A new medical marijuana dispensary proposed in a strip mall by State Street and Ontare Road was approved last week by the Planning Commission on a 6-1 vote. Should it open as planned, it will mark the first storefront dispensary in Santa Barbara since about five years ago, when the threat of federal prosecution, coupled with new city restrictions, chased all retail operations either out of business or into home delivery.
Last week’s deliberations marked the second time since April that the dispensary proposed by prominent defense attorney Joseph Foster Allen got the once-over by City Hall. According to city zoning rules, Santa Barbara can permit up to three storefront dispensaries at any given time, but no more than one per any of the five designated zones spread throughout city limits.
To the extent Allen’s dispensary elicited much controversy, most of it focused on parking. The strip mall — which includes Baskin-Robbins, a cigar shop, the Tee-Off, Rudy’s, a doughnut shop, and a military recruiting office — notoriously lacks parking; city planners concluded any tenant would generate similar parking demand. Planning Commissioner Michael Jordan opposed the dispensary, expressing doubts operators could control patrons’ conduct once outside.
Other commissioners opted to support the proposal — which had previously been approved by a City Hall hearing examiner — but imposed stricter security requirements. Instead of posting one full-time security officer, the operator would have to maintain two at all times.