2001 Pirelli

A large medical cannabis facility could soon fill the vacant space inside the former Pirelli tire plant in Kings Industrial Park south of Houston Avenue.

HANFORD – Now that the Hanford City Council seems willing to accommodate them, more and more medical pot-related businesses are expressing a desire to come to Hanford's industrial park.

The latest entrant is Southern California-based Genezