Antioch Council approves marijuana store near mosque, in same building as Christian church on 5-0 vote

Entrance to the Masjid AbuBakr AlSaddiq Muslim Community Center on West 10th Street with the view of the building where the cannabis dispensary will be located. Photo from www.masjidabubakralsaddiq.com.

But, only after getting property and business owner to agree to locate it on the other end of his building; will require 24-hour armed security.

By Allen Payton

NOTE: Apologies for any misspelling of some of the names of the speakers which may be incorrect. We will work to update this article with the correct spelling of their names.

On Tuesday night, the Antioch City Council approved a second marijuana retail store on W. 10th Street, this time near a mosque and Islamic community center, and in the same building as a Christian church, on a unanimous vote. But, that was only after hearing overwhelming opposition from the members of the mosque and getting the building and business owner to locate the store on the other end of his building, further away from the Masjid AbuBakr AlSaddiq Muslim Community Center.

The Delta Dispensary, cannabis retail store will open at “2101 W. 10th Street, in a shared tenant building, in the cannabis overlay business district, near Costco,” according to City of Antioch Associate Planner Zoe Meredith. The Victory Outreach church is one of the tenants located in the same building.

“The police department reviewed the security plan and met with the applicant on the plan. The application meets all of the city’s cannabiss ordinance and guidelines,” she stated.

The security plan includes a requirement for an armed guard 24 hours a day. (See City Staff Report here: Delta Dispensary Cannabis Dispensary 06-25-19)

PROPONENTS SPEAK

The project proponent was given 10 minutes to speak during the public hearing. The lead opponent was given 10 minutes to speak, as well.

Rick Hoke said, “I am the owner of a commercial construction business (The Richards Company) and the business park located at 2101 W. 10th Street. We have built our business, here and are already contributing to Antioch. We have worked with city staff…and are grateful for their guidance.”

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“a quality establishment…and a destination Antioch residents can be proud of.”

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He labeled it “a business that will be to the benefit of the city, directly and indirectly.”

Hoke projected “a return of investment of “$25,000 in quarter four, $100,000 in 2020 and double that in 2021,” and claimed it would be “a quality establishment…and a destination Antioch residents can be proud of.”

“They have two main concerns,” he continued. “That children attend their community center with their parents and that there will be cannabis use on the property. They don’t like that they can see the dispensary from their property. We have proposed a concrete wall to block the view. We’re willing to go above and beyond the rules for your approval.”

“I’m excited, encouraged and have a hope for the future of our business in Antioch,” Hoke added. 

Jason Teramoto, a consultant based in Sacramento who grew up in the East Bay, spoke next as part of the proponent’s presentation.

“You have an applicant that has gone above and beyond the local rules. The commitment to public safety is number one,” he stated. “It’s never been profit driven. The impact on traffic is going to be minimal, at best. We go above and beyond the Lifescan screenings you require. Any city officials will have 24-hour-a-day, 365 days a year access to the financial records. Given the date of acceptance, this application has been in compliance with the ordinances in place.”

LEAD OPPONENT SPEAKS

The lead opponent to speak was John Coker, an “attorney in the county for 52 years,” as he described himself.

“It may not be a violation of city ordinance, but the city council has discretion,” Coker stated. “Is this a good discretion? This is right next to a mosque and a community center. The ordinance requires a 600-foot setback of childcare centers. Well, this is a childcare center. It’s not 600 feet away.”

“This institution has 400 people a day who come to meetings, to pray, and play sports. In Antioch only, in the whole state of California, will there be a cannabis sales right next to a religious institution. There’s also even a church in the same building. There religion is important to them. Their children are important to them.”

“It isn’t always true marijuana doesn’t have crime problems. I have two murder cases, myself, where marijuana sales were involved. Drugs and alcohol for the Muslim religion…are forbidden.

The city council members have visited the mosque and have talked to them. They have described to me how they appreciated it. That’s so impressive. They’re hoping you will think about it and use your discretion,” he concluded.

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“There is not a single dispensary east of the Caldecott Tunnel.”

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PUBLIC COMMENTS

Only a few people spoke or wrote comments in favor of the dispensary. Most of the speakers, who were mainly from the mosque, opposed its location.

Greg Kremenliev, who said he was from “the Contra Costa Chapter of NORML (the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws),” spoke next.

“We believe access is the most important issue for the residents of Antioch,” he said. “There is not a single dispensary east of the Caldecott Tunnel. We’re hoping this will be the first. Areas around dispensaries have lower crime. Home values go up the closer you are to a dispensary. Keep in mind it’s 2019 not 1937.”

Mayor Sean Wright then read written comments by three supporters of the dispensary.

Cynthia Lopez, a resident of Antioch for 20 years said, “I am not for or against dispensaries when they’re placed in the proper perspective. When they’re placed next to a daycare, place of worship, park…How many of you would want to take your children to a daycare and leave them there, or to a church and leave them there next to a dispensary?”

Amir Josefia said, “You would never allow a liquor store next to a church or childcare center. You’re allowing a marijuana dispensary next to a mosque. You have the discretion. Antioch needs many other businesses besides a cannabis dispensary.”

Hadi Gaus said he has been “an Antioch resident for the past 20 years. I have four kids. I take my kids to this mosque and community center. Mosque is a place for prayer. We pray five times a day. It’s a place for the whole family. Kids play outside… We spend a lot of time in the mosque. It’s not a randomly used place. Our kids learn basic, family values.”

“The planning staff requires 24-hour security, with firearmed guard. That must mean it’s dangerous,” he continued. “To place this right next to a mosque, where our children will be, is dangerous. It will endanger the public coming to the mosque. Let’s do things that are going to be forward looking not backward looking.”

Abdul Maliq Ali said, “I am, to say the least, against seeing a dispensary within the vicinity of a mosque and a church, as well. There is already a dispensary, west of this location. As far as availability of cannabis…The dispensary is not a bad idea. But, the location is not where it should be.”

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“If this was being opened next to a Catholic church…there would be Hell to pay.”

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Armando Calderon then stated, “I was an active gang member in one of California’s most notorious street and prison gangs. It is 2019 not 1937, but the issues are very prevalent. Not all customers are bad people. But you can’t shy away from the fact that there are gang members that frequent these places at all times. Gang members are very predatorial. They prey on the weak…on the youth. We cannot shy away from that fact. There are armed guards there. We don’t have armed guards at the mosque to protect our children, should violence erupt.”

“Why are we going to welcome these types of people into our community? We put our youth at risk?” he asked the council members. “I can speak as an ex-gang leader. We preyed on kids and there are going to be kids right next door.”

Faldustein Shoman spoke next, saying “I’m here to contest the location, because at the mosque we have a Sunday school. The kids have activities and learn about religion. I’m not against CBD marijuana for medicinal purposes. But, I’m here to protest recreational marijuana. Some kids can get their hands on fake ID’s. When you’re high you don’t really know what you’re going to do. A kid coming out from Sunday school gets run over. There will be kids going there and affected by the people going to the dispensary.”

Mohammad Albu Fayad said, “They’re here, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or belief. They’re here united for one reason. The safety of their kids and families.”

He spoke of a major accident on Interstate 880 last fall, caused by a person under the influence of marijuana

“We don’t allow these places…opening in a residential neighborhood,” Ablu Fayad continued. “We don’t allow them to open next to homes. How about the house of the Lord? We’re allowing it to happen next to the house of the Creator of those people?”

Rick Gorman said, “It’s kind of ironic I’m speaking on behalf of the Muslim community. I’m not particularly religious. I voted to legalize marijuana. My problem is the location. If this was being opened next to a Catholic church, I was raised Roman Catholic, there would be Hell to pay.” 

