After hours of controversial testimony, the Santa Rosa Planning Commission approved a cannabis deal proposed for a former schoolhouse in Roseland that has divided parishioners.
The commission voted 6-0 in favor of Old School Cannabis, a large farm-to-table company proposed by two businesswomen who say they want to invest in Roseland.
Opponents of the project could appeal and submit the company’s final approval to Santa Rosa City Council for a vote. If there is no other option there, the shop that grows plants, extracts oil and makes products seems to be all under one roof at the former school house at 100 Sebastopol Road in the middle of an ever-evolving rose country.
“We want to grow with the community and offer common spaces that promote the art of Roseland and protect the youth,” said Nayeli Rivera, one of the company’s owners and operators, during the meeting. Rivera, a Mexican immigrant child who grew up in Petaluma, said she was looking forward to opening a business that could add up to 50 jobs to the area.
But a number of community members, including current and former students of Roseland University Prep, the school that used to be on the premises but has since moved, said they found the idea of a cannabis business disturbing but typical of a region that is local Government has not implemented investing in in the past.
“It was a place to teach Latinx and members of minority communities,” said Veronica Jaramillo. “Nobody asked for a pharmacy – they asked for more help for schools, day care centers, resources.”
Janice Siebert, President of the Roseland Public Schools District, also spoke out against the proposal. “The Roseland School Board stands for our children and against this 23,000 square foot industrial cannabis project,” she said.
“Our strong voice against Old School Cannabis LLC is a statement to our children and stakeholders,” said Siebert.
Ultimately, the planning commission disagreed. “This is a unique property and I think this particular applicant is making good use of it,” said Commissioner Patti Cisco. Pharmacies are opening up as municipal retail stores in neighborhoods across the city, she said.
“This is not a Roseland landfill project,” Cisco said.
Despite the objections, the project was supported.
“It will build economic prosperity within the Roseland community, which is extremely important,” said one caller identified only as Jolee. The large property’s industrial potential could attract a company less dedicated to the community than old school cannabis, she said.
“We need local people to run this business, hire people from the community, and give back to the community,” she said.
In the empty classrooms of the charter school, Rivera and her business partner Cede Hunter are hoping for a 17,120-square-foot cannabis grow operation and a 500-square-foot production unit for extracting oil from the plants, a retail pharmacy and a lounge where cannabis can be consumed (although city officials say it is forbidden to smoke) on the premises.
Callers suggested a blackboard, library, community center, cultural center, daycare center, and other uses for the property that they believe would better suit a historically underserved community.
Opponents of the business said the cannabis business is a way for outsiders to make money in Roseland.
“It feels like we’re being targeted once again by people who want to make a profit with our people,” said Maria Valverde, a MEChA member.
While residents turned down the deal, frustration has also focused on elected officials and local governments who have failed to provide Roseland with decades of promised community investments, such as a long-debated public library.
“We have no problem with cannabis,” said Silvia Langan, rejecting suggestions that the resistance stems from false information about the still newly legalized cannabis industry. “We have been informed about this,” said Langan. “The problem is that we have different needs. We need the space for education or for a community center. “
You can reach Staff Writer Andrew Graham at 707-526-8667 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @ AndrewGraham88