BERKELEY -- It's hard to say what frustrates Ryan Kerian more -- the city that doesn't enforce its laws or the scofflaw who ignores them.
Kerian and other members of the Sacramento Street Improvement Association have been trying for almost a year to get the city to oust unlicensed medical marijuana distributor Perfect Plants Patients Group, known as 3PG, from 2840 B Sacramento St. "Since 2011, we've gotten the runaround from the city," Kerian said.
SSIA members decided to take measures into their own hands. On Oct 18, Kerian, writing on behalf of the association, warned Lain Rui Tan, 3PG's landlord, that if he didn't oust the distributor, they would take him to small claims court, each filing separate claims for up to $10,000.
"An illegal establishment operating as Perfect Plants Patients Group, which does not possess a business license, is illegally distributing and dispensing marijuana at your property," Kerian wrote: "If, after 30 days, you have not initiated eviction proceedings against 3PG or otherwise caused this illegal drug operation to cease, it is our intention to initiate proceedings against you in the Superior Court of California ..."
City spokeswoman Mary Kay Clunies-Ross defended the city, saying it had taken appropriate steps. "They were cited and noticed," she said, adding that the matter "went to the (Zoning Adjustment Board) and it's coming to council. We have a process that the law requires."
A Dec. 8, 2011
But Kerian said that to date, "these are just words" without action.
The zoning board held hearings on the shop Sept. 27 and voted to recommend shutting the operation down. The final decision is up to the City Council; the matter is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 13.
The zoning board agreed with Kerian that 3PG is violating city codes. As a medical marijuana collective 3PG is allowed to operate only in a residential area, but is operating on a commercial strip, where only licensed dispensaries are permitted. The city can issue four dispensary licenses and has issued three -- 3PG has no license.
ZAB also affirmed that 3PG is less than the mandatory 600 feet from a school.
In addition to code violations, ZAB considered testimony at its Sept. 27 hearing by those who said 3PG staff is involved in street-level marijuana sales and has contributed to an upswing in prostitution, young people smoking cannabis and gun violence in the neighborhood.
Speaking at the hearing, 3PG supporters denied its involvement in illegal drug sales and testified that, because licensed security personnel guard their doors, problematic behavior at the long-troubled corner of Sacramento and Oregon streets is diminished.
Further, 3PG operator Eric Thomas said he personally measured the distance between Longfellow School and his business and found it was 603 feet — three feet more than the mandatory 600 feet.
Addressing the claim that the business should not be operating in a commercial zone, Thomas argued that 3PG could become eligible for a license under new regulations the city's Medical Marijuana Commission is drafting.
But Kerian said 3PG is clearly violating the law as currently written and if the city continues to allow the operation, he and the association will follow through by filing claims against the property owner.