7th St. Giant "Donut" Will Stay On Site At New "Dunkin' Donuts," Neighborhood Traffic Impacts Will Be Measured/Compared For Possible Remedies; UPDATE: Planning Comm'n Also Votes (6-1, Blair dissenting) To Have City Att'y Draft Ordinance -- As Starting Point For Discussion -- That Could Possibly Allow Medpot Outlets In Commercial Zones, Not Just Industrial

(Feb. 7, 2014) -- As carried LIVE on's front page, LB's Feb. 6 Planning Commission meeting dealt with preserving the giant iconic "Donut" on 7th St. (west of PCH) and neighborhood traffic concerns related to a new drive-through donut/restaurant at the location.

At the meeting, the applicant (an OC real estate investment firm) seeking permission to demolish a former donut house/now coffee house and former liquor store on the site (5560 E. PCH) agreed to incorporate the giant "Donut" into the project's design (a change in Dunkin' Donuts' previous position.) The applicant will now come up with a new design for city staff/Planning Comm'n approval) that keeps the "Donut" on site.

The Planning Comm'n heard testimony from Long Beach residents and preservation groups (including LB Heritage and a former LB historic preservation officer) and Los Angeles (including the L.A. Conservancy) calling the iconic "Donut" an example of vanishing programmatic ("themed") architecture. (The 7th St. "Donut" is one of four LB "Donuts" from a locally started chain; three others remain in LB.) Some testified that the Donut is a historic asset that requires study under the CA Environmental Quality Act. (City staff had simply issued a categorical exemption enabling the proposed project.)

Multiple neighborhood residents raised traffic and safety concerns about the proposed drive-through operation, describing already difficult access onto busy 7th St. which they said could prompt drivers to use a narrow alley abuting neighborhood homes. (The current coffee house has a drive-through lane but the Dunkin' Donuts apparently anticipates a sizable number of vehicles.) The applicant agreed to an added condition to include a vehicle count now, and another within a year enabling the City to assess if additional measures (such as exit/entrance changes and the like) should be required.

The new location will demolish a coffee house/donut shop (and a second commercial building, a vacant former liquor store) at 5560 E. 7th St., replacing it with what was proposed to be a single 1,889 sq. ft. "Dunkin' Donut" building. Prior to the hearing, the applicant and city staff agreed to relocate the "Donut" (at the applicant's cost) to the City storage yard in hopes it might be re-used elsewhere...and a Facebook page ("Save the Giant Donut") has surfaced, supportive of relocating the "donut" to LB's 4th St. "Retro Row" (further below.)

A city staff report had said that Dunkin' Donuts "didn't want to be branded as a donut shop. Since their business is now focused on coffee and breakfast sandwiches, they didn't want the donut sign to mislead customers" but the project applicant has now apparently agreed to retain the "Donut" on-site.

The Planning Comm'n voted to continue (withhold a final decision on) the item to enable the City Attorney's office to put the Donut-preserving/traffic measuring conditions into appropriate language, now expected to return to the Planning Commission for voted action in early March.

Following that action, the Commission took up an item referred to it by the City Council in December 2013: a possible second Long Beach medical marijuana ordinance (that would replace LB's previous ordinance struck down by a CA Appeals Court).

The Commission voted 6-1 (Blair dissenting) to direct the City Attorney to draft an ordinance -- for discussion by the Planning Commission and recommendation to the City Council, which the Council could change entirely -- that might allow some medical marijuana outlets to resume operations. In December 2013, the Council suggested two per Council district and only in industrial zones...but the Planning Commission recommended a draft ordinance (for discussion purposes) that could allow medpot outlets in some commercially zoned areas.

The motion, reworded several times before the vote, reflected guidance from Assistant City Attorney Mike Mais who indicated he views the draft as serving as a starting point for discussion. In its final iteration, the motion directed the City Attorney's office to draft an ordinance -- as a starting point for discussion -- that might not necessarily limit medical marijuana outlets to industrial zones; the draft would specify (consistent with the City Council's directive) up to two per Council district and but would explore appropriate zones within each Council district that could accommodate up to two with the buffer zones and other criteria the Council has previous discussed.

The motion carried 6-1 (with Commissioner Blair [a commercial realtor] dissenting.).

