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Hollister city council denies four appeals for cannabis permits

After two Hollister council members and the city attorney recused themselves, three remaining members turned down appeals for cannabis permits.
Rovella's Gym is located mere feet beyond the 150-foot distance dictated by the city ordinance from the 817 Industrial Drive location
USA Sport is also located just down the street from the building where several cannabis businesses were to be located.

Note: Taylor Rodrigues' name was incorrectly spelled. The correction has been made and we apolgize for the error.

As has happened before when cannabis was on the Hollister City Council agenda, Council members Jim Gillio and Karson Klauer, along with Soren Diaz, city attorney, recused themselves prior to discussions on four separate appeals to previous council decisions concerning the denials of cannabis permits.

Eric Hecht, stood before the remaining three council members, Ignacio Velazeuqez, Raymond Friend and Mickie Luna, to plead his case for appeals on three companies he is associated with, all to be located at 817 Industrial Drive: FTB Jordon Inc., Plaza Breeze, and Layla’s Landing. Also appealing was Taylor Rodrigues, who wants to open a cannabis dispensary under the name of Haven in the shopping center, located at the corner of San Felipe Road and Maple Street.

After Hecht made his first appeal to obtain a permit for FTB Jordon Inc., Velazquez opened up the proceedings to the public. Many of the same people who had spoken on the Industrial Drive location came forward yet again--and again. 

J. W. Paine said he was concerned about odors and security, but hoped the city would look at the facility as an opportunity to bring money into the community. Elia Salinas said she supported the Industrial Drive location for a cannabis facility and was confident the owner would abide by all requirements for safety and odors. Marty Richman, who said he was neutral on whether or not the site was approved for cannabis, questioned discussing four appeals, one at a time, because if one was approved as a dispensary, the others could not be approved because the city was only allowing two dispensaries, and one had already been approved.

Lisa Rovella, who has been steadfast in her opposition to a cannabis facility being located across the street from her business, once again made her views clear about children being near the facility. Cannabis lobbyist and an applicant for a cultivation permit that had been approved, Sean Donahoe, reasoned that zoning for the Industrial Drive location was appropriate. Jack Kirk, who in the past insinuated someone on the city’s payroll must have colluded with Hecht because he purchased the building for more than $2 million before applications for permits were voted on, continued to object to the business being located on Industrial Drive. He said there would be security issues and possibly lock downs to protect children in the area.

When the item came back to the council, none of the three remaining council members would make a motion one way or another, so it died “for a lack of a motion.” Bill Avera, city manager, then asked the mayor if this meant the appeal was denied.

“I think we need to have a decision here so there’s no more confusion about what part of the process they’re in at this point,” he said.

Councilman Raymond Friend promptly made a motion to deny the appeal, which passed by three votes. Avera asked, for clarity, if they were saying they had denied the appeal specifically concerning FBT Jordon. The mayor said that was the case and then moved on to consider Playa Breeze Inc.’s appeal on a cultivation facility. After basically the same proponents and opponents, as well as Hecht, voiced some the same points about the Industrial Drive location, the council denied Hecht's request for a cultivation permit. And then the very same applicant for the two previous appeals concerning the same Industrial Drive location struck out a third time for a cannabis dispensary under the name of Layla’s Landing.

Taylor Rodrigues, who was seeking a permit to operate Haven Dispensary north of the city, was appealing on the grounds that his application met all of the city’s requirements and questioned the scoring methodology when it was being evaluated.

During public comments, Elia Salinas asked the council to support Rodrigues’ permit. Jack Kirk said even though he thought Rodrigues was a “fine young man,” he could not support a dispensary being located where children would congregating at a new McDonald’s. A member of Hillside Christian Fellowship objected to the dispensary because it would be too close to the church. A few other speakers also addressed Rodrigues’ likability, but in the end did not support the proposed location. One opponent even said if Rodrigues would try for another location, he might support him.

Despite being looked on favorably by a number of the speakers, Rodrigues was not any more successful than the previous applicant as the three council members denied his appeal.

