Dispensary Addresses EBNA; PowerStation Looks to be Lasting

The East Berkeley Neighborhood Association (EBNA) heard from GTI Properties regarding SoWa Market, and also took in a lengthy presentation from the marijuana dispensary proponent Liberty Compassionates during its monthly meeting on Dec. 18 in the AC Hotel.

Brad St. Amand of GTI properties was first on the docket to speak about a petition put in for using the parking lot for next year’s SoWa Market, which runs in the summer months. The market just finished up its season in October, and is also coming off of a very successful Winter Market over two weekends. That market attracted about 20,000 people per weekend and saw long lines to get into the PowerStation portion of the function.

In addition to that, GTI is looking into making the PowerStation a more permanent space by adding sprinklers, power, and plumbing. Nothing is yet submitted for that plan, but the idea would be to operate as a permanent structure instead of by the temporary occupancy system. Right now, any event at the PowerStation requires a temporary occupancy permit and assembly permits.

The new work would make the PowerStation a more permanent occupiable space for the events that already exist there.

St. Amand said they are not expanding, but just making the space permanent to allow for easier permitting.

“I think it’s exciting that instead of tearing down that building they are going to preserve it,” said Jeff Gates of the Aquitaine Group, who is also a tenant of GTI. “That was a very notable building at one time and had a steam stack taller than the Bunker Hill Monument. It was an exciting building for a long time.”

  • Vin Giordano represented Liberty Compassionates with former State Sen. Jack Hart for a prolonged presentation on their proposal for Albany Street, just outside the boundaries of EBNA.

Liberty and its chief competitor, Compassionate Organics, has been presenting to most every neighborhood in the South End about their proposals.

Most prominent was the fact that Giordano and Hart said they had no plans for recreational marijuana right now, with Giordano saying he prefers the medical marijuana business model. However, they also gave the standard disclaimer that if they did choose to go recreational in the future, they would have to repeat the same community process that they are going through now.

“I don’t have any plans for recreational,” said Giordano. “I really believe there will be two segments that will take place. There will be your recreational shops and there will be the medical, which will form on separate paths. They will have two different experiences. A patient will have a much different experience than someone wanting to buy a joint to get high on a Friday night. I believe the industry will segment.”

Giordano went on to say he likes the idea of a medical dispensary for this site, and would look at recreational licenses for his company in other areas.

“My strategy is to actually have an increased footprint,” he said. “I would prefer to have three more sites that are primarily recreational. It is such a different model.”

Added Hart, “If 10 or 20 years down the road they were to seek a recreational license (for this site), they would have to go through the same process all over again. If that day even comes and we’re not planning on that day in the foreseeable future.”

Some of the other questions regarded crime in the area, and what is being done to protect patrons from robbers preying on them when the leave with product or arrive with cash. Marijuana dispensaries are cash businesses and cannot take credit or debit cards.

Giordano said a full security plan is being put together by former Police Commissioner Ed Davis, who is consulting for Liberty.

Another concern was for parking, and Giordano said he is putting together a valet parking plan for peak times of the day. At other times, he said he expected there to be ample parking on the street.

Liberty has already had its community meeting, and expects to be before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) in the first quarter of 2019. He said he hopes they can begin any potential build out of the store by the fall of 2019.

  • EBNA will be holding elections for its board in January, but one long-time resident not up for re-election is Arthur Coe. Coe has been an active board member for quite some time, but needed to devote more time to other things. The Board has 11 spaces available, and there are currently seven on the board.
  • The LandWave is soon to be demolished when the weather permits, it was reported, though there is no date set. Right now, City crews are taking pieces of the LandWave for posterity, to be catalogued in City Hall.
  • Aimee Coolidge of the Pine Street Inn reported that Boston showed some very good marks in a recent Bloomberg report on homelessness. While Boston did have one of the highest percentages of homelessness in the country, it also had one of the lowest percentages of street homelessness in the country.

The numbers of chronically homeless people on the streets is down by quite a bit, she said.

“These rates have gone down and that is because of a very focused and concerted effort by the City to focus on these folks,” she said.

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