The action came after an attorney representing the "Long Beach Collective Association" testified that limiting medpot outlets to industrial zones, would have preclude them in some Council districts but not others, requiring patients to travel possibly across town to obtain the cannabis.

Long Beach Police Chief Jim McDonnell is on record as opposing any Council action that would lift the current ban and enable medical marijuana outlets to resume city-regulated operations.

In introducing the item, Ass't City Attorney Mike Mais said the initial ordinance spawned (at one point) over thirty lawsuits which the City had to defend at taxpayer cost. Mr. Mais also noted that the CA Supreme Court has since allowed cities either to regulate, or to ban, medpot operations. The current LB Council majority most recently voted in December 2013 to pursue a second ordinance, strongly opposed by LBPD Chief Jim McDonnell. The Planning Commission's recommendations can be changed by a Council majority when the item reaches the Council in the coming months.

On December 17, 2013, Councilwoman Suja Lowenthal made the motion, seconded by Councilman Steve Neal, to have the City Attorney prepare draft text for a new Long Beach medical marijuana ordinance. In his Council comments, Vice Mayor Robert Garcia stated that he believes restricting the outlets to certain Council districts is problematic in terms of providing safe access and indicated he was supporting referral to the Planning Commission to advance the process which will ultimately come back to the City Council for a decision.

Near the start of the agenda item, Police Chief McDonnell (speaking from written text) publicly advised Councilmembers and the public:

Mayor Foster, members of the City Council. Thank you for the opportunity to be able to talk about this important topic.

I'd like to speak briefly about the history of medical marijuana in Long Beach and the negative impact dispensaries have had on our community. We're fortunate to have already seen firsthand if the city enacts a new medical marijuana collective ordinance. The city's earlier attempt to permit and license a limited number of dispensaries was not successful. Although 18 were allowed, there were more than 50 operating at one time.

City resources have been ill-equipped to combat that challenge. As I said, we've already seen firsthand the kind of negative impact that medical marijuana dispensaries have caused. There's been an adverse impact on both the community's quality of life and the ability of city staff to respond to complaints, complaints we have yet to fully resolve.

It's been over one year since the full ban went into effect and there are presently six dispensaries in operation.

We know that Long Beach has a murder linked to a marijuana dispensary as well as robberies, shootings and burglaries. In addition, common neighborhood complaints include public marijuana use, noise disturbances, disputes, increased foot traffic, loitering and discarded marijuana wrappings in the vicinity of dispensaries.

Many people have expressed frustration with the Police Department with our apparent inability to close down all of the dispensaries with the full ban in effect. I assure you that this is not for lack of trying.

We've been working in collaboration with multiple city departments including Financial Management, Fire, City Attorney, City Prosecutor, Developmental Services, Health and Public Works. We have been asked to devote more resources in the gang detail and the enforcement of realignment, prohibited possessors, property crime and human trafficking. Opening the door to marijuana dispensaries will severely limit our ability to respond to these and other items requested by the Council.


I'm concerned with what will happen if the city enacts a new medical marijuana collective ordinance. As a result of much collaborative effort, the number of dispensaries operating in Long Beach has been decreasing. There were only four known dispensaries when the City Council recently gave direction to the City Attorney's office to explore new legislation. Two additional dispensaries have opened since that direction was given.

We already know that if the city opens the door to dispensaries by enacting a new medical marijuana collective ordinance, other law enforcement partners from the DEA to the L.A. County DA's office will not devote resources to help us combat that illegal activity.

I encourage you to reconsider the detriment that a new ordinance will have on our community. Whatever possible good you believe that we'll be doing for a small segment of the population will drastically be outweighed by the negative impact to the greater community and a significant strain on an already limited city staffing resources. Allowing dispensaries is not the answer to help those who are ill. The law already provides the ability for a collective to grow and share marijuana for this purpose. Thank you.

Also on December 17, the Council also voted 7-1 (Schipske dissenting, Andrews exited/absent) to approve an item agendized by Lowenthal, Garcia and Austin to put a measure on the April 2014 citywide ballot that would tax the gross receipts of marijuana collectives (but couldn't/wouldn't take effect unless/until the Council approves a second medpot ordinance...with soonest staff estimate for that in roughly March/April 2014.)

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