In my professional life I am finding myself spending more and more time in West County and as a result I had the pleasure of being present for the official ribbon cutting ceremonies for an exciting new project in the city of Richmond, CoBiz. The space was designed as a co-working, business incubator space and anchors BART’s parking garage at 16th and MacDonald. The evening was capped off by an inspirational / aspirational speech by MC Hammer. Folks who are interested can find additional information regarding CoBiz courtesy Chevron Richmond’s news website, the Richmond Standard.
Kinda sad, isn’t it, that a corporate entity had to revive local news as a way to give back to Richmond residents an identity not solely defined by the bad. I can’t help but wonder where Martinez will be, how will our identity be defined, when the Gazette’s printing press is silenced. But that’s a letter for another day.
Tonight the city council will cement a decision they made on November 20th (my birthday) to award our 2nd cannabis business license to Embarc and it strikes me that Martinez is slipping into a culture of ‘good enough.’ While MC Hammer offered a little cache to a ribbon cutting event, it was CoBiz’ CEO, Wesley Alexander, who offered the most profound statement of the night. Mr. Alexander spoke of the number of folks involved in his project, or merely aware of it’s progress, that came to him questioning his attention to detail, his desire to get this space exactly right. The message he heard over and over again, was “this is Richmond, it doesn’t need to be that good”. Think about that for a moment, let it really sink in. I hope the notion that something doesn’t need to be “that good” and the message it sends pricks your conscience like it did Mr. Alexander’s, like it did mine.
Later this month the council will decide whether or not Mr. Miller’s proposal is “good enough” for the city of Martinez, for the collective identity of the retail chains operating along Alhambra Ave; from Les Schwab to Hagins, from Walgreens to Safeway, and our newest chain Auto Zone. Is this location “good enough” for these well established retail anchors? Ask yourself how many of these well known brands would make the same decision knowing their businesses would be within close proximity to a retail cannabis shop? Councilmember Ross, in an attempt to placate MUSD Superintendent Hammack, shared a bit of wisdom garnered from his years in the real estate business about “adjacency” and seemed to suggest a bright new shiny building, directly adjacent to district property “should” have a positive impact on real estate values. Of the 5 well established area dispensaries I am aware of; Berkeley Patients Group, Harborside, Oaksterdam, 7 Stars, and the one location the council visited as part of their research, Vallejo Holistic, only one – 7 Stars is directly adjacent to two regional commercial brands, 99 Ranch Market and Public Storage. The rest are located in under utilized, blighted, locations with no grocery or drug stores, no automotive shops or tire stores. And I can’t tell, based on the Google Street view of these locations when any of them saw significant area investment, like the new AutoZone store.
The council’s decision will determine, for generations, what good enough means for our town’s children. Yes, the proposed location is a whole 600 feet from Alhambra High School, a mere three suburban city blocks. Of the 5 well established locations mentioned above the nearest schools are measured in blocks, if not miles, away. And while 600 feet may be good enough for the State of California, is it really good enough for our children?
Once upon a time I lived in the city of Whittier. Like Martinez, I was within walking distance of Uptown Whittier. I’m sure when those city father’s were debating whether or not to approve porn houses as “good enough” for their Quaker town, similar arguments were made regarding the legality of the pornography industry. Weighing whether or not the graphic nature of the Pussycat Theater would have a negative impact on students attending Whittier High. By the time I was there community groups, particularly those lead by local churches, were actively picketing outside of these establishments. They were eventually closed. But imagine the amount of grief and discord those city leaders could have avoided had they measured their high water mark a bit higher than “just good enough”.
– Linda Meza