OAKLAND — It’s official: Oakland is set to become the first city to allow large-scale pot growing for medical use — and the standard-setter for the lucrative and largely uncharted territory of industrial-scale medical marijuana businesses. Support this morning among the City Council, which met to finalize the proposal, was not unanimous. Council members Nancy Nadel and Jane Brunner abstained despite weeks of drawn-out discussion about the plan.
But support among the eight-member council was unanimous for laying the groundwork for labor, environmental and product safety standards. It’s better to iron out the details now than have to send something back and “start from square one,” Councilmember Pat Kernighan said during the last meeting before the council’s summer recess.
Some of the standards, including fire safety, were included in the original proposals for large-scale medical marijuana growing. They are limited to industrial areas in West and East Oakland spanning four council districts.
Under the new plans, bidders would have to meet guidelines for reducing electrical use, greenhouse gas emissions and pesticide use in order to obtain one of four permits that will be available.
The permits are not limited to Oakland businesses, which opens the floodgates for outside groups and investors from across the nation. Likewise, Oakland operators have or are in the midst of expanding to other locales.
Desley Brooks said she wants to keep the door open to local business owners and minorities. Few minorities are dispensary owners, she said. Brooks also called for employee certification and continued education for staff of medical marijuana growers.
The discussion was limited to what the council would like to see included in plans when members return in September.
“We want to make sure the process is absolutely clear,” Councilmember Jean Quan said.
In other actions, Oakland and other East Bay residents will pay more for sewage services. The council voted unanimously to increase fees aimed at paying for federally required maintenance and infrastructure upgrades for all East Bay Municipal Utility District homeowners.
Single-family homeowners will pay a $25.80 charge beginning Jan. 1, 2011. Others will pay more based on the property size. The rates will go up in subsequent years beginning in 2013 with a 16 percent increase.
More than 95,000 notices about the fee hike were supposed to be sent out in Oakland. According to staff, only 216 objections were received, far less than the threshold required to oppose the increase. Several homeowners have complained that they received no notice.
This proposal was separate from a plan the council voted down Monday night to put a water and garbage tax measure on the statewide ballot in November.
The council also voted 7-1 to change the rules that govern public campaign financing. Candidates for the Oakland schools board of directors no longer will be eligible for campaign dollars from a public matching fund program.
Only City Council candidates will have access to the municipal funding. They will have to raise fewer dollars to become eligible for the public dollars, and they can contribute more of their own funds. What they can spend the money on is defined specifically as campaign-related costs, such as postage, filing fees and campaign websites — but not attack ads.
Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente was the lone no vote but offered no explanation.
He did back a proposal clearing one last hurdle to selling or leasing the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, which Brooks and at-large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan opposed.