Seattle-based mega-chain cannabis dispensary Have A Heart has scored Planning Commission approval, as unwelcoming neighbor Chanel revoked its opposition after the two parties came to some manner of “private agreement.”
The novelty of a new marijuana dispensary opening has kind of worn off, now that there are more than 30 pot shops in town (and plenty more trying to open). But there is one proposed dispensary that raised both unusual excitement and opposition, as the new tenant of the 152 Geary Street location that used to house John Varvatos sought to bring a cannabis shop into high-end retail district of Union Square. The Chronicle reported in December that marijuana retailer Have a Heart faced furious neighborhood opposition to their plan to open up between Chanel and the shuttered Britex Fabrics shop, with the owners of the Britex building complaining it would “degrade the retail shopping experience in this corridor.” (As if Britex Fabrics was ever that fancy?)
Thousand-dollar handbag purveyor Chanel was also up in arms at the idea of their new next-door neighbor selling marijuana. “Union Square is home to such retailers as Cartier, Saks Fifth Avenue, Louis Vuitton, Barney’s New York, Prada and many others,” their attorney argued in a complaint to the Planning Commission reported by NBC Bay Area. “The retail pot clientele is completely at odds with the luxury clothing and accessory clientele, and the presence of the Have a Heart dispensary will have a significant detrimental effect on these long established businesses.” Despite this, Hoodline informed us Wednesday that the commission was still likely to approve the new dispensary.
It turns out they didn’t even hear arguments, and the dispensary received quick approval at Thursday’s meeting.
“At about 5 p.m. yesterday, the project sponsor [Have a Heart dispensary] and Chanel did reach a private agreement to address the issues,” Planning Department senior planner Michael Christensen said at Thursday’s meeting. That “private agreement” is not yet included in the stack of available public records on the dispensary, but the information was distributed to the commissioners.
We know the agreement included “limits on signage,” which likely means no marijuana leaf images and only tasteful branding. Have a Heart also agreed to not playing amplified music, to back off their request to use the building’s roof for some manner of commercial purposes, and to add additional security. There are other parts to the private agreement which were reported to Planning, but those items were not discussed Thursday as they were deemed “out of the commission’s purview.”
The place is pretty big for a cannabis dispensary, at 5,500 square feet between the two floors of retail (the third floor of the building will be the shop’s administrative offices). The operation will not have a consumption lounge like a few local dispensaries have, but shop co-owner Alexis Bronson told the Chronicle it would be “an inviting, well-lit, boutique cannabis outlet. No loud reggae music.” A Have A Heart spokesperson told the Chronicle that they’ve been paying “well over six figures each month” in rent on the former Varvatos shop since October 2018.
You may not have heard of Have a Heart before, but they are one of the biggest multi-state retail marijuana chain operators in the country. That doesn’t seem to comply with the San Francisco Office of Cannabis Equity Program, which attempts to “lower barriers to cannabis licensing for those hardest hit by the War on Drugs.” But Have a Heart meets this requirement by bringing the above-mentioned Alexis Bronson in as co-owner. Bronson has a compelling life story of growing up in San Francisco and Oakland SROs and selling marijuana at Berkeley High, before going totally legal once medicinal marijuana passed in 1996. But at the same time, Have a Heart is a large corporation that partnered with Bronson just to meet the equity program requirement, a phenomenon decried by one-time SFist columnist Chris Roberts in his recent Vice article White Weed Entrepreneurs Are Gaming Programs Meant to Help People of Color.
This particular Have a Heart shop still needs to win a permit from the Office of Cannabis before opening. The Planning Commission also entertained a dispensary request Thursday from a proposed pot shop called Mad River, which hopes to open in Nob Hill at the former Buffalo Theory location, but that request was continued to their Feb. 20 meeting