Goleta could soon have more recreational storefront marijuana dispensaries than the number of Starbucks and large grocery stores — combined.
The Goleta Planning Commission last week recommended a draft marijuana ordinance that allows for up to 15 marijuana stores in the city.
The Goleta City Council is set to vote on the ordinance on Tuesday.
The commission struggled a bit on whether to put a cap at all on the number of storefronts.
Commissioner Katie Maynard said she was concerned about gentrification in Old Town Goleta. She pointed to the city of Santa Barbara as an example of what could happen when certain retail establishments go unchecked.
"I look at the development of the Funk Zone, and how many artists and nonprofits have been pushed out of the area," Maynard said. "And I worry about Old Town Goleta and I worry that Old Town Goleta could become the Funk Zone or the equivalent of that in terms of gentrification, so my primary concern about limits is protecting Old Town and the culture of the space."
Commissioner Anne Lynn agreed that a limit is necessary.
"I am concerned about the number of operations," she said. "It seems to me at the beginning it would be easier to say there’s a certain limit, and later you can make it bigger if there’s a need. It’s a lot easier to start out with the restrictions and then liberalize it."
Commissioner Ed Fuller had a different perspective, asserting that demand will drive the number of storefronts.
"We don’t know if this is going to be a problem or not," Fuller said. "If we are going to allow it, we are going to allow it. The amount of demand should be what drives the amount of storefronts. Just let the market determine it at this point."
Fuller said he had not heard anyone from the public suggest a maximum number of storefronts.
“I don’t see the effects much different than a grocery store or a convenience store where people are coming by and leaving," Fuller said. "They are not consuming on-site. Where they consume is where they consume, it but it is not necessarily there."
The commission also debated whether to allow Goleta residents to grow marijuana outdoors. State law says that residents can grow up to six plants for personal use, but cities have the power to determine whether those plants are grown inside or outside.
If cities choose to grow plants outside, they are eligible for state grant dollars to help fund law enforcement.
Lynn said that residents should be allowed to grow at least one plant outdoors so the city could be eligible for the state grant money.
"I know there’s odor concerns, but one plant does not seem to be onerous," Lynn said.
"It’s a double-edged sword," Maynard said. "You can get grants to help with security and to help with police enforcement if you have it outdoors, but then you need more police and security if you have it outdoors."
Maynard said she is also concerned about marijuana plant exposure to youth if plants are allowed outside.
"I think it is still important to keep cannabis away from youth," Maynard said. "I think when you put it in backyards in neighborhoods and outdoors, you are going to get folks not of age to be participating in cannabis, taking advantage of that."
Also contained in the ordinance is a requirement that recreational storefronts be at least 300 feet apart, to discourage aggregation.