By Thomas K. Pendergast
The latest flare-up in the Sunset District’s cannabis war will likely ignite at the SF Board
of Supervisors meeting on Dec. 5, when the supervisors will either give a green light to the
district’s first pot club or nip yet another one in the bud.
The supervisors are considering two separate appeals filed against the Barbary Coast
Collective, a medical cannabis dispensary (MCD) proposed for the 2100 block of
One appeal seeks to reverse the SF Planning Commission’s approval for the MCD to open,
and another to allow it to open, but with restrictions attached.
The first appeal was filed by Flo Kimmerling, vice president of the Mid-Sunset Neighbors’
Association (MSNA), which, unlike the previous three MCDs that have been denied in the
Sunset over the last seven years, would allow for the MCD to open up but with fewer hours
of operation and without the option of expanding its size or services, among other things.
The second appeal was filed by Salvatore Alioto on behalf of some local property owners
and merchants. This one seeks to overturn the Planning Commission’s decision to give the
Barbary Coast Collective a Conditional Use Authorization (CUA), prohibiting the MCD
Among several reasons why Alioto and his supporters do not want the MCD moving in
under any circumstances is its location, which they feel is just not a good fit.
“That’s not the neighborhood for it,” said Alioto. “There’s one over on Geary Boulevard,
which is 10 minutes away.” Alioto said the two streets are very different from one another.
“On Geary there is little foot traffic. It’s a destination. You go there to buy your pot and then
leave,” he said. “There are no shopping. There’s no grocery stores. It’s not the same, so you
can’t say, ‘well, it’s in this neighborhood so therefore it’s going to work in your
neighborhood.’ It’s not a good fit.”
He expressed concern about more traffic congestion and also that, while the schools in the
area may be outside of the 1,000-foot-distance limitation by city law, young people and
children often hang out and visit various shops along the commercial corridor, so he is
worried about the influence such a business might have on them. He also noted that
moving in next door to the proposed MCD on Irving Street will be a walk-in urgent care
“You’re going to put a pot shop in next door to an urgent care center? While people are
sitting there waiting to find out the results of their tests, waiting to find out if their loved
ones are OK, you’re going to sit there and smell pot coming from next door? You’re going to
smell skunk weed coming from next door? That’s ridiculous. That’s like putting a
whorehouse next to a church. It doesn’t make any sense,” he said. “What benefit is
a pot shop? They’re benefitting their pockets.”
(Editor’s note: The SF Board of Supervisors voted on Nov. 28 to lessen the distance between
MCDs and schools to 600 feet, and to allow MCDs to sell recreational marijuana as of
Jan. 1, 2018.)
Directly above the proposed dispensary is a massage business, which provides specialized
beds, acupuncture and services related to helping people with back problems and the like.
The owner, Maya Chen, is concerned that the proposed dispensary might hurt
“A lot of people, they come here to use the beds,” said Chen. “If they have a marijuana store
downstairs, with the smell, the people won’t want to come.” She also said that she does not
use cannabis and the smell of it makes her feel sick. “I’m very afraid. I’m worried about
that,” she said.
An attorney for the Barbary Coast Collective, Brendan Hallinan, claims the collective’s
application does not include a smoking lounge or any on site consumption because it “did
not think it was appropriate for this location.”
Nevertheless, the owners are installing a filtration system near the doors to scrub
the air out before it leaves, in the hope of keeping the strong herbal smell of marijuana
from seeping out into the street or drifting upstairs.
The new California law legalizing marijuana for recreational use is set to take effect on
New Year ’s Day, 2018, and the MCD’s owners are looking toward the changes this will
bring about in San Francisco.
“Under the new state laws all cannabis is required to be sold in prepackaged bags that are
sealed,” said Hallinan. “So, there’s not going to be a huge amount of raw cannabis lying
around, and there’s going to be no smoking of cannabis, so even without the filtration
system we don’t foresee that there is going to be a problem with the smell.”
With the new law there will likely be other changes too, like the viability of running a
medical cannabis-only business.
“The City is in the process right now of switching from medical to adult use. They
haven’t yet really firmed up what their policy is going to be, if dispensaries are going to
have to go through a separate hearing process or if they are going to automatically
convert,” Hallinan said. “We’re going to follow whatever the city process is.
“I think that we definitely need to leave the door open to adult use because the medical
market may disappear when people no longer are required to have to go to their doctors
and spend extra money to get a card. Patients in general have always been hesitant about
getting these recommendations because they’re worried about going on a list and things
like that. We’re a medical club but we don’t want to foreclose on adult use because
we got a feeling that all use might fall under adult use within the next year or two,”
Chris Tang represents the Irving Street Merchants and Neighborhood Association,
which has organized its own opposition to the Irving Street MCD. She presented one
possible explanation for why, one after the other, pot shops in the western part of the City
keep getting shot down.
“On Irving, there are a lot of Asian markets,” Tang said. “It’s hard for the Asian people to
accept a marijuana shop to be around them.”
This, she said, is at least partly because of the historical memory of what is called the
“opium wars,” when the British subdued China and colonized it with great
assistance from the opium poppy, which did much to erode resistance to Queen Victoria’s
rule. Like opium, marijuana is legally classified as a narcotic, according to the
“The opium war – culturally we think that marijuana is like an ‘entrance-level’ to the
addictive products,” Tang said. “We believe that for pain killers there are a lot of options
for people who have health issues. Culturally, for us, there are a lot of other options you
can choose instead of marijuana.
“We don’t oppose the City enforcing Prop. 64, but we just don’t think Irving, between 22nd
and 23rd, the busiest street, busiest commercial, is the right location. We don’t mind if they
reapply to a different location, but this is definitely not the right area,” Tang said. “I’m
hoping that they can respect our community, our culture.”