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Supervisors back Chinatown pot ban despite Planning Commission objections

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The Board of Supervisors appears set to approve a ban on marijuana businesses in Chinatown. (Jessica Christian/S.F. Examiner)

The Planning Commission is not high on the idea, but a ban on marijuana businesses in Chinatown is poised for approval next week.

The Board of Supervisors Land Use and Transportation Committee unanimously approved the ban Monday and forwarded it to the full board for a vote.

The ban, introduced by Supervisor Aaron Peskin, comes after the board last year approved citywide regulations that ushered in the new era of legal recreational cannabis, following voter approval of Proposition 64. The regulations were hotly contested by some in the Chinese-American community who opposed the entire industry and viewed cannabis as a harmful drug.

SEE RELATED: Mayor Lee expected to sign into law SF’s recreational cannabis regulations Wednesday

Peskin, who represents Chinatown, said he was respecting the wishes of Chinatown residents. Distancing himself from reefer madness, Peskin said the ban proposal centers “around concerns about gentrification and rents that Chinatown has been fighting.”

Mayor London Breed also expressed support for the ban during her campaign, the San Francisco Examiner previously reported.

The committee’s support comes despite the Planning Commission voting 5 to 2 on June 14 to reject the proposal. Commissioners objected to taking a piecemeal approach to cannabis regulations and emphasized the importance of having an equitable approach for all neighborhoods.

Peskin noted the commission is advisory, and pointed to a letter sent in April by Wing Hoo Leung, president of the Community Tenants Association, in support of the pot ban.

“At least until this newly-legal industry stabilizes, the prospect of high rents that cannabis retail can afford is causing property owners to hold out on renting vacant commercial space and, in some instances, to raise the rents of existing community-serving retail space – sometimes doubling them – in order to replace them with higher rent businesses. Our fragile commercial corridors in Chinatown will not survive this pressure,” he wrote.

The letter also complained that “Chinatown [single-room occupancy] buildings are old, the walls are often thin, and secondhand smoke continues to be a problem for many of our tenants.”

Supervisor Ahsha Safai had previously tried to impose a ban on additional pot businesses in the Excelsior neighborhood he represents but the board shot it down when enacting the new cannabis regulations.

“I really appreciate the theme of respecting the district supervisor’s wishes when it comes to issues like this. So hopefully we will have further conversation in the months to come,” Safai said.

He later confirmed to the Examiner he may try again to get a cap approved for the Excelsior.

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