DACA Resolution

A resolution to support the continuance of the Deferred Action of Childhood Arrivals (DACA) and declare Hollister a “dreamers’ city,” scheduled toward the end of the Oct. 3 Hollister City Council meeting was moved forward at the request of Councilwoman Mickie Luna. She asked Mayor Ignacio Velazquez to do so because there were a number of students present who she said would have to leave before the agenda item would be discussed. Initially, the mayor hesitated to do so, stating there were a number of agenda items that others in the room would want to hear, but he relented to move the item up for discussion when other council members voiced their approval.

Luna said when looking at the population of Hollister she claimed it is 60 percent Latino and other immigrants. She said she applauded the diversity of the county's population. She said she wanted the resolution on the agenda because Hollister is in the region to adopt such a resolution to support the children. She said if members of the armed forces who fell under DACA were forced to return to their countries of origin the military would be adversely affected.

Without comments from the council or the public, the resolution passed unanimously.

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As I said in my public comments, I believe we went about this the wrong way.  What we should have done is designed special zoning (if that's legal) for these cannabis operations then there would be no arguments over where things are and we can concentrate on the best applications.  I believe we failed to do that based on pressure from local property owners who wanted an equal chance to cash in.

The second mistake we made, among many, was failure to limit the number of growing and processing operations permitted year by year so we can ease into it and correct any mistake we make with a manageable number of permitees.

The third mistake was not to charge a very large permitting fee designed to really discourage anyone from applying here and getting a permit only for the sake of eventually getting a state permit with no intention of operating locally.   We do not want to be a stalking horse for other locations.

That's enough for now on this never ending saga.

Marty Richman



Submitted by Kathy Johnson (KJohnson) on

One local group Facebook page, A LOT, maybe ALL who were commenting, did not agree to the council's decision. I was one of those people, just whining and never doing anything about what was going on in my town. I decided I needed to do something to change what I was seeing. So I started attending city council meetings, talk to my community, talk to my council members, voice out my opinions. 

This decision, the denial of ALL permits, (well 4/5 as of last night as a second and the dispensary permit was given late Monday's meeting to a dispensary called Monterey Bay) reached by the sheer number of people who spoke against granting the permits. If people really love their pot, specifically to be at Industrial Drive and on San Felipe Rd, they should have shown up and spoken at Monday's meeting. What a bunch of whiners! 

Also there are 2 churches on San Felipe Rd Hillside Christian Fellowship and Hillside Christian Fellowship KIDS church (via Google Maps 350 feet from the church which is 1 minute walk from proposed dispensary site) both on separate buildings having separate services on Sundays. I also want to point out that this church has a lot of ministries, on of them is Teen Life Recovery. Any kid in San Benito county who got in trouble with the law is sent there  by probation to undergo a church based program for 16 to 20 weeks. Most of these kids have no rides and walk to our church. Aside from these, a lot of broken people, come to this church all week long, putting a dispensary right there is just not gonna work for me


But thank heavens the liquor store in the same shopping center can stay right where it is. 

Submitted by Kathy Johnson (KJohnson) on

What it really boils down to is my family do not want it (the dispensary) there (and I will only speak for myself) near our churches, nor where my family have breakfasts on Sunday mornings or Wednesday (we have midweek service) night dinners. We don't have a problem with the liquor store. 

We showed up at that meeting with my 12 year old son included. My husband spoke for us. If you had such argument, "But thank heavens the liquor store in the same shopping center can stay right where it is," then you should have attended, got up to the podium and argued your case to the city council -- you might have gotten your approval for the dispensary. See I learned that the way the city council will make decisions is by the number of people who will speak for or against something.  

According to the California health and safety code - (b) No medicinal cannabis cooperative, collective, dispensary, operator, establishment, or provider who possesses, cultivates, or distributes medicinal cannabis pursuant to this article shall be located within a 600-foot radius of a school.

Also that is not building to building, but property line to property line.

Logically, there must be a health and safety issue or that law would not exist; you don't think our state leaders would adopt heath and safety code for purely political purposes, do you (sarcasm alert).  So 20 kids in a small school are protected by a 600-foot radius, but a sports class of 40 kids in a private setting are not protected by the state.  What's the logic of that?

Do we protect kids from abuse when they are at home?  Of course we do, they are not adults, they cannot protect themselves.  It would be more logical to just keep the 600-foot radius for everything if there were a basis for it (anyone ever check the testimony when the bill was in process?).

SB 420 does not authorize the smoking of marijuana "in or within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a recreation center, or youth center, unless the medical use occurs within a residence."  So for use they protect the school, rec center and and youth center AND to 1,000 feet which is also the distance of the Drug Free School Zone law.

If you want laws to make sense you have no chance in the political environment.

Marty Richman


Submitted by (George Fendler) on

If I had spent over $2 million on a building after checking with the city to see if I could run the type of business that I purchased it for, I would be very upset if the city changed their minds. I would probably have my attorney take some legal action.

I don't see why these businesses should be any more difficult to deal with than a liquor store pharmacy or research facility..

Submitted by Kathy Johnson (KJohnson) on

An ordinance of 600 feet between a marijuana facility and a residence was in place, on December 2016 the said distance was reduced to 150 feet by Klauer, Friend and Luna voting against the Mayor and Sims who wanted to keep it at 600 feet. May 2017 the 817 building valued only for $900k was sold for $2.2Million cash through Nino Estate Agency, where your councilman, Klauer, who voted for said distance reduction, also works as a real estate agent. June July 2017 the building next door 807 valued only at $700k sold for $1.2M cash, again through Nino Estate. The owner of 807 is your councilman Klauer's dad, Kraig Klauer. 

Long story short Klauer couldn't vote for conflict of interest, Gillio (who replaced Sims) couldn't vote because he sold equipment to many of the marijuana applicants, and the city counsel, Soren Diaz, can't even sit in any marijuana related agenda, because the firm he belongs to have represented most of the applicants.

The city staff was okay recommending this applicant until this sleazy deal went down and everybody who had businesses on that street , mostly family related ones, said heck no. And they were the people who showed up and spoke at Monday's meeting.

Btw both buildings are 156 feet from a residence.

Opinions are like bellybuttons, everyone has one and they should, the only thing I find prejudicial is this repeated reference to real estate selling for cash.  Perhaps some people think that means the buyer paid with car trunk full of bills, coin or gold bars, but I seriously doubt that's the case since anything over $10,000 is reportable to the IRS.  What it usually means is that they paid by some direct transfer method (certified check, wire, etc.) that's all.  It's quite common.

It does not mean that the payee did not mortgage something else to get the funds, perhaps they mortgaged other property or perhaps they represent a bunch of well-heeled investors (no harm in that).  During the crash people were buying foreclosed property - many times for millions - all the time with "cash" (cashier checks) on the "courthouse steps" but there was no assumption it was dirty money.

That part is nothing but meaningless innuendo.

Marty Richman

So here is my belly button, er, opinion...I could care less about buying with cash. This is common. But I do care about the price. Why did the sales go through at twice the asking price? Was it to jack up the sales commission to the realty company, employer of a councilman? Was there a wild behind-the-scenes bidding war for a building in an industrial zone? Or were there secret promises made by an employee of city government for a lucrative permit? Many, many people in this town are wondering the same.

Great job for the new investigative reporter for Benito Link to find out how these things came to pass.

--William McCarey

If there was an illegal arrangement, it's unlikely that there is a record of that part of the deal.  Perhaps the cagey seller said, "This is the perfect location that meets all the current criteria and I'll be taking the best offer for the next three weeks."

Followed by the buyer's question, "What will it take to sew the property up right now?"

Never underestimate the possibility of gross stupidity when greed overtakes reason, it happens all the time.  The classic is Tulip Mania of the 1600s and it still lives today.  I've got a penny-stock IPO for you, a pyramid multi-level marketing investment  - "" - it can't miss.

Marty Richman

thepracticalconservative's picture

I just have to say as I am forced to go inside from where I am right now, in my backyard, because of a neighbor who has begun smoking pot with a smell that I cannot tolerate, I want marijuana as far away from me, schools, churches, and any business I happen to be on my way to or from.  This is out of control and I think the elected are very, very wise to take their time on this.

