HAYWARD — After holding fast to a longtime ban on marijuana dispensaries, Hayward is reversing course and potentially opening the doors for budding businesses to put down roots in the city’s industrial and commercial areas.

The City Council, by a 5-0 vote July 18, gave Hayward administrators the OK to start crafting a competitive process for all marijuana business permits, including those for dispensaries, research companies, distribution centers and grow facilities.

“I think there’s some folks out there who are uncomfortable with this or opposed to this, and I think it’s important for them to understand that this is not the council imposing our radical ideas on the community,” Councilman Al Mendall said at the meeting.

[related_articles location=”left” show_article_date=”false” article_type=”automatic-primary-section” curated_ids=””]”We’ve had the community vote for this in multiple ways … and they all show that somewhere between 65 and 85 percent of the community is in favor of recreational marijuana, so we’re trying to figure out how to implement that in a way that makes sense and will work for the entire community,” he said.

Councilmen Francisco Zermeno and Mark Salinas were absent from the meeting and did not vote.

Hayward administrators sought to permit commercial businesses only, use a lottery system to select qualified applicants for permits and issue only three permits annually. Their suggested pool of applicants was also limited to cultivation, manufacturing and microbusiness uses in industrial zones only.

The council rolled back most of those restrictions and opted to instead score applicants using a weighted point system, open the competitive process to all marijuana businesses and allow permitted businesses to open in certain industrial and commercial spaces.

The council also chose to hold off on capping the number of permits, and sought to raise the suggested $1,000 processing fee for permit applications to $5,000.

“We have a lot of potential in what we can accomplish, so in order to do that, I want to be a little bit more flexible and open for more business opportunities,” Councilwoman Elisa Marquez said.

“At the same time, we do need to be very mindful of where we’re placing these (businesses), along with the security, lighting, signage and everything that goes along with the aesthetics of running these type of businesses,” she said.

As currently proposed, marijuana business owners would be required to undergo a comprehensive background check, as well as to submit their operation, business and security plans as part of their permit application, principal city planner Jeremy Lochirco said. Applicants with certain criminal convictions or open and pending regulatory cases would be disqualified, he said.

Marijuana businesses also would be restricted to industrial and commercial properties that are at least 600 feet away from sensitive land uses such as schools, libraries, community centers and day care centers, Lochirco said.

Before obtaining their business permit, qualified marijuana companies would be required to obtain a conditional use permit, with their building plans reviewed by the Planning Commission and City Council.

Julio Romero, who owns Brews & Brats on B Street, said he would like to see a dispensary open in downtown Hayward. He also spoke out against the recommendation by city staff to have a lottery system select marijuana business owners for permits.

“Every progressive city has a dispensary downtown, so I’m just wondering why Hayward would not want a dispensary downtown,” Romero said.

“It would make business sense for everybody in downtown to allow a dispensary, whether it’s me or somebody else,” he said.

Brent Alfieri said he owns an industrial property in Hayward and wants to apply for a marijuana business permit, but felt that the city’s initial proposal to only issue three permits a year was unwarranted.

“You have an opportunity now to bring all of these businesses that are already operating within the city limits into the taxable structure that’s being proposed,” Alfieri said.

“In addition, there’s an untold number of growers who are already cultivating here in Hayward, so those people also would be potentially left out or just be given an incentive to continue to operate without a permit because it’s cheaper and easier to do so, because the fact of the matter is that the city doesn’t have the resources to crack down on all of the people without licenses at the moment,” he said.

The city will develop a competitive permit process over the next two months and draw up a draft ordinance for the council to consider in late September, city attorney Michael Lawson said.

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