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SPARC Fields Community Feedback On Proposed Lower Haight Dispensary

Photo: courtesy of SPARC
By Jennie Butler - Published on November 10, 2015.

Last night, representatives from SPARC, the medical marijuana dispensary hoping to open a second SF location in the former Good Fellows space at 473 Haight St., met with community members to discuss their plans and the business' potential impacts on the neighborhood.

The dispensary, which is based at 1256 Mission St. in SoMa, has 42,000 members in San Francisco alone, the highest percentage of which live in the 94117 area code, according to SPARC. The business expects 200 to 300 visits per day at their proposed Lower Haight location after three months of being open. “To put this into perspective, your average Starbucks gets about 900 visits per day,” said SPARC Executive Director Robert Jacob at last night's meeting.

Because of SPARC’s popularity among city dwellers, several attendees were concerned that those accessing the dispensary by car would overwhelm the 400 block’s limited parking supply. Without adequate parking, they said, patients might double park or pull up into the nearby Muni bus stop. According to neighbors, unlawful parking was an ongoing issue at Good Fellows, which closed in July.

To deal with issues in and around their dispensaries, SPARC employs “safety hosts”, a sort of informal security guard, to stand outside during operating hours (8am-10pm). “They’re much like a concierge of the neighborhood,” said Jacob. “If we need a second host monitoring the street, we will employ that person,” he added.

Safety and security were major talking points for residents and merchants who attended last night's meeting. Many attendees voiced concern about a dispensary attracting crime to the 400 block and members selling their recently purchased marijuana on the street.

SPARC again cited the responsibility of security hosts to address those matters, but went on to clarify that safety hosts are not police or security and thus cannot intervene if the incident does not involve a SPARC member.

“We’re going to need neighbors to notify us of those instances so we can follow up with those members,” said Jacob. “However, if it’s not our member, we have no authority or ability to do anything.”

SPARC has three dispensaries and five cultivation sites in the Bay Area. Each location, they claim, has adapted to the unique needs of its surrounding area.

“Having a perfect relationship with this community, as we have in every other community is held in very high standard for us,” said Jacob. 

SPARC is currently in the process of submitting an application to operate a medical cannabis dispensary (MCD) to the Department of Public Health. If approved, it'll wend its way through the Planning and Fire departments, and will be considered in a future Planning Commission hearing.

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