Sai Center Permit Prospects Die – October 11, 2011

Kevin L. Hoover

Eye Editor

CITY HALL – The prospects for Steven Gasparas’ gaining a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for his controversial Sai Center cannabis shop sustained three probably fatal blows in recent weeks.

One was self-inflicted, when Gasparas and his parents moved the business into the building at Ninth and I streets the night before it was to be evicted from its old location at 11th and K streets.

Doing so without the required permit was certain not to endear the Sai Center to the Planning Commission, in no small part because the City Council had directed the city attorney to go after Gasparas and his landlords for code violations.

The second setback was the federal government’s newly announced intention to go after communities that license commercial cannabis centers (see page 1), which caused the City Council to suspend issuance of CUPs.

Finally, Community Development staff has recommended to the Planning Commission that it deny the Sai Center a CUP.

States a staff report for the Tuesday, Oct. 11 Planco meeting, “The primary basis for staff’s recommendation for denial is incompatibility of the in-fact operation of the Sai Center with surrounding uses.”

Among the impacts observed in the area of Ninth and I streets and listed in the staff report are “clients loitering, smoking marijuana and public disturbances outside the facility.”

The report also states that Gasparas’ previous testimony to the Planco that his cannabis will be legally grown at a Redding facility appears to be untrue. Gasparas had said Redding Police Chief Peter T. Hansen had verbally assured him that his Redding grow would be routinely permitted. But that city only permits off-site grows for cannabis centers within its own city limits.

Among the attachements included in the Tuesday Planco staff report are the Notice of Violation letter sent to Gasparas as well as property owners Kenneth Cook, Dennis McDonald and Patricia McDonald. It warns that the center at Ninth and I is a public nuisance and that the property owners will be charged for enforcement costs.

Other letters are from citizens and present and former neighbors of the former iCenter at 11th and K streets. The letters object to the Sai center CUP both on the basis of Gasparas’ “unstable” tendencies and citing of general problems with proliferating cannabis centers downtown.

But Gasparas is pushing back. A letter dated Sept. 16 – the same date as the City’s nuisance abatement letter – warns that the City has violated his constitutional rights. It states that Arcata’s cannabis laws violate state and federal law, and calls for creation of “an entirely new business form” that would withstand federal and state scrutiny.

An Oct. 5 letter from Gasparas further questions Arcata’s authority to regulate cannabis dispensaries. “Since your permitting/ordinance for growing, collectives and residential limitations are all in violation of the law, we are unclear where we are in violation,” the letter states.

Gasparas is apparently being represented by Eureka attorney Peter Martin.

At last week’s City Council meeting, Gasparas got into a contretemps with Mayor Susan Ornelas when he tried to speak past the three-minute limit on public comment. Saying he is known as “the pirate guy,” he said he was there to “help educate” the council.

After three minutes of oratory, Ornelas asked him to conclude but he kept talking, his voice rising as he spoke over the mayor. “It’s just a rule it’s not a law,” he said. “I can continue talking.”

After a brief break, City Attorney Nancy Diamond told Gasparas that under state law, the City may set time limits for public testimony.

“Perhaps you can violate my rights more than you already have,” Gasparas said. “If you continue with it, you’re on notice.”


Related posts


  1. Mark Sailors said:

    Indeed, I am also pretty sure at least one local clinic advertised in the north country journal…plus they share a parking lot with a hydroponics store and buy their supplies there. Ever hear of ”
    Operation Green Merchant?”
    If the feds could link a permitted grow, to an add campaign, and implied knowledge of what the products sold at a hydroponics store were going to be used for… i would say it was “ripe” for the picking around here…

  2. Ian Ray said:

    Mark Sailors, Northstone Organics advertised in the Guardian according to yelp. Media advertisements have been specifically addressed by at least one U.S. Attorney. This may be because a legal argument where interstate commerce applies is easier to prove by citing a newspaper’s circulation.

  3. Mark Sailors said:

    What do the Mendo operation have in common with Arcata’s clinics:
    1. They are licensed by the local government
    2. They have both been featured in marijuana documentaries.

