On Friday, community members threatened to file lawsuits against the owner of a South Berkeley building in which a medical marijuana business operates if they do not cease their allegedly illegal drug sales within 30 days.
Ryan Kerian, a member of the Sacramento Street Improvement Association, sent a letter to the building owner, Lian Rui Tan, demanding that he terminate “all illegal drug activities at the location” associated with Perfect Plants Patient’s Group, a medical cannabis business that operates out of the building at 2840-B Sacramento St. Kerian said many of the association’s members would file lawsuits in small claims court if Tan does not comply.
The letter was partially a reaction to the most recent Berkeley Zoning Adjustments Board meeting on Oct. 11, where it passed a resolution recommending the City Council terminate the business, also known as 3PG, due to zoning violations of the Berkeley Municipal Code, such as being located within 600 feet of Longfellow Middle School.
The October meeting was a follow-up to the Sept. 27 board meeting during which Berkeley residents presented their concerns, such as leaving bags from the business in neighborhood yards, drug deals openly occurring on the street and kids loitering and smoking marijuana — all of which they attribute to the continued operation of 3PG.
“We are seeing a lot of marijuana sold at that dispensary to the street,” Keiran said. “Kids hang out and get drugs. We’ve seen a lot of hand-to-hand sales occurring, a lot of littering and loitering. It is really devastating to our parents that we have all of this illegal drug dealing not even 600 feet from this middle school.”
After the October meeting, association members began to feel concerned that the city was not responding to their complaints quickly enough. Their frustration was furthered when the board did not pass the second half of the resolution, which recommended that 3PG be declared a public nuisance in response to the residents’ testimony of visible drug activity and littering around the operation.
“I didn’t think it was fair to the dispensary to just take the word of the neighbors, who were pretty vague,” said board member Sara Shumer, who, along with board chair George Williams, felt that the residents’ testimonies would have been stronger if corroborated by police reports.
“They didn’t talk about specific dates. They had kind of just seen it in the neighborhood, and it wasn’t fair to charge.”
After more than an hour of discussion, the board finally passed the first part of the resolution, recommending that the City Council further investigate the evidence presented in the second half for the sake of moving the matter along. The council must conduct its hearing of the matter within 60 days of the issuance of the board’s recommendation to Tan and 3PG’s managing member, Eric Thomas.
Councilmember Max Anderson, whose district includes Longfellow Middle School, echoed concerns of the residents in the community that surrounds Sacramento Street.
“The major complaint is the proximity to the school, and that claim is firmly valid and legitimate,” Anderson said. “That is an area where crime has been a problem, and they certainly are not a diminishing factor of crime in the community.”
The building’s owner and 3PG’s managing member could not be reached for comment.