Category Archives: Benicia City Council

VIDEO: Benicia City Council workshop on air monitoring

From the Benicia Independent, by Roger Straw, October 23, 2019

Here is filmmaker Constance Beutel’s video of the City of Benicia’s Air Monitoring Workshop with representatives from Benicia Fire Department, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, Valero and the newly forming non profit, Benicia Community Air Monitoring Program.

For more background and the staff report, see Mayor Patterson’s invitation, Benicia City Council workshop on Air Monitoring.

Benicia City Council to consider re-writing cannabis rules on May 7

By Steve Young, Benicia City Council member
Steve Young, Benicia CA

On May 7, the City Council will consider a proposal by Councilman Largaespada to expand the buffer zones around cannabis dispensaries. The proposed changes would, if adopted, add buffer zones around any day care center (or places where kids congregate), park, or any residential zone.  If adopted by the Council, the practical effect would be to eliminate virtually all retail locations in the City.

Cannabis issues have been on the ballot twice recently. In 2016, Benicians voted 63% in favor of Prop. 64 which legalized personal use of cannabis by adults. In 2018, Benicians voted 68% in favor of letting the Council impose excise taxes on cannabis businesses (which we did last December). The current rules, adopted by the previous Council after more than 18 hearings and dozens of hours of testimony, limited cannabis dispensaries to just a few commercial areas in the City. The Council eliminated First Street and all of downtown, as well as all of the Southhampton shopping center. We also limited the number of dispensaries to just two.

When we finally opened up the application process last fall, we had 9 applicants for these two possible permits. Applicants were required to pay the City $20,000 each for processing their application, including for a Public Safety License to be issued by the Police Department after significant vetting of the applicants. In addition, the applicants were required to show some form of site control. This required them to rent or lease, or obtain an option to lease,  commercial space at significant costs while waiting for the City to finally recommend which applicants were recommended to move forward to the Planning Commission to apply for a Conditional Use Permit (CUP). (Some applicants have reported absorbing over $100,000 in costs each.)

In my opinion, regardless of how you feel about cannabis, it is fundamentally unfair to treat these businesses in this manner.  They have followed all the rules set forth by the City in August,  paid substantial fees to the City and even more to rent vacant space, and have waited over 9 months for the City to act on their applications.  It is simply not fair or equitable, at this late date,  to have the City change the rules in the middle of the game.

If you are interested in this topic, please attend the Council meeting on May 7 or let the Council know about your opinions.

Benicia’s Campaign Fairness Ordinance; Can We Make it Better?

Benicia’s Campaign Fairness Ordinance; Can We Make it Better?

City Council Decides to Take a Look

By Ralph Dennis

Larnie Fox, a PDB member, sent a note out recently through Benicia Resist! mentioning City Council’s decision, unanimously, to agendize a discussion of a possible strengthening of our local campaign fairness ordinance. He included this bit from the agenda:

“Council member Tom Campbell submitted a two-step process request on November 15, 2018 for Council consideration of possible changes to the campaign ordinance. This Request is to determine whether or not the Council would like to agendize the topic for discussion at a future Council meeting.
Recommendation: Discuss the request and provide direction to staff.”

Larnie encouraged all Benicia Resisters! to show up in January. We should all show up at the January City Council to support efforts to disallow the dark tactics, as Larnie described, that Valero used during the recent election.

I would add, that there isn’t much, if anything, we can do about the amount of money coming in, if someone wants to do it, due to the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling in 2008. But, Benicia does have its campaign ordinances, and one that already requires information to be filed by the dark tactics players; and, even those players made the required filings this past election. It wasn’t enough, of course.

So, maybe something can be done to tighten up the ordinance itself. Councilman Campbell alluded to this while discussing his request. As an example, if the City can’t make the pollsters divulge who paid for the polling because it would bias the poll, then maybe we can require that information, say, 48 hours after the poll is conducted. His self-described goal: make sure the voters know “when they step into the voting booth” who is backing each candidate.

It occurs to me as I write this, and after reviewing the actual request from Councilman Campbell and Benicia’s municipal code’s campaign ordinances: I wonder if we know which ordinance we’re taking a look at? Or, are we looking at all of them? The City Attorney’s letter sent back in September to the pollsters, mentioned that “the city has several campaign ordinances.” And, by example, referred to Benicia Municipal Code Section 1.40.042 which requires certain disclosures for campaign communications funded by independent expenditures. This sounds like the one Campbell is after.

We shall see what happens, but at least here is an opportunity to do something, perhaps.

When? I couldn’t find the Council’s official 2019 agenda schedule, apparently it is not posted yet on the City’s web site. However, I asked Steve Young, who said that Council will meet on Jan. 15 and Jan. 22.

Which meeting? At the Council meeting, City Manager Lorie Tinfrow said this item will be on a January agenda, but did not indicate then at which meeting. I think we should know soon, though, and we’ll let you know once the date is set. Check the PDB web site for updates!

Our next meeting is Jan. 8. We’ll discuss this item during the meeting.