    I think the writing is on the wall, and if I was the owner/ operator of a local clinic I would shut the doors today.

  4. Ian Ray said:

    Mark Sailors, it appears that the federal action so far is targeting local government permitting. It seems to be no coincidence that Northstone was explicitly authorized by and paying licensing fees to Mendocino County.

  5. Mark Sailors said:

    Next comes a raid on some provider in Arcata. Let’s see if they charge any city officials.

  6. Ian Ray said:

    The loitering argument is poor. Even the letters from the business on the railroad tracks complaining about loitering are suspect.

    The permitted source is a moot point considering it will likely be found illegal for the city to issue such permits.

    I skipped through the video, but the only valid point I heard was lack of locations falling within the proximity variables. If this ordinance is truly fair, it should be explicit about which parcels these businesses are allowed. Regardless of what one thinks of the specific applicant in this case, it would seem reasonable for the city to specify acceptable locations.

  7. Mark Sailors said:

    Prescription drugs are also abused by unscrupulous people, just look at the pill mills. You see a certain doctor, the prescription can only be filled by their own pharmacy, there are literally people lined up out the door, and a regular pharmacy won’t honor the prescription. Yet all of that is FEDERALY legal, until they prove misconduct. Not that they are not cracking down knit finally I am just pointing out the facts.

  8. Mark Sailors said:

    The public smoking of anything is kind off offensive, but where else are homeless folks going to smoke other than in public. Frankly I don’t understand why the no smoking ordinances are so under enforced. No smoking means no smoking. Period. Start writing the freaking tickets, and eventually people will stop smoking in public. and that goes for the non service dogs on the Plaza as well.

    And just for the record I do mean smoking anything, medical or not.

    It’s not freaking rocket surgery…

  9. kevpod said:

    That person is half-right. Yes, cannabis has medical value. And yes, the MMJ system is being scammed by unscrupulous operators. Both are true. Regarding people hanging out and smoking dope, that happens all around downtown and I suspect it isn’t even exclusive to Arcata.

  10. Mark Sailors said:

    Yeah, tell that to the cancer and AIDS patients I know. Or to all the people that have gotten off of major league opiates in favor of cannabis. I won’t argue if cannabis has medical value, we all know it does. What we need to do as a nation is legalize recreational cannabis use and FUND research into cannabis based medicines.
    Nuff’ said.

  11. Tristram Shandy said:

    Clients loitering. Smoking dope. Public disturbances outside the facility. For a second there, I thought I was reading about the Endeavor. Thankfully, I don’t live in Humboldt any more, but I remember Tad. I used to roll a fattie, kick back, and watch the City Council meetings on TV. Sorry to read in the Comments section that he was arrested. That boy sure could go on and on. Mostly gibberish though. He seemed harmless enough but he did waste a lot of the Council’s time. You have to draw a line somewhere. As for medical marijuana, if pot is a drug requiring a prescription, how come you don’t have to go to a licensed pharmacist to buy it? Come on people, we all know it’s a scam.

  12. kevpod said:

    And soaring oratory it was. Not only did it make perfect crystalline logical sense, it had the real “ring of truth.”

    All with no repetition or other rhetorical excess. Who said the art of public speaking is dead?

  13. Mark Sailors said:

    He talked for almost a full hour tonight at the planning commission, so i think he got out his message…

  14. Mark Sailors said:

    The difference between a rule and a law is one gets you ejected, and one gets you arrested.

  15. kevpod said:

    Rule vs. law. That sounds like a distinction without a difference.

    The three-minute limit came about simply because people with no sense of proportion monopolized the mic with rambling, repetitive speeches, wasting dozens of peoples’ time.

    Three minutes is plenty of time to say everything you need to. Notice the people who don’t even use that much time – their remarks are usually well-composed, succinct and complete.

    Tad and Jimmy were both at fault in that incident, IMHO. The guy after Tad was allowed to take much longer than three minutes, and even expressed a similar point of view. It wasn’t particularly fair, but he wasn’t seething with contempt and sarcasm like the Tadster.

