South Lake Tahoe City Council shoots down on-site cannabis consumption

Laney Griffo

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — The South Lake Tahoe City Council on Tuesday evening shot down on-site cannabis consumption.

The idea of allowing dispensaries to have on-site consumption lounges has been discussed since the Cannabis Subcommittee recommended the change in May 2021. The ordinance would’ve allowed dispensaries to have a consumption lounge separate from the store, and would’ve been required to put safety measures in place such as providing transportation for impaired customers.

The city has experience with on-site consumption for medical marijuana. Police Chief Dave Stevenson said that while he didn’t have exact numbers, he can’t remember many, if any, calls related to the medical marijuana consumption.

Two versions of the ordinance change were presented to the planning commission. Both versions included increased canopy size for cultivation and allow permittees to hold multiple permits. One version included on-site consumption, which the planning commission approved, while the other version did not allow it.

Mayor Pro Tem Cristi Creegan said that there isn’t precedent for on-site consumption elsewhere in California and wasn’t comfortable moving forward with that aspect of the ordinance. She put forward a motion approving the other two ordinance changes.

That motion passed 3-1. Councilman Cody Bass was absent from the meeting but always recuses himself from cannabis related items.

Councilwoman Tamara Wallace, who recently experienced a death in her family, made a tearful remark on the item. She said that she’s never really supported cannabis but has supported it from a business standpoint. However, because of her loss, she said she’s, “a different person,” and can no longer support cannabis.

Also on the topic of cannabis, in May 2021, the council voted to create a community-wide benefit grant program funded by Cannabis Community Benefit Fee revenue. During the Tuesday night meeting, the council approved the grant program process and guidelines regarding the distribution of those funds.

The grants will go towards local schools, government agencies and nonprofits with programs or projects designed to mitigate potential impacts of the cannabis industry in the city. There is $400,000 available and grants from $1,000 up to $50,000 will be awarded.

The application process opens April 15 and will last a month. Then a committee made up of the mayor, a member of the city council financial subcommittee, the city manager and the city finance director will decide on the grant applications.

Also during the meeting, the council solidified the Parking Authority. They approved the bylaws and voted as the council, the South Tahoe Redevelopment Successor Agency, and the Parking Authority to approved creation of the agency.

Members of the community expressed concern that this was created in order to bring paid parking back to the city. Mayor Devin Middlebrook clarified that the city has not discussed bringing paid parking back but even if it did, it would be approved by council and not the Parking Authority.

The creation of the Parking Authority is solely to allow the city to apply for and receive bond funding and they are specifically thinking about bonds for the recreation center project.

The council also approved the appropriation of American Rescue Plan Act funds for several park projects.

The first project will be $50,000 for the acquisition of solar trash compactors to be placed in city parks. The city acquired three of the solar trash compactors for a pilot program over the summer and saw great success. The compaction allowed for five times more refuse to be collected and the compactors have a sensor on them to inform collectors of when they are full. That allowed for trash collectors to optimize their collection time and spend less time and miles driving around checking trash cans.

“I don’t know if I’ve ever been this excited about garbage cans,” Middlebrook said.

The second project is $35,000 for bike park improvements. Specifically, the city will be using asphalt on the berms in the bike park which will reduce water use and maintenance time.

Chief Stevenson presented the council with the annual police report. The dispatch center received more than 69,000 calls in 2021, 13,000 of which were 911 calls.

They responded to 32,401 events and made 756 arrests. Overall, Stevenson said crime was down from 2020 except in three categories; homicides (there were two in 2021 and zero the previous year, Grand Theft from a Vehicle and arson (which Stevenson said was likely related to one specific person.)

One area that saw a noticeable decrease were homeless related calls. In 2020 there were 1,159 and 796 in 2021. This was caused my housing efforts by the Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless.

Finally, the council approved grant applications for broadband, complete streets projects and the Ruby Way/Overlook Court Erosion Control and Mobility Improvement Project, as well as approving mid-year budget adjustments.

The next meeting will be held at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 29, and will be a Strategic Planning Advance.

Update: The original article stated that homeless calls were down because of South Tahoe Alternative Collaborative Services (STACS). It was due to housing efforts by the Tahoe Coalition for the Homeless.

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