At its regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday, the City Council approved the extension of both a temporary moratorium on marijuana-related activities and a declaration of local emergency due to recent storms and flooding, among other issues.
The council discussed a staff report on city cost savings achieved from solar collectors and the Marin Clean Energy (MCE) program for the period of January to June, 2016.
In January, 2016, PG&E successfully petitioned the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) to increase its Power Charge Indifference Adjustment (PCIA) fee for MCE, due to PG&E’s loss of customers to the company. That fee was increased by 95 percent, which impacted the city’s savings. However, approx. 89 percent of city facilities participating in the MCE program still saved money during the six-month period compared to what they would have paid directly to PG&E, according to the city staff report.
Councilmember Alan Schwartzman pointed out that MCE had reduced its rates since the completion of the report. Councilmember Tom Campbell asked whether or not the 95 percent PCIA fee increase was temporary. Mayor Elizabeth Patterson responded, stating that a group of community-choice organizations have filed a petition asking the CPUC to review the issue, including an expiration of the rate increase and whether or not PG&E actually incurred increased costs due to the long-term MCE contracts and therefore whether or not that qualified them for recompense.
Medical and non-medical marijuana
Item 14-E on the council’s consent calendar was to approve an amendment to the city’s smoking ordinance to specify that the term “smoking” includes smoking medical or non-medical marijuana.
Item 15-B, under the heading of business items, asked the council to continue its Dec. 20, 2016 “interim urgency ordinance” prohibiting cultivation, commercial delivery, distribution, transportation, manufacturing, retail operations and testing facilities for medical and non-medical marijuana with the city; and to conduct a second reading of ordinances to amend marijuana regulations to include non-medical marijuana. The two items, along with the subject ordinances, were considered together for purposes of discussion and public comment.
Points of contention from councilmembers on the subject included various aspects of marijuana-related activities and the importance, or hastiness, of continuing the temporary moratorium in order to give the council time to create specific, pertinent ordinances. Some members of the public expressed concern about legitimate patients possibly losing access to their medical marijuana.
Mayor Patterson communicated the reasoning behind the moratorium-first approach, while other council members spoke to the importance of notification to the public regarding the council’s intentions and sufficient opportunity for public input.
Mayor Patterson explained that the city could avoid considerable staff time and city expense regarding marijuana regulation by imposing the immediate moratorium first, then adding allowances later, rather than doing nothing now, then trying to create ordinances to regulate activities after they have been occurring – a preventive measure.
All motions regarding the regulation of medical and non-medical marijuana were passed, with Councilmember Mark Hughes voting no. Hughes cited concerns about the cash-only nature of marijuana business and the subsequent danger of assault to delivery personnel; the ease of obtaining a medical marijuana card, even by youth; and on the other hand, the possibility of patients losing access to their medical marijuana due to potential, if unintended consequences of the temporary moratorium.
Local emergency declaration
By extending the declaration of local emergency due to flooding from recent storms, the city will qualify for financial assistance from outside government agencies. The motion to extend the declaration was approved by unanimous vote.
Sustainability Commission membership
The council considered a proposal from the community sustainability commission to amend its membership requirements in order to allow membership by anyone owning property in or working in the city, regardless of their city of residence. Some council members expressed objection, since a non-resident would not experience the consequences of any commission decision, and a contention that there should be enough qualified people living in the city to fill the positions.
The proposal was denied.
To read or view a text or video transcript of this or any city meeting, visit the city’s web site at ci.benicia.ca.us or call the city at 746-4200.
The city of Benicia encourages all members of the public to participate in city government and attend city council and other city meetings. City council meetings take place at Council Chambers, City Hall, 250 East L St., on the first and third Tuesday of each month beginning at 7 p.m. Meetings stream live online at the city of Benicia web site at ci.benicia.ca.us and on Comcast Channel 27 or AT&T U-Verse Channel 99.
Copies of meeting agendas and supporting documents, as well as minutes (written transcripts) from previous sessions, are available at the city clerk’s office at city hall, the Benicia Public Library, or online at the city of Benicia web site under the heading Agendas and Minutes. Video transcripts of city meetings are also available on the website.
Contact the city of Benicia at 746-4200 or online at ci.benicia.ca.us. City offices are located at City Hall, 250 East L St., open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.