  16. Mark Sailors said:

    What Rights Do Members Of The Public Have At Neighborhood Council Meetings?
    Except when closed sessions are permitted (see below), all meetings of your
    neighborhood council must be held in public. Members of the public, not just the stakeholders
    in your particular neighborhood council, are allowed to attend and participate by speaking
    about specific items on the agenda. Indeed, before your board takes action on any particular
    item on the agenda, members of the public have a right to testify or otherwise address the
    neighborhood council board members about each item.
    Your agendas should also provide for an item designated “Public Comment” because
    the Act allows members of the public to comment on any item within the subject matter
    jurisdiction of your neighborhood council that is not specifically listed on the agenda. It is up to
    your neighborhood council where you want to put this item on the agenda. Some agencies put
    general public comment at the front of the agenda, while some place it at the end. It does not
    matter where you put it as long as you provide for that opportunity at every regular meeting of
    your neighborhood council. (Special meetings do not require a general public comment item.)
    Your neighborhood council is allowed to adopt reasonable rules to govern the length of time
    for public comment on agenda and non-agenda items.
    Members of the pubic also have a right to criticize the policies or practices of your
    neighborhood council during public comment and have a right to videotape and audiotape the
    proceedings. The Act does allow your neighborhood council to control disruptions and ask
    disruptive members to leave the meeting room. However, this power must be exercised with
    caution and the City Attorney should be consulted to discuss how and when this provision of
    the Act may be invoked.
    Members of the public also have a right to see materials that are distributed to your
    neighborhood council at its meetings. The Act provides that materials distributed during a
    public meeting be made available for public inspection at the meeting if prepared by the local
    agency or member of the legislative body. This means that if your neighborhood council or, if
    applicable, staff at the Department of Neighborhood Empowerment, prepare materials for
    distribution at your meetings, copies must be made available for the public. Otherwise, if
    materials are distributed by other individuals, such as other stakeholders or members of the
    public, these must be retained and be made available after the meeting.

  17. Mark Sailors said:

    “At last week’s City Council meeting, Gasparas got into a contretemps with Mayor Susan Ornelas when he tried to speak past the three-minute limit on public comment. Saying he know he is known as “the pirate guy,” he said he was there to “help educate” the council.

    After three minutes of oratory, Ornelas asked him to conclude but he kept talking, his voice rising as he spoke over the mayor. “It’s just a rule it’s not a law,” he said. “I can continue talking.”

    After a brief break, City Attorney Nancy Diamond told Gasparas that under state law, the City may set time limits for public testimony.”

    Well it seems that this might not in fact be a “law”, and it might in fact be more of a rule.

    From “the Plaziod” In reference to Tads being dragged out of a BOS meeting for “going over time.”

    “trials and punishment
    October 31, 2010 by theplazoid

    Peace be with you

    If you remember I said I had a couple of grievances, well the second of those reached its peak October 12th. As some of you are already aware, on January 27, 2009, I was drug out of a Board of Supervisors meeting by half a dozen shaved headed, steroidal, lock-stepping, Humboldt County Sheriffs. Bailiffs to be precise. As you recall, I was tried in a court of which I complained of cheating. As you further might recall, I spent a couple of weeks in jail. The appeals court ruled that the DA was in fact cheating. Then the DA set it for trial again. Court appearance, after court appearance went by and trial was set to begin on October 12.

    The DA refuses to prosecute. It now appears that I didn’t break any “law” on January 27, 2009 after all. My file fills up a fucking file-box. Now after a year and a half of lawyering, 30 days in the hole, and hundreds of hours of legal research, its just over. No apology, no explanation, just “we’re not going to prosecute.” On the day of trial again too.”

  18. Greg Oleans said:

    I am so sick of those brain dead morons who just want to make some quick fat bucks. I’m glad the city put it’s lame foot down and denied them. The rest of the 215 bullcraps that sell are going to deal with the DEA as well as the FBI very soon, I personally have contacts with both units, go get ’em Feds. They know what’s up and have paid people to regularly purchase ounces on a daily basis with 215 cards and bogus illnesses with the exception of terminal cancer and glaucoma.

Comments are closed.