Submitted by (Elizabeth ) on

Zoning issues can be resolved. This collective can relocated in the best interest of the people of SBC. However, I do think that allowing more than one dispensary in SBC could be a positive thing for the community, mostly in regards to taxes. I own, well owned, a cannabis edibles company since “manufacturing” is banned” in this County. I don’t manufacture anything, I’m a Chef with a cottage company. I recently had to move here to care for an ill family member. Because of it and having to stop ALL operations, I have 3 employees out of work, plus myself. All three employees have children, they depend on this income for their livelihoods. Instead of arguing about where to put a dispensary, consider the possibilities of cannabis in our community. There are others like me in this county and we WANT to abide by the laws. We WANT to do business in our community and keep it local. Keep the money in the community and use it to our advantage. I beg the citizens to reconsider their views and welcome cannabis to the community. Businesses like mine truly want to work together with the community to help spread education and awareness. We want to help better the community, not bring some sort of evil here. Even if you don’t believe in cannabis, I hope you can believe in the power and impact small businesses make on a community. The mom and pop shops, not drug cartels or people just trying to get permits then sell elsewhere. We just want a chance to thrive and help start a conversation about cannabis in this community. It’s time we start looking at cannabis like an industry we can financially benefit from, not a bunch of drug dealers. It’s time we shut the door on the black market and focus on a brighter future where cannabis coexists symbiotically.
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Submitted by (Rob Bernosky) on

You sound like a nice person with good motives. Unfortunately, other proponents of cannabis in the county just attack and make ugly comments to and about those who are concerned about how cannabis might impact our quality of life. They are proving to those with doubts that they are correct to be doubting. Said differently, the cannabis industry is already being a negative experience in the community.


I'm disappointed that you characterize 'proponents of cannabis' with such a broad and pejorative paint brush. In fact, a majority of San Benito County voters supported both Prop. 215 and Prop. 64 which is a majority of your neighbors within our local population. 

Due process at public meetings has played out in keeping with democratic principles. I don't recall anyone 'attacking and making ugly comments' but there has been spirited debate, arguing for and against cannabis regulations as there should be. 

While I represent no one else with my opinion, from what I understand speaking to cannabis industry operators preparing to do business in San Benito County, each looks forward to making positive contributions to our community as is required by Hollister to do business as a medical cannabis business here. 

Stay tuned, Rob. Things will get better soon. 

Submitted by (Rob Bernosky) on

Nope. Just checked (again) the Facebook post of this article. The proponents are leaving snarky comments and attacking the very elected they need to get on board. A reasonable conclusion would be that dealing with pro-cannabis people is an unpleasant experience.

Ms, Westwood, what you really want to do is make some money.  I do not find that offensive, all sorts of business owners, investors and employees at every level in almost every arena want to do exactly the same thing.  That is certainly why I worked for a living for many decades; therefore, I would be foolish to condemn anyone else for wanting to increase their income.  This is a capitalist society where profit is the tool of the consumers - they use it to get what they want - and you sell your services and/or products for what the market will bear.

The part that always gets to me is the sales job, "we're doing it for you."  No you're not, you're doing it for yourself, the collective we (the government) is extracting what we can from you in return.  The profit motive drives the cannabis industry as much, maybe more, than any other industry.  The big pharmaceutical companies are not in business to help sick people and neither is most of the cannabis industry - it's just the market they have; people in need or in want.

Sometimes consumers and markets end up doing good, sometimes not, but the real motives should be clear to everyone.

Marty Richman

I'm not sure why anyone thinks that had the two council members not recused themselves it would have made any difference.  It might have, but the odds are it would not since you still need three votes for a majority if all five members are sitting. 

I sure hope no one said, "I'd vote for you, but only if you can find two other votes" or even "I'm going to vote for you."  Under these highly competitive conditions for a limited number of permits, I think that would be inappropriate.

Marty Richman

Submitted by Kathy Johnson (KJohnson) on

@Rob Bernosky - I know which FB page that is.  Yes that page is full of whiners. Everybody complains about something (traffic, noise, fireworks, parking at the street, people partying,  people taking pictures of cars that almost caused and accident (and this is while driving as well) etc including the pettiest of things, grocery lines) and most have its all about me syndrome.

But see all these people don't attend city council meetings. All they wanna do is complain but never take action. I used to be like that. The city council, except the Mayor and Gillio, so that's Klauer, Luna and Friend, ignore Facebook comments. 

Resolutions are approved or denied by the number of people speaking up for or against something. I've seen it happen when I started attending council meetings. So I encourage you to attend, if you aren't already, speak up and be heard because that is what makes the difference, not in Facebook.

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