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Sue the World

THE SANTA CRUZ SEASIDE COMPANY, it seems, is no longer happy with its so-called "quiet" title to the portion of former tidelands estuary at the mouth of the San Lorenzo River, which it has used as a 6-acre parking lot since 1962. Now, in order to settle the matter once and for all, the Seaside Company will sue the world.

On July 6, 2005, the Seaside Company filed a lawsuit against the CITY OF SANTA CRUZ, THE STATE LANDS COMMISSION and, well, everyone else that might assert "a cloud upon Plaintiff's title." This is what it's come to: suing cloud makers.

Or as the lawsuit puts it, they're suing "all persons unknown, claiming any legal or equitable right, title, estate, lien, or interest in the property described in the complaint adverse to Plaintiff's title ... are sued herein pursuant to Code of Civil Procedure Section 762.060."

The clouds themselves were unavailable for comment, but judging by the demeanor of the fog that rolled in off the bay last week--heavy and lethargic--they're not happy, and neither are some staunch environmentalists.

Back in 1998, then-Councilmembers KEITH SUGAR, CHRISTOPHER KROHN, TIM FITZMAURICE and KATHERINE BEIERS hired hotshot environmental attorney ANTONIO ROSSMAN (of MONO LAKE fame) to help them reclaim the land. Rossman's report has never been released to the public, and all was quiet for years.

Until now ... kind of. City Attorney JOHN BARISONE says the Seaside Company advised the city in December 2004 that it expected to file a complaint in January 2005. Earlier this year, the city asked state Sen. JOE SIMITIAN to author S 960, a bill that would have laid the legal foundation for a land exchange. The bill made it through its first committee, after which the city asked Simitian to pull it out.

Barisone explains that "there were some other developments up at the State Lands Commission that led them to believe [SB 960] wouldn't fully resolve the matter." BILL MORRISON, a spokesman for the State Lands Commission, says that while they hoped to avoid litigation, "the legislation wouldn't prevent anyone from filing suit."

Agenda Hijinks

The city has until Aug. 5 to respond to the Seaside Company's complaint. Since the council was supposed to be on vacation during the month of August, a group of people who environmental activist PATRICIA MATEJCEK called "Friends of the Tidelands" asked Councilmember ED PORTER to throw the matter onto the July 26 closed session agenda so members of the public would have the opportunity to comment before the city takes action.

Unfortunately, since Porter had only hand-written the item on the publicly posted agenda that lives outside the council chambers, nobody in the closed session would admit the motley crew that was lurking outside, and which included Matejcek, JANE and PHIL BAER, SIERRA CLUB representative ALDO GIACCHINO, former SCAN tidelands committee member FRED GEIGER, former attorney REED SERLE and Santa Cruzans for Responsible Planning member BILL MALONE, among others. Nobody, that is, until Geiger walked Councilmember Tim Fitzmaurice over to the posted agenda and showed him the hand-written agenda item B-3, after which point Fitzmaurice opened the chamber doors and let in the dozen-strong group. Vice Mayor CYNTHIA MATHEWS granted two minutes to everyone, who, now that they've said their piece, can only wait and hope.

Dispense With the Clones

Nüz can't help but get a little excited over the news that our friends who need more convenient access to medical marijuana will soon be able to purchase their pot at a dispensary right over in yonder Harvey West Business Park.

On July 26, LISA MOLYNEAUX secured the council's unanimous blessing to open up a 3,000-square-foot medical marijuana dispensary at 140 Dubois St., which consists of two separate buildings with five offices in each. The Planning Commission had already approved the project with a 5-0 vote, but in order to nip any potential problems in the bud, the council decided to hear the matter prior to their vacation to add their own set of provisions onto the conditions of approval.

After hearing from Chief of Police HOWARD SKERRY and Parks and Recreation director DANNETEE SHOEMAKER, who both recommended denying approval, Councilmember EMILY REILLY made a motion to limit the dispensary's activities to its primary goal of procuring and doling out medical marijuana for at least the first six months of operation. Molyneaux hopes to eventually provide massage and chiropractic services and space for classes and support groups, but for now she's just happy she's gotten to where she has in the permit process, which has been complicated by zoning variance issues and its proximity to the fun-for-the-whole-family mecca that is Harvey West Park.

One of the council's provisions forbids Molyneaux from cultivating or cloning marijuana onsite. Similarly, Councilmembers CYNTHIA MATHEWS and TIM FITZMAURICE expressed their faith that Molyneux will not be cultivating or cloning problem clients.

"People that are patients are responsible citizens," said Molyneaux, who is a patient herself. "I think any business is going to have a problem, until we prove that it can work."

Reilly echoed Molyneux's sentiment, insisting that if the city doesn't go out on a limb and approve a dispensary now, "we never will."

Councilmember ED PORTER asked for a provision to hold the dispensary responsible for patients smoking marijuana in the nearby parks, but was satisfied with a promise that patients would be educated to take their medicine at home, even though Molyneaux said that state law allows medical marijuana smoking anywhere cigarette smoking is allowed, provided that it's done discreetly.

Both Reilly and Rotkin used the prescription drug analogy, saying, for instance, that nobody is worried about living or working near Longs, which dispenses Vicodin and other narcotics.

To all the people who have complained about how burdensome the approval process is, Councilmember RYAN COONERTY said, "Although this has been a long and arduous process ... I think we've approached this in a very thoughtful way, in a very structured way. ... I think this is the right way--absent a sensible national policy--to do this."

Porter, a teacher at Santa Cruz High School, was considerably more conflicted:

"Frankly, I was prepared to vote no," said Porter. "Teaching at Santa Cruz High School, the last time we touched on this subject my students said, 'Oh, Mr. Porter, you voted in favor of medical marijuana, let's go burn one!' That's not a tolerable situation for me as a teacher there, and I have to now be prepared to recite this whole discussion to explain why there is a difference."

Porter's comments were met with giggles from the audience, but nobody upstaged MIKE TOMASI, the self-described "king of marijuana," who told the council that they "ought to let them smoke the blunt right inside the building."

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From the August 3-10, 2005 issue of Metro Santa Cruz.

Copyright © 2005 Metro Publishing Inc. Maintained by Boulevards New Media.

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