Council to Define Term‘Youth Center’

Some claim this skirts the law to facilitate the cannabis industry

At its Tuesday, Nov. 27, meeting the City Council was scheduled to introduce an ordinance that would modify the definition of a youth center. If approved by the Council, this would exclude facilities that offer martial arts and combat sports, cultural education and physical-fitness activities. In the first instance, the staff report states that a member of the public has questioned whether a martial arts studio would fall under the definition of a youth center. 

Staff points out that under state law, a youth center’s current definition requires that the facility’s primary use is hosting recreational or social activities for minors. Current state law currently limits the definition of youth centers as:

  • Private youth membership organizations or clubs
  • Social service teenage clubs
  • Video arcades, or similar amusement park facilities
  • Any facility that the Alameda Recreation and Parks Department deems a recreation center in a city park. 

Because they do not fall in any of the above categories, city staff recommends specifically excluding martial arts studios (and other related businesses) from the definition of a youth center. 

 At the heart of this debate lies the location of cannabis dispensaries within 1,000 feet of facilities the city defines as youth centers. Staff is recommending that the City Council refine the definition of these youth centers. First, staff says that these centers must exclusively cater to minors, those under the age of 18. Secondly, the definition of a youth center should exclude uses involving, among others, martial arts or combat sports. 

Opposition to redefining youth centers in Alameda has begun to organize. In a letter shared with the Alameda Sun, Serena Chen rhetorically asks, “When is a youth center not a youth center?”

“When the city wants to allow a pot shop next door,” she answers. Chen points out that, “The current ordinance requires that storefront dispensaries must not be located within 1,000 feet of K-12 schools, child care centers and youth centers.” She states in her letter that this “buffer zone has since become challenging for potential marijuana storefronts to identify appropriate locations.”

She claims that the city is changing the youth center definition to facilitate the establishment of a cannabis dispensary on Webster Street next to a martial arts school, the International Chi Institute.  She also points out that the proposed dispensary would do business less than 1,000 feet from a place of worship, the Quba Mosque.

Chen points out that she is not against marijuana businesses locating to Alameda, but wants the same protections for children provided to the more “mainstream” youth facilities.