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Wednesday, January 23 , 2019, 6:35 am | Fair 39º


Santa Barbara Man Launches Campaign to Block Milpas Street Medical Marijuana Dispensary

Pete Dal Bello says Lower Eastside doesn't want dispensary that city approved as one of three permitted under municipal regulations

Pete Dal Bello, standing in front of the future home of a pot shop approved for 118 N. Milpas St. in Santa Barbara, says he is not opposed to medical marijuana use but wants the dispensary located in the neighborhood near Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. “The city is disrespecting Milpas,”​ he says. “I am really concerned about the safety of the neighborhood.” Click to view larger
Pete Dal Bello, standing in front of the future home of a pot shop approved for 118 N. Milpas St. in Santa Barbara, says he is not opposed to medical marijuana use but wants the dispensary located in the neighborhood near Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital. “The city is disrespecting Milpas,”​ he says. “I am really concerned about the safety of the neighborhood.” (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

Pete Dal Bello is looking to block the opening of a medical marijuana dispensary on Santa Barbara’s Lower Eastside.

The city on Jan. 20 approved a marijuana dispensary at 118 N. Milpas St., but Dal Bello, 44, says the business should be located near Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, where most medical services are concentrated.

“The city is disrespecting Milpas,”​ Dal Bello told Noozhawk. “I am really concerned about the safety of the neighborhood.”

Dal Bello’s family owns a residential property on Juana Maria Street, a one-block street bookended by East Mason and East Yanonali streets and behind the planned dispensary.

He and his family also own a commercial building that is leased by a barber shop across Milpas from the dispensary. His uncle, Anthony Dal Bello, owns Anthony’s Christmas Trees nearby.

In addition to worries that crime will spike with a pot shop in the neighborhood, Dal Bello said there’s not enough parking available for that type of business. He said he often has to park several blocks away just to eat lunch at his favorite Mexican restaurant, Taqueria El Bajio​.

The dispensary applicant, Ryan Howe, declined to speak to Noozhawk when approached at the building site recently.

In a meeting with the city’s staff hearing officer, who approved the dispensary, Howe called the operation “a wellness and healing center.” He said the business, to be called Canopy, would serve five to 10 patients per hour.

Howe said at the meeting that there’s plenty of available parking on Milpas Street during the dispensary’s planned hours of operation, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily.

Santa Barbara cannabis dispensary regulations allow for up to three dispensaries. One other dispensary has received approval, in Ontare Plaza on Upper State Street in San Roque.

At the meeting, Howe said Canopy would pay for a neighborhood watch program to address any concerns about crime.

“Most of our employees will be biking or walking,” he said.

Dal Bello filed a 34-page appeal outlining his concerns, but he emphasized that he is not a medicinal marijuana opponent. He says he has seen firsthand the benefits of cannabis.

Born with a neurological disorder called Chiari malformation, Dal Bello used to suffer from a variety of symptoms, including neck pain, headaches, numbness, slurred speech and difficulty sleeping. After years of trying to find out what was wrong, his condition finally was diagnosed and he had brain and spinal surgery to relieve the pressure and pain. Today, he is president of the International Chiari Foundation.

“I see how medical marijuana can help people,” he said.

But a dispensary doesn’t belong on Milpas Street, he said.

“This is just a black eye on the neighborhood,” said Dal Bello, who wants to run for City Council next year in District 4, which spans the Riviera, the Upper Eastside and much of San Roque.

Nearby Lower Eastside resident Rebecca Gutierrez said  she opposes the dispensary.

“My concern is that the location is not appropriate for the amount of pedestrian and vehicle traffic that would be added,” she said at the Jan. 20 meeting.

She also noted that children walk in front of the dispensary building to get to Franklin School, three blocks away.

“We are heavily impacted as a residential neighborhood because of the businesses on Milpas Street,” Gutierrez said. “It is something that is getting worse.”

For Dal Bello, the Lower Eastside is a special place. He said he learned his love for reading at the Eastside Branch Library and other young people today deserve safety on Milpas Street.

“There are too many young kids around here,” Dal Bello said, standing in front of the dispensary building. “The Eastside is always forgotten.”

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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