicizing” the debate — and two neighborhood and merchant associations, who are worried that if BACH opens, the Sunset will turn into something resembling Sixth Street (it already has the bomb Vietnamese food; surely if the pot clubs go in, the human wreckage will follow).

On BACH’s side were most every medical cannabis activist in town, save the ones who operate delivery services, a police commissioner and Planning staff, whose staff report recommended approval for the dispensary.

In an odd twist, Cecilia Jaroslawsky, the staff planner who prepared the report, was relieved of her duties on Monday, according to sources familiar with the matter. According to emails obtained by the Appeal, Jaroslawsky noted that SFPD had not “submitted any information with supporting data for their statement” that dispensaries cause crime, an omission she wanted to add to her report. According to the emails, however, she was forbidden to include SFPD’s inability to support their statements in her report, saying that “I wanted to include that in the staff report but was instructed to remove that piece of information.” Her superior, Delvin Washington then replaced her, presenting the staff report at yesterday’s meeting.

It’s unclear who told Jaroslawsky to keep that information out of her report, or why she was removed from the project. In an email the Appeal sent Thursday morning, we asked the former question of Jaroslawsky, Washington and Planning’s Legislative Liaison and Policy Analyst, Tara Sullivan, as well as asking them the proper contact for Planning’s Sunshine Ordinance compliance (that is, the person responsible for making sure our our much touted open government remains open). Neither Jaroslawsky, Sullivan nor Washington have responded to that email.

By any metric, BACH could be a model facility — the would-be dispensary’s interior has the feeling of a friendly doctor’s office (the kind our insurance affords us not), there’s a strict 21-and-over policy with no on-site medicating, there’s a limit on how many patients can be onsite at any given time, and a video camera would record goings-on inside and out once the club opens for business.

When will that be? Well, depends on the appeal process. This Appeal contacted Chu’s office for comment and guesstimation on a likely appellant; we have yet to hear back. As far as the BACH crew? “I’m going camping,” Hansbury wrote us via e-mail.

Enjoy your weekend, everyone; there’s plenty of time for the fussing and fighting to come.

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