Chris Smith talked to a community group on Jan. 17, 2015 about why Forty Acres should not be shut down by the city of Berkeley. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Chris Smith talked to a community group Saturday about why Forty Acres should not be shut down by the city. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel
Chris Smith talked to a community group Saturday about why Forty Acres should not be shut down by the city. Photo: Frances Dinkelspiel

Almost four years after Berkeley first informed the Forty Acres Medical Marijuana Growers’ Collective that it was operating illegally in its San Pablo Avenue location, the Berkeley City Council will consider declaring it a public nuisance tonight.

The city has been tussling with Forty Acres and its co-founder Chris Smith for so long that the agenda packet with background information is more than 1,000 pages long. Berkeleyside has created a timeline (after the jump) with some of the highlights of the fight between Forty Acres and the city of Berkeley.

Since February 2011, Berkeley officials have told Smith that Forty Acres, which he calls a cannabis collective, cannot operate at 1820-1828 San Pablo Ave. because that is a commercial district. Berkeley zoning laws say collectives can only operate in a residential district and that they must be small enough that they are “incidental to residential use.”

Smith and his attorneys have long argued that the law about zoning was only ushered in with the 2010 passage of Measure T. Since Forty Acres started operations in 2009, it should be grandfathered in and allowed to continue, they contend.

That basic disagreement has seen Berkeley and Smith in Alameda County Superior Court and before an administrative judge. There have been a number of “cease and desist” orders as well.

In November 2014, the city’s Zoning Adjustments Board held a hearing and determined that Forty Acres was a public nuisance. Smith has appealed that ruling. Council will hold a public hearing tonight, Jan. 20, on Forty Acres.

Smith and Toya Groves, who co-founded Forty Acres and once served on the zoning board and the Medical Cannabis Commission, appeared at a community meeting Saturday, Jan. 17, to appeal to neighbors to support their efforts to stay. Smith said that Berkeley has been on a witch hunt to get him, in part because he is African American.

“In 2010, there was very little distinction between a dispensary and a collective,” Groves told the group gathered at the Good Shepherd Church. The meeting had been called by Councilwoman Linda Maio to discuss issues in her district. Councilman Darryl Moore also attended. “In fact, Berkeley law originally was very confusing,” Groves said.

Berkeley code enforcement officials have determined that Smith is not even living in the facility, which undermines his argument that the collective is in a residential facility.

For more information on what is coming up at the Berkeley City Council tonight, Jan. 20, please look here.

Zoning Board says cannabis collective is a public nuisance (11.13.14)
Official who made insensitive racial remarks dismissed (06.20.14)
Berkeley City Council: Let’s add 4th cannabis dispensary
Berkeley still battling cannabis collective (06.12.14)
Berkeley orders Forty Acres to stop cannabis operations (10.29.13)
Berkeley forcibly enters Forty Acres Cannabis Collective (10.09.13)
Cannabis collective 3PG closes its Berkeley operation (11.29.12)
Court orders eviction of Forty Acres cannabis collective (11.09.12)
Berkeley moves to shut down cannabis operation (09.26.12)
Berkeley orders two cannabis collectives to shut down (02.22.12)
Rapid growth of cannabis collective raises concerns (11.29.11)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...