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This Week in City Hall, February 27

Extending a 20 year agreement with the March Joint Powers Authority, increasing RPU’s annual free shade tree program allotment from $35 to $40 per tree, recognizing Cellar Door Book’s owner Linda Sherman-Nurick, and updating the Riverside Municipal Code to allow for cannabis retailers are all on the agenda for Tuesday’s City Council meeting.

This Tuesday’s City Council agenda is packed with items that impact life in Riverside in a whole host of different ways. The full agenda is available online; here are some highlights of what you can expect.

March Joint Powers Agreement Extension

Council with consider a 14th amendment to the March Joint Powers Agreement which has been in place since 1993 when the U.S. Congress designated March Air Force Base (AFB) for “substantial reduction in use” as a military base.

In 1996, March AFB was converted to a reserve base with 4,400+ acres released for sale through the March Joint Powers Redevelopment Agency. The proposed 1.8 million square foot warehouse project near Orangecrest and Mission Grove receiving substantial neighborhood pushback is planned for land currently managed by the March Joint Powers Commission.

The March Joint Powers Agreement has been amended 12 times since 1993, most recently in October 2014. From the report:

“In December 2021, the March Joint Powers Commission directed March JPA staff to prepare a Sunset plan for the March JPA that would relinquish certain duties under the Authority and refocus the March JPA’s mission to operating the March Inland Port Airport. March JPA staff met with member agency representatives to discuss a path forward. Over the course of several months of discussion, it was determined that annexation discussions regarding the March JPA territory are complex, will take years to resolve and are complicated by a $30 million redevelopment bond that matures in 2041. As a result, the conversation pivoted to focus on equitably sharing taxes and revenue generated by the March JPA territory.”

Note: No development project decisions are included as a part of this amendment as all development project decisions require a separate public review process and fall within the jurisdiction of the March Joint Powers Commission.

Report / Presentation

RPU’s Free Shade Tree Program

Each year, Riverside Public Utilities customers are eligible to be reimbursed $35 per tree for up to six new shade trees as a part of RPU’s “Free Shade Tree” program to help reduce summertime cooling costs and energy usage. Since the program’s introduction in 2001, 260,743 new trees have been planted.

City staff reports that nurseries have shared that their cost for 5-gallon trees has increased to $40. If the increase is approved, this year’s program and campaign costs will total $460,000.

Report / Presentation

Celebrating Cellar Door Books

After a challenging and controversial start to 2023, Linda Sherman-Nurick, owner of Cellar Door Books, is being recognized by Ward 2 Councilmember Cervantes as a “Riverside pride success story.” Cellar Door Books opened in 2012 and is one of only three locally owned bookstores in town.

Cannabis: Coming Soon?

After five years of a moratorium against commercial cannabis activity, Council will consider updating the Riverside Municipal Code to establish a Cannabis Business Permit Program.

After the State legalized marijuana for use by adults 21 and older in 2016, the City of Riverside passed a moratorium on commercial cannabis for the purpose of understanding the cannabis industry further prior to allowing it in the City. In 2018, the city codified a prohibition of commercial cannabis throughout the City.

In September 2021, a group of cannabis retailers notified the City of their intention to petition for “a fair and reasonable regulatory environment for cannabis businesses.” In November 2021, Ward 3’ Councilmember Fierro said “the City of Riverside took a wait-and-see approach initially. But it’s long overdue for our city to discuss how we can regulate and subsequently benefit from this new and exciting industry.” City staff developed new regulations which passed through the Planning Commission in December 2021 and are now before Council.

The proposed new ordinance includes:

  • Permitting cannabis retail, manufacturing/distribution, and laboratory testing operations.
  • 14 annually renewable permits for cannabis retail stores,
  • A permitting process with new fees, a Labor Peace Agreement, and Community Benefit criteria.
  • Location requirements that keep cannabis business600 feet from K-12 schools, licensed daycare facilities and Community Centers.
  • Security requirements that include exterior lighting, security cameras, on-site security personnel, and a designated “Security Liaison answerable to City Manager and Police.”

If the Council adopts the new ordinance City staff will prepare to accept permit applications as soon as this July. By November, Council would also aim to adopt a resolution placing a Cannabis Tax Measure on the ballot for the November 2024 General Election.

Report / Presentation