The cannabis industry in Los Angeles is booming. But a recent setback may spell trouble. L.A.’s homeless housing expansion reduces cannabis retail zoning.
The L.A. Homeless Housing Expansion Reduces Cannabis Retail Zoning Issue
L.A. is launching a large-scale initiative to provide housing for the homeless. L.A. Mayor Karen Bass is planning to build thousands of single and multi-family homes for homeless people. Her plans involve finding new buildouts and municipal-owned property conversions such as vacated city buildings like libraries and converting them into homeless housing.
These Permanent Supportive Housing (PSH) properties are considered “sensitive uses’ under L.A. zoning laws. Cannabis stores are not permitted to operate within a 700-foot radius of such properties.
As such, L.A. homeless housing expansion reduces cannabis retail zoning. With L.A. having so many marijuana retail operators and applicants in its social equity program, the issue is pinning one disadvantaged group against another.
Alexa Steinberg, an attorney at the L.A.-based law firm Greenberg Glusker, which represents retail lottery, license winners, and applicants, weighed in on the issues saying, “As Karen Bass creates sustainable housing for this population, that continues to push cannabis retail, in particular, out of the market.”
She further commented on how difficult it is to find a property and a landlord willing to lease it and work with operators throughout the application processing.
“Putting in supportive housing all over the city takes away a percentage of those landlords that were willing to lease to these businesses. So now you’ve got an even narrower margin,” she says.
The Homeless Issue in L.A.
While L.A. homeless housing expansion reduces cannabis retail zoning is an issue, homelessness may be an even bigger problem.
The homeless crisis in the city has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. About 42,000 people may be living on L.A. streets at any given time.
Homelessness is especially rampant in the downtown Skid Row area, South L.A., and Hollywood.
The Democratic first female New York mayor and former Congress member’s November campaign focused on reducing homelessness with more affordable housing and shelter expansions.
Her first act when taking office in mid-December was to declare a state of emergency on homelessness. She expedited building contracts and cleared red tape issues on temporary and permanent housing initiatives.
She launched the “Inside Safe” program which has already eliminated six homeless encampments moving over 250 people who were living in tents into hotels.
She aims to house 170,000 homeless L.A. residents in her first year in office.
City insider Solomon Rivera cites rising rents as a driving factor for L.A.’s homeless crisis.
“People being priced out is very much related to the houseless crisis,” said Rivera, chief of staff for Councilor Marqueece Harris-Dawson, one the City Hall’s top cannabis advocates. “It’s just so expensive here.”
The Department of Cannabis Regulation (DCR) has been attempting to find a solution regarding sensitive use zoning.
DCR interim executive director Michell Garakian weighed in on the matter saying,” Los Angeles is an ever-evolving city, constantly changing and growing with new challenges every day.
“DCR looks forward to working with Mayor Bass and the City Council to support this top priority while continuing to problem-solve challenges facing our emerging cannabis industry.”
L.A. Homeless Housing Expansion Reduces Cannabis Retail Zoning- Solution Unknown
The issue of L.A. homeless housing expansion reducing cannabis retail zoning is ongoing, and the solution is still unclear.
The Housing Authority of the City of Los Angeles claims it has provided PSH assistance for over 27,000 homeless individuals and families.
Los Angeles has already exceeded its goals of creating 10,000 new units of affordable housing by 2026. It will continue with its efforts to develop over 2000 units a year.
While this is good news on some level, L.A. homeless housing expansion reduces cannabis retail zoning.
PSH provides housing for homeless people dealing with the following issues:
- Mental issues
- Chronic medical conditions
- Chronic homelessness
That encompasses a sizable portion of the population. It combines with the expansion of PSH dwellings making it difficult for cannabis retailers to find business properties.
The former city attorney and president of the L.A.-based cannabis retailer and cultivator Traditional Alex Freedman emphasized how difficult it is to find PSH-suitable dwelling.
“There’s not a website you can just go to and get a list of every single Permanent Housing Location. It’s a guessing game as to whether it’s going to be a disqualifying sensitive use,” Friedman says.
It’s even more challenging considering the DCR oversees approvals. It’s common for clients to take a chance on a location and wait to find out if the DCT will approve it.
“Determine how risk averse you might be or not. And if you sign a lease with that landlord, be damn sure you can get out,” he advises prospective renters.
Two Disenfranchised Constituencies Effected as L.A. Homeless Housing Expansion Reduces Cannabis Retail Zoning
L.A. homeless housing expansion reduces cannabis retail zoning is an issue that negatively affects those who have opened or are trying to open cannabis businesses under the city’s social equity program. To qualify, you must have a “prior California cannabis arrest or conviction” and be low-income or live in an area identified as disproportionately affected by policing.
As of late January, a third of the city’s cannabis retailers were owned by social equity applicants.
However, some social equity retail lottery winners have been trying to secure L.A. real estate for their businesses for years.
Others have secured the real estate but have spent thousands in monthly rental fees waiting for approval.
Executive director of the National Diversity & Inclusion Cannabis Alliance (NDICA) Bonita Money wants the mayor to consider the challenges social equity applicants are facing due to L.A. Homeless Housing Expansion Reduces Cannabis Retail Zoning.
“The homeless problem needs to be addressed for sure. But you can’t fix one problem and then just create another,” Money said.
L.A. Homeless Housing Expansion Reduces Cannabis Retail Zoning, an Ongoing Issue
Money has been asking L.A. politicians to narrow the allowed distance between sensitive use properties and marijuana facilities from 700 feet to 600 feet. But they are not making the plights of cannabis business owners a priority right now.
“There’s very few council members that are enthusiastic about the industry. I totally support the urgency around homelessness. I’m hoping at some point we can engage (the mayor) on the issues of cannabis,” said Rivera.