Santa Rosa Planning Commission approves cannabis project despite outcry

After hours of controversial testimony, the Santa Rosa Planning Commission has approved a proposed cannabis business for a former school in Roseland that has divided community members.

The committee voted 6-0 in favor of Old School Cannabis, a large farm-to-fork company nominated by two businesswomen who say they want to invest in Roseland.

Opponents of the project could appeal and bring the company’s final approval to the Santa Rosa city council for a vote. Barring a reversal, the business, where plants will be grown, oils extracted and products made under one roof, appear to be heading to the old schoolhouse at 100 Sebastopol Road in the middle of an ever-changing Roseland. .

“We want to grow with the community and provide community spaces, promote the art of Roseland and protect young people,” Nayeli Rivera, one of the owners and operators of the business, said at the meeting. Rivera, a child of Mexican immigrants who grew up in Petaluma, said she looks forward to opening a business that could create up to 50 jobs in the area.

But a number of community members, including current and former students of Roseland University Prep, the school that was once on the site but has since moved, said they found the idea a business. heartbreaking but typical of a region. invest in.

“It was a place to teach Latinx and members of the minority community,” said Veronica Jaramillo. “No one asked for a dispensary – they asked for more help with schools, daycares, resources.”

Janice Siebert, president of the Roseland Public Schools District, also spoke against the proposal. “The Roseland School Board is standing up for our children and opposing this 23,000 square foot industrial cannabis project,” she said.

“Our strong voice against Old School Cannabis LLC is a statement to our children and to our stakeholders,” Siebert said.

In the end, the planning committee disagreed. “It is a unique property and I think this applicant is putting it to good use,” said Commissioner Patti Cisco. Dispensaries are opening in neighborhoods of the city as community retail businesses, she said.

“This is not a Roseland landfill project,” Cisco said.

Despite objections, the project was supported.

“It will create economic wealth within the Roseland community which is extremely important,” said one caller, who has only been identified as Jolee. The industrial potential of large estate could attract a business less dedicated to the community than Old School Cannabis, she said.

“We need local people to run these businesses, hire people from the community and give back to the community,” she said.

In the empty classrooms of the charter school, Rivera and her business partner, Cede Hunter, hope to set up a 17,120 square foot cannabis grow operation, as well as a 500 square foot manufacturing unit for extracting oil from plants, a retail dispensary and salon where cannabis can be consumed (although city officials say it cannot be smoked) on-site.

The callers suggested a food bank, library, community center, cultural center, daycare, and other uses for the property that they believe are best suited to a historically underserved community.

The cannabis trade, opponents of the trade said, is a way for foreigners to make money in Roseland.

“It’s like we’re being targeted again by people looking to take advantage of our employees,” said Maria Valverde, member of MEChA.

As residents opposed the business, frustration also spilled over to elected officials and local governments who failed to deliver promised community investments, such as a long-standing public library, in Roseland for decades. .

“We have no problem with cannabis,” said Silvia Langan, brushing aside suggestions that the opposition stemmed from poor education about the still newly legalized cannabis industry. “We are educated about it,” Langan said. “The problem is, we have other needs. We need space for education or for a community center.

You can contact editor Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or [email protected] On Twitter @ AndrewGraham88

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