City Council Cultivates Regulations on Marijuana

Facing fallout from state voters’ approval of Proposition 64 last month, the City Council voted unanimously this week to nip as much of it in the bud as legally allowed.
But they don’t like it.

“What can I do? I have to support it,” Councilman Dave Spence said, with some incredulity in his voice.
The ordinance to legalize the personal marijuana cultivation of as much as six plants at a residence was approved by 56.7% of California voters in November. The statewide proposition also formally legalized recreational possession of as much as one ounce of marijuana.
The fine print of the proposition, however, allows counties and municipalities some say on the matter.
The city of La Cañada Flintridge will ban outdoor cultivation and set strict requirements for indoor growth. Sharing marijuana will also be illegal within the city, as will its sale and delivery.
City attorney Mark Steres explained the city’s ordinance on the legalization of medical marijuana in 2011 was written to broadly include all uses of the drug in its restrictions on commercial sales, production and delivery.
“The ordinance that’s in front of you reaffirms that cultivation of marijuana is prohibited, but it [makes the exception] on personal indoor marijuana cultivation,” Steres said.
Although residents are prohibited from growing marijuana outdoors, they may apply with the city for a permit to grow it indoors. The permit application will be reviewed by the city’s Community Development Department, whose Building and Safety Division will conduct a building inspection alongside the Fire Department.
Grow operations must be hidden from public view and include working ventilation, home security and some sort of fire extinguisher. The operation cannot impede the primary purpose of a room (such as a bathroom or kitchen) and the applicant must reside at the location. Finally, marijuana cannot be given, donated or sold to other persons (there is an exception for qualified caregivers who grow and produce for a medical marijuana patient).
The state proposition also comes with its own restrictions. A grow site cannot be larger than 50 square feet. Those driving or riding in vehicles cannot physically possess marijuana (Steres noted transporting it in a trunk is the alternative). It remains illegal to drive while impaired.
Steres acknowledged common complaints about marijuana grow operations, such as odors, mold, fire hazards and the proliferation of criminal activity, and noted six plants could “create a pretty serious operation.” The growth of indoor plants also requires special heat lamps and electrical output consideration, he added.
Spence responded with concern about what to do when a multitude of cars start routinely parking at a grow location, perhaps to share in the recreational use of the crops.
“I don’t know how much a marijuana plant will grow, but I’m worried about people providing it for their friends,” he said.
City Manager Mark Alexander re-emphasized that would violate the local ordinance and the best thing neighbors can do is to report incidents to the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office substation.
“It really is going to come down to whether the sheriff’s office can reasonably articulate there is suspicious activity,” Alexander said.
City Council members conceded they found the substance of the ordinance distasteful but it was the best approach, in their minds, to enforce the proposition. Spence, speaking at length, called it a “terrible situation.”
“I would personally say I’m disappointed,” he said. “This is a family-oriented community and now we’re having to pass an ordinance saying you can grow marijuana in your house. I hope the newspaper prints that. We know it’s a gateway drug. We know it. It’s a bad situation for our society.”
Mayor Jonathan Curtis asked if anyone had actually contacted the city about cultivation yet. There apparently has been one such caller.
“We’ll see if this impacts our greenhouse gas reductions with the [increase in] electricity,” he joked.


The City Council also voted unanimously to consolidate its March 7 election with that of L.A. County.
The city’s election for two of its council members is now expected to run simultaneously with a countywide measure addressing issues with the county’s homeless population.
At issue is whether to keep the election in local hands and get faster results, or consolidate with the county early and save some money.
Councilwoman Terry Walker pointed out a state law is already requiring a large number of municipalities, including La Cañada Flintridge, to consolidate the elections with the state by 2022 in order to promote voter turnout. Consolidated elections also allow pooling of resources and the county has written in a letter to the city it would be on the hook for “no more than $45,000,” or half the projected cost of a non-consolidated vote.
“It’s going to happen anyway,” she said. “We might as well get used to the process and save $45,000.”
Alexander pointed out a handful of disadvantages in consolidating elections, most prominent of which was that everything would be run through the county’s office in Norwalk.
“Certification of the election might not happen for some time, certainly longer than if we did it standalone,” he said.
Then again, Alexander also added that having a standalone election could result in voters having to use two different ballots at possibly two different locations, which could prove confusing.
“If we consolidate, it’s quite likely the county would create one ballot for the entire election,” he said.
The City Council voted unanimously, with Spence observing he felt “obligated” to vote as a fiscal conservative despite wanting to maintain local control.


The City Council approved a series of ordinances that effectively allow for the application of permits for massage establishments within certain zones. The body had previously approved a 22-month moratorium on massage parlors out of concern for their possible association with crimes such as prostitution and human trafficking.
Now, those wanting to start such a business must first be state-licensed and then apply to the city for a conditional use permit in Mixed Use 1 and 2 zones, essentially the city’s commercial zone. The moratorium came after the state, which had taken over massage business regulations before, relinquished some control back to cities.


Two homes were approved for Mills Act contracts that grant some property tax breaks for those who routinely update historic homes.
One of the homes is at 1694 Fairmount Ave., an Italian-style revival built in 1929 by noted architect Gene Verge. The other is at 818 Old Landmark Lane, which is a Craftsman-style home built in 1914 by an unknown architect.
The tax break for the Fairmont Avenue home is estimated to be $570 this year, with $453 expected for the Landmark Lane home.

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