T.O. Residents Voice Opposition to SB54; Council Eases Zoning for Cannabis Businesses Tuesday Night

By Kevin Harris

The Thousand Oaks City Council was swarmed by residents opposing California’s “Sanctuary Cities” policies during a Public Comments session at last Tuesday’s City Council Meeting. The lawmakers also voted to ease certain zoning restrictions, making it easier for cannabis businesses to open within city limits. 

Public Comments – SB54

During Item 6 of this meeting, the “Public Comments” period, which usually consists of a hodgepodge of routine, PR-style messages from members of the public, there were 16 pre-filled speaker cards. As it turned out, nearly all of them were from local residents ready to speak in stark opposition to the state’s SB54 legislation – which made California a “Sanctuary State” for illegal aliens. 

SB54, recently signed by Governor Brown, is highly controversial due to questions over its ethical and legal virtues. Its intention is to make it criminally illegal for law enforcement to report illegal aliens – even the ones in police custody for certain criminal acts, to the federal government. 

Following is a sampling of the speakers who presented their views to the Council:

Allison Ellerman:  She asked the Council to “exempt Thousand Oaks from the state’s new sanctuary law.” She added, “We’re either a nation of laws, or we have nothing.” 

Margeurita Asail:  Ms. Asail asked the Council to join Orange County, Huntington Beach, and Alliso Viejo – cities that have filed lawsuits to opt out of SB54. 

Jeffrey Burum:  (Running for U.S. Congress, District 26). Mr. Burum also said he would like the council to join the other cities in abandoning SB54, and claimed that the real number of illegal aliens in the U.S. is closer to 30 million, as opposed to the 11 million that is often quoted. He pointed out that Article 1, Sections 8 & 9 of the U.S. Constitution “clearly say that only congress has the authority to make immigration law.” 

Mr. Burum spoke passionately and presented facts for the council. When his allotted time was up, the audience applauded as he returned to his seat. 

Jeffrey Burum

Thomas Adams:  Long time local resident, presented the following challenge to the Council: “Is the Council going to have the courage to stand up against SB54? You swore an oath to uphold the U.S. Constitution, as did the State Legislature, but they seemed to have lost their way.” 

Tom Hunt:  Mr. Hunt, who moved to Thousand Oaks 50 years ago, took the humorous angle to try to reach the Council. He started out looking at his notes in frustration, then said, “I’ve got a whole bunch of statistics here, and they’ve all been quoted tonight.” After the laughs died down, he said to the Council, “All I’m asking you to do is show as much consideration to the people in this town as you do the Thousand Oaks trees.” 

Bruce Boyer:  (Running for Ventura County Sheriff). “SB54 is a sanctuary state rebellion!” Among other pertinent facts, Mr. Boyer pointed out that the Thousand Oaks City Council contracts out for the Ventura County Sheriffs Department, and in doing so, is facilitating the illegal rebellion with our tax dollars (if the Sheriffs Dept. complies with the terms in SB54). His impassioned presentation was met with audience applause. 

Bruce Boyer

Though there were one or two speakers not involved with SB54, including Karen Martin, who made interesting points and observations about the high noise levels along Lynn Road, the Public Comments period was dominated by the Sanctuary Cities issue. Which made the Council’s sole response to all of them, given by City Manager Andrew Powers, seem like a blunt snub. 

“Thousand Oaks has not declared itself a Sanctuary City. Thousand Oaks maintains a legislative platform with issues like immigration, illegal immigration, gun control and war are beyond the control of local government.” Powers went on to say that Police Chief Tim Hagel assured him that SB54 is not hindering Thousand Oaks Police from keeping the community safe. 

Bringing Zoning Laws for Cannabis Businesses Into Reality  

In November, 2017, a local ordinance was adopted which placed spacial boundaries between future cannabis businesses, such as marijuana dispensaries, and “sensitive use” areas, which include public and private schools, day care facilities, youth centers and residentially-zoned properties. But those spacial boundaries were based on parcel boundaries, not the actual location of the cannabis business. 

But with the large lots that some businesses have, and with some cannabis businesses being inside of other commercial buildings, the 600 feet of separation required could turn out to be a much larger distance in actual application, severely limiting where cannabis businesses could open.

Which brings us to Item 8 of the April 10, 2018 City Council Meeting – a Public Hearing to amend the previously established local ordinance on those spacial boundaries. The proposed fix includes three basic amendments: 

Amendment 1:  This changes the method of measuring the distance between properties from the property lines of both, instead from the front door of the cannabis business to the property line of the residential or other property. 

Amendment 2:  This removes “residentially zoned” areas from the spacial equations, and only counts “residentially used” areas to count toward the distance between properties. “Residentially zoned” areas often include vacant, open land. 

Amendment 3:  This Amendment allows the distance between properties to be less than 600 feet if they are separated by a freeway. 

After some passionate public speakers, generally in favor of local, legal cannabis and the easy access of it, the Council voted to pass the Amendment unanimously. 

The next Thousand Oaks City Council Meeting will be on Tuesday, April 24, 2018, at 6:00 pm. It will look at a possible business tax measure on cannabis, among other business. To access the meeting agenda, or to watch the video of the meeting, please go to the following URL, then scroll down and click on “City Council:” http://www.toaks.org/departments/city-manager-s-office/watch-totv/past-meeting-videos.


Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris is a reporter, editor and journalist, previous President of Cal State Northridge’s Society of Professional Journalists having worked for the LA Times and Newhall Signal. He is now also a Realtor and videographer, and lives with his two children in Thousand Oaks. 

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3 years ago

According to this article, the SB54 issue seems to be one that the people of Thousand Oaks care about more than any other right now, so the city council ought to consider it.

Kevin Harris
Kevin Harris
3 years ago

Hi William. Based on the response to the speakers at this meeting, I’d be surprised to see SB54 become an agenda item at a city council meeting. Perhaps I’m judging too quickly, but it seems that the council already responded to the issue and showed their feelings on the matter.

What I’m saying is, the Thousand Oaks City Council has no desire or intention of disobeying the Governor on SB54, and will not join any lawsuits in opposition to it.

BTW, it was nice meeting you a few weeks ago at the Citizens Journal event!

William Hicks
William Hicks
3 years ago

Thanks for your coverage of this meeting.

Dan Burris
Dan Burris
3 years ago

Well it appears that in Ventura County only the city of Camarillo may have been the lone city to oppose SB 54.

William Hicks
William Hicks
3 years ago
Reply to  Dan Burris

Maybe SB54 needs to be put on as a future agenda item.