Mohammad Al Segir then said, “I used to smoke pretty heavy. I was a big pothead seven years ago, when I was 14 years old. I had a 0.0 GPA. When I was off it and in college, I had a 4.0 GPA. I haven’t witnessed many success stories of the people I used to smoke with. They said they have a history of supporting faith communities. Why aren’t they supporting our faith community?”

Mohammad Youseff said, “When I first came to this country, I worked at a 7-11 and I saw a lot of fake ID’s used to buy alcohol. They can have dispensaries far away from churches or mosques. If they can, please move the dispensary to somewhere else.”

Adinihab Hashib then said, “I’m an engineer and I love this city. That’s why I bought a house, here. A big house. But my kids live here and if they go to school next to this dispensary, that house is worth nothing. That’s where my kids go every day. I worked hard. Something may happen. So, please I hope everybody will vote against that.”

Wright then read two written comments supporting the dispensary.

Abda Hadwan was next to speak, saying, “I also am here to represent this community in Antioch. We bring our kids and leave them there sometime go to the store and come back and pick them up. This dispensary may attract bad people…and bring an influence on them.”

Mohammad Attia said, “I have three kids. I teach them we obey the law. But smoking is a bad habit. When I take them to the mosque to exercise, to play…for many activities, to learn, every single day, this is going to come into their mind. If something comes to destroy everything I’ve been teaching for a long time…we are not against the law, we are against it coming so close to our community center.”

Diane Tamiza then said, “I’ve lived in Antioch for the past one and a half years. For the sake of our youth…I have five grandchildren and I wouldn’t want them to be exposed to this, either. There hasn’t been a single day that I haven’t seen multiple children playing outside. As a community this is not something we should have placed near us.”

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“24-hour security, with firearmed guard. That must mean it’s dangerous.”

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Andrew Johnson speaking in favor of the dispensary, said, “I’m a third-generation Antioch resident. I’m a proud member of the Antioch community. I used to own a small business down the street. I am here speaking in support for the use permit for the dispensary. However, as the attorney pointed out, you have a discretionary duty to look at the facts. It is an approved legal business in California, in Contra Costa County, in Antioch.”

“What more is the applicant to do to get this business up and running?” he asked the council members. “Antioch needs additional tax revenue. There is an opportunity to improve the economic tax base. I think we are missing an opportunity if we fail to approve this project.”

Ralph Hernandez said, “The location is wrong. Antioch is the wrong location. That particular location on W. 10th Street is the wrong location. It’s great someone is trying to make money off of the Antioch community. They will make millions. We don’t need to make money for them. We don’t need their dispensary, which is a magnet for crime, criminals and other activities. They can take their proposal, their company and go somewhere else in Contra Costa County. Why Antioch? We should not be an easy city for them to make money off of. You will spend more than you will get, on police…I have seen a lot of the negativity that comes with drug sales, that includes murder. Next to the mosque and the children there, it’s absolutely the wrong location. I say deny it.”

PROPONENT’S REBUTTAL

The proponent then had three minutes to offer a rebuttal.

Teramoto, the dispensary’s consultant, spoke again, saying, “Make no mistake, this is an issue that creates certainly passionate opinions on both sides. We suggested to increase the height of the wall to 12 feet and make it a living wall…for a beautification issue for both parties on each side of the wall. Yes, this is a business. We’re talking about a multi-million dollar investment back into the city of Antioch.

There won’t be a square foot that a person won’t be on a surveillance. So, the assertion we will be a magnet for gang activity, that may be true. But, the Antioch Police would want to invite these people” to the dispensary.

COUNCIL DISCUSSION & DECISION

The council members then asked questions of the proponent.

Mayor Pro Tem Joy Motts was first, saying “You said you paid a living wage. Do you also pay benefits?”

“Yes,” replied Teramoto.

“How many people are allowed in the waiting lounge?” Motts asked.

“About six people will be in the waiting lounge,” he answered. “This location will not see more than 100 people a day. That’s less than 10 per hour. The seating area we’ve accommodated up to five or six. The retail area is about 1,500 square feet. So, you could have up to 10 people in there at one time.”

“Every parking spot…is under surveillance. So, I can’t imagine people waiting in their cars,” Teramoto stated in response to Motts additional concern. “The license plates and faces of the customers will be scanned, as well as their driver’s licenses. So, the argument that anyone can come in with a fake ID is false,” the consultant stated. “Any customer who comes into the sales force can physically touch the product. That’s against state law. There are two RFID scanners.”

“Did you sit down and meet with the mosque?” Motts asked.

“We tried,” the consultant said. “I walked over there. It’s a 616-foot walk, door-to-door. There is no direct access from the community center to our facility. The same goes with the baseball field. That’s actually a 1,600-foot walk.”

Councilmember Monica Wilson spoke next, saying, “Thank you for clarifying the scanner, that no one can come in there with a fake ID. Will the police have access to the surveillance cameras?”

“24-7, 365-days” responded Teramoto. “This is the most scrutinized business. In any event, however unlikely that is, they (police) will have their own key to have access to the video cameras.”

“I like the fact that you said you’re a second-chance employer, and that Mr. Hoke said he will hire local contractors,” Wilson stated.

“Local vendors and local merchants will benefit from this dispensary,” Teramoto shared. “This is really going to be a landmark.”

“That there is no other dispensary next to a house of worship is not entirely true,” he added.

Councilmember Lamar Thorpe then asked, “The only other item I would bring up is equity. What the company’s equity program would look like.”

“The Hokes have had a long history of people who have gone through early parole,” Teramoto said. “First and foremost, you look for opportunity for dignified work.”

“I want to understand the company’s commitment to equity, more importantly your definition of equity,” Thorpe pressed him.

“It is integrating individuals in the community who have been disproportionately affected pre-Proposition 64…giving everyone the opportunity to benefit by this industry,” Teramoto responded. “We want to partner with them.”

“I have one other question for our friends over here,” Thorpe said. “I visited the mosque. He gave me a tour of the mosque and we talked about the wall. Is this acceptable to you?”

“This is not acceptable to me,” said one of the members of the mosque. “It has to be acceptable to the entire community.”

“If this is the last chance, I want it 16 feet tall,” he said.

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“this mosque has been there prior to our cannabis zone and frankly, it’s too close to a dispensary.” Mayor Wright, before voting for it.

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Councilmember Lori Ogorchock asked “how far away is this from the Babe Ruth baseball fields?”

“There is not a statutory requirement for a 600-foot separation,” Community Development Director Forrest Ebbs stated.

“I understand that. That’s not my question,” Ogorchock said.

“The project would be located 280 feet from the property line by the Babe Ruth organization. But 900 feet from the operating ballfields,” City Planner Meredith said.

“It’s owned by Dow,” Ogorchock said of the land where the Babe Ruth baseball fields are located along W. 10th Street. “I have concerns with the 600 feet. I’ve also looked at the smoke shops and the ordinances are tighter than cannabis shops. I appreciate the Hoke family is willing to put up the wall and make it aesthetically pleasing.”

“How many will this employ?” she then asked.

“Four full time staff, plus three full-time security staff. So, seven altogether,” Termoto replied.

Mayor Wright spoke last, saying, “It’s a tough decision. I did have the opportunity to tour the mosque. This is a zoning issue. Cities usually plan zones. We do that so we don’t have this issue. The issue comes in that we don’t have zones for churches. Cities don’t get to choose where churches can go. The city has fought churches before and lost. I’m just saying. So, I don’t know that we should choose. If churches wanted to destroy our cannabis zone…this mosque has been there prior to our cannabis zone and frankly, it’s too close to a dispensary. We’ll probably end up with four or five dispensaries in the Verne Roberts Circle area.”

“I don’t have a problem with what the Hokes are trying to bring. But I think it’s too close,” he added.

Wright then called for a motion.

Thorpe then said, “this entire area is zoned business.”

“Yes, it’s zoned business and industrial,” Ebbs stated. “To clarify, the church did receive a conditional use permit they are operating under, as a community center, there.”

“Not as a mosque,” Thorpe stated.

“As a mosque or a community center, we don’t slice those up,” Ebbs explained.

“I was under the impression our cannabis ordinance is more restrictive than for smoke shops,” Motts said.

“I’d say they are different,” Ebbs responded. “Actually, our most restrictive is for tobacco.”

“So, how many feet does a liquor store have to be away from a school or church?” Motts asked.

“No on-sale or off-sale liquor establishment shall be located within 500 feet of…a day care center or school,” Ebbs read from the city ordinance.

“What is the smoking one?” Ogorchock asked.

“We don’t allow any smoke shops,” Ebbs said.

“We don’t allow new smoke shops,” City Planner Meredith clarified.

“The card rooms are 1,000 feet,” said City Attorney Thomas Smith.

“A liquor store is not a business park zoning,” Ebbs stated.

Ogorchock then called Hoke back up to the podium

“Do you own the whole length of that building?” she asked.

“Yes,” Hokes said.

“Is it vacant?” Thorpe asked.

“I have an office there and there’s another small tenant there,” Hoke stated. “But it could be made vacant. Are you suggesting we move to the other end of the building?”

“I’m not suggesting anything,” Thorpe replied.

“I have a tenant that is month-to-month,” Hoke said.

“That would create some more distance,” said Thorpe.

“It would add another 280 feet,” Hoke stated.

“It’s the same parcel,” Ebbs said. “If that is the condition of the council, we could continue this. You could add that as a condition of approval and we could work it out.”

“Would you still be amenable..open to building the wall?” Motts asked.

“Yes,” Hoke replied.

“How far away would that be from the Babe Ruth fields?” Ogorchock asked.

“It would be another 280 feet away,” Ebbs stated.

Thorpe then made a motion to approve the dispensary, with the condition that it be located at the other end of the building owned by Hoke and have city staff work out the details with Hoke.

Wilson seconded the motion.

“The City’s maximum height is eight feet. Any wall has to stop twenty feet from the street, so a car pulling up can see on-coming traffic. We’ll get it as close as we can at that height,” Ebbs said.

“I would ask that you work with Babe Ruth. They’re not currently using that field. But, if they get to capacity, I want to make sure you work with Babe Ruth,” Ogorchock said.

Motts thanked the members of the mosque for speaking up and encouraged them to meet and speak with Hoke.

The motion then passed on a 5-0 vote approving the use permit for the Delta Dispensary cannabis dispensary.

 

 

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the attachments to this post:

Delta Dispensary Cannabis Dispensary 06-25-19
Delta Dispensary Cannabis Dispensary 06-25-19


Mosque entrance


6 Comments to “Antioch Council approves marijuana store near mosque, in same building as Christian church on 5-0 vote”

  1. Arne says:

    Antioch has no tax on cannabis products, so don’t expect any revenue. Any tax would have to be on the ballot and approved by the voters and that next opportunity isn’t until the 2020 Primary in March.

  2. concerned citizen says:

    It’s disconcerting to me that the Antioch City Council should choose to become the Cannabis Capital of the East Bay and not even get any sales revenue from it. Yes, Opportunity Lives Here!

  3. tom says:

    rephrase,,, opportunity leaves here

  4. Marty Fernandez says:

    They have fallen all over themselves selling the city for cannabis with no real plan as usual. We are really the laughing stock of the area. Greed beats it all.

  5. Do says:

    Yeah actually Antioch is negotiating individual tax rates with each cannabis businesses approved in Antioch

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