The city of Roseland is considering a proposal that would allow a cannabis business to open at the old school site. However, some neighbors are not happy with the idea and have filed an appeal.
Two local businesswomen want to establish a cannabis growing, production, and retail distribution facility in a former Roseland charter school building, but other neighbors say they don’t want that kind of business in their community. The Santa Rosa Planning Commission will examine Old School Cannabis’ application for authorization to operate at the property during a planned hearing on Thursday afternoon.
During peak production times, the company’s founders claim that up to 50 employment may be created. Local people would be given priority for any vacant jobs, and the company itself would draw a diverse range of customers to the region.
“We want to… elevate the neighborhood, create employment, and raise the culture,” said Nayeli Rivera, co-owner and operator.
Rivera is a first-generation immigrant whose parents arrived in Sonoma County in the 1970s, according to her. She went on to say that she was born in Petaluma and now resides in Sebastopol.
“I believe being Mexican-American and a business owner in the Roseland community is a great opportunity, and I feel really thrilled and humbled,” she added. “There aren’t a lot of Latinos in cannabis, particularly women.”
Cede Hunter, her partner, comes from Northern California as well. According to a biography in the company’s licensing application, Hunter’s father, Dennis, was a cannabis business pioneer in Santa Rosa.
The old school building, which is located at 100 Sebastopol Road, is flanked to the north and south by industrial buildings. On the other two sides are residential areas.
The Village Station complex is now under construction to the east, across the SMART train line.
Old School Cannabis would include an area for on-site production as well as another area where cannabis plants would be processed into product, according to the company’s permission application. This, according to Rivera, provides for considerable quality control.
The operators plan to set up a 17,120-square-foot cannabis growing operation, a 500-square-foot manufacturing unit to extract oil from the plants, a retail dispensary, and a lounge where cannabis can be consumed (though city officials say it cannot be smoked) on the premises within the charter school’s empty classrooms.
According to Santa Rosa Senior Planner Kristinae Toomians, who has recommended the Planning Commission accept Old School Cannabis’ application, the company’s concept is unusual from a permitting standpoint.
The project is on the bigger side for a cannabis factory operating inside Santa Rosa municipal boundaries, and just a few cannabis shops have been granted permission to serve customers on-site.
Once the Planning Commission approves the proposal, Old School Cannabis may begin applying for cannabis licenses. According to Toomians, the Santa Rosa City Council would only weigh in if neighbors filed an appeal.
The proposal is opposed by at least a few Roseland locals.
On Thursday afternoon, an informal group of local neighbors plans to speak out against it before the Santa Rosa Planning Commission.
Members of the Santa Rosa Junior College chapter of MEChA, a Latinx student advocacy group, have asked people to phone in to the meeting to express their objection to the company, according to a post on MEChA’s Facebook page.
According to the post, the plan angered several former students of Roseland University Prep, which used to occupy the building where Rivera and Hunter want to open their business.
MEChA refused to comment via its advisor, Rafael Vázquez, other than to indicate that officials will attend Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting and talk to the commissioners.
Residents in Roseland who intend to speak out against the proposal before the commission say cannabis is an unwelcome business, especially in a community with children and families.
They were upset that a property that was also being evaluated as a potential permanent location for Roseland’s long-awaited public library would be sold to such a company.
“There are homes nearby, and there was a school for young people that provided a good education,” said Marisol Angeles, 46, a local resident.
She said that a cannabis shop would bring crime, and that it would not match her perception of Roseland as a family-oriented neighborhood.
Another Roseland resident, Concepcion Dominguez, 52, said, “They always bring the worst to the community of Roseland.” “Why don’t they place it in Fountaingrove?” says the narrator. Because there are wealthy and powerful individuals who will resist it.”
Rivera and her colleagues toured the homes in the area of the project’s planned location and spoke with neighbors to explain their intentions, she added.
They encountered minimal resistance, she claimed, adding that she was unaware of MEChA’s worries until she was told by a Press Democrat reporter.
“We are surrounded by a community and neighborhoods, so being a good neighbor is really important to us,” she said, adding that the company has a 13-point “good neighbor policy” in place, which includes having a multilingual community liaison on staff.
Fears that the company would attract violence or have a negative impact on the neighborhood’s kids, according to Rivera, stem from a lack of knowledge about the regulated cannabis sector.
She cited illegal drugs trade and cartel violence in Latin America as examples of stigmatization.
Rivera believes that by being a nice neighbor and educating the neighborhood about cannabis as a licensed medication, Old School Cannabis may help to change such attitudes.
“This is a plant that is embedded in our roots,” she said.