BERKELEY -- For as long as anyone in the neighborhood can remember the lot at 2366 San Pablo Avenue has been an empty eyesore, one of many lining the street with chain-link fences, barbed wire and weeds.

That is changing as work has begun to spruce up the 14,000 square foot lot and dilapidated 1,200 square foot building, but in this case the progress could come with the smell of marijuana controversy.

Berkeley Patients Group, the city's largest medical marijuana dispensary which industry insiders say sold about $15 million in weed a year before being forced to close by the federal government May 1, is relocating to this spot.

Letters from the U.S. Attorneys office in San Francisco to the previous landlord of the group down the street at 2747 San Pablo Avenue threatened him with seizure of his property because the dispensary was too close to two schools. So he evicted them.

No opening date has been set at the new site and officials from Berkeley Patients Group refused to go on record about their plans.

The owner of the new property said she is not worried about threats from the federal government for renting to a medical marijuana outlet.

"Our property is not close to any school," said Nahla Droubi, of Moraga, who has owned the lot for 10 years. "The previous landlord had a very good experience with this group. He said they were very organized, and most important thing is they had no violations and great security."


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Droubi said she also talked to the Berkeley Police Department, the city attorney and neighboring landlords at the group's previous site down the street "and I heard they had no problems."

Berkeley's law governing medical marijuana dispensaries says none can be closer than 600 feet to any public or private school. Berkeley Patient's Group's new location is just over 1,000 feet from two schools: Rosa Parks Elementary School and Nia House Learning Center.

Berkeley Patients Group previously was directly across the street from a school, but it was allowed to stay because it was established before Berkeley wrote its rules.

Business owners next to the new site for the dispensary are divided over whether it's a good place for medical marijuana sales.

Herb Permillion, owner of a typewriter repair shop next door called California Office Machines, said he's glad to see the lot being fixed up after being empty for at least 25 years.

"It's good to see a business in that place because its been dead for a quarter century," Permillion said. "I might have a concern about parking. Right now there is room on the street, but if they have a big overflow crowd, it could be tricky."

But the owner of an auto repair shop on the other side of the lot, who asked not to be identified, doesn't like the idea of marijuana sales so close to Rosa Parks Elementary School, and he believes it will attract "riffraff" to the neighborhood.

Berkeley Patients Group did issue a two-page statement on their relocation, saying in part that the site has "ample on-site parking" and they will provide on-site security guards 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

"Suspicious activity will be monitored and recorded," the statement said. "Evidence of criminal activity will be reported to the proper authorities."

Doug Oakley covers Berkeley. Contact him at 510-843-1408. Follow him at Twitter.com/douglasoakley.