Pubdate: Wed, 17 Nov 2010
Source: Bay Citizen, The (CA: Web)
Copyright: 2010 The Bay Citizen
Author: Zusha Elinson
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Will new pot farm laws in Berkeley cause a land rush?

New pot farm legislation in Berkeley has kindled a renewed interest 
in the city's old warehouse district.

Realtors are fielding a barrage of calls from would-be pot growers, 
and some industrial sites are up for sale at prices that raise 
eyebrows in a down real estate market.

"I get a call a week for warehouse space to grow pot," said Steve 
Smith, a realtor with Norheim & Yost. "We get a lot of people who 
say, 'I'm a landscaper or a horticulturist,' and we say, 'So you want 
to grow pot.' And they pause and say, 'Yeah but I'm legit.'"

Berkeley voters overwhelmingly passed Measure T in the November 
election, giving the green light to the city to permit six 
30,000-square foot marijuana growing operations in West Berkeley, 
where the land is zoned for manufacturing operations. After Oakland, 
Berkeley is the second city to venture into the untested and murky 
waters of large-scale marijuana cultivation.

One of the sites being eyed by growers is at 1350 4th St., a parcel 
of the old Flint Ink factory site near Gilman Street. The 1.43-acre 
site, complete with old buildings, is now owned by Emeryville's Orton 
Development. It's on the market for $2.5 million.

"The fact of the matter is that this is the single best site in all 
of the East Bay for this," crowed Orton's James Madsen.

Madsen said that at first Orton considered leasing space to growers 
on another parcel of the old ink factory site across the street. But 
there were two problems: banks wouldn't finance the leases, and the 
prospect of a big pot farm made other prospective tenants antsy.

"The bank isn't financing those kind of leases right now," said 
Madsen. "The other issue is a couple very cool and very cutting-edge 
companies that were interested in a lease, but just didn't want to be 
on a site with cultivation."

So Orton decided to sell instead. Madsen said there's been interest 
from "big players" but declined to name them.

People familiar with the Berkeley pot scene say that Harborside 
Health Center, Oakland's largest medical marijuana dispensary, has 
put out feelers about cultivation in West Berkeley.

Stephen DeAngelo - who runs Harborside and is also applying for a 
cultivation permit in Oakland - didn't deny it.

"Harborside Health Center is still evaluating the various options 
available for legal cultivation," DeAngelo said in an e-mail. "HHC 
has not made a decision."

Berkeley Patients Group - Berkeley's largest dispensary - is also 
rumored to be interested in a cultivation permit, although 
representatives did not a return a call seeking comment.

The $2.5 million price tag for the site owned by Orton - about $40 a 
square foot - is slightly on the high side for a piece of land in 
West Berkeley, several realtors said. Another 2.2-acre site nearby is 
selling for $2.8 million or $29.50 a square foot.

The price is being driven up in part by the limited number of 
industrial-zoned sites - and the reluctance of landlords to lease to 
pot growers, realtors say. In general, medical marijuana dispensaries 
often pay higher than market-rate rent because of the risk involved 
for landlords, industry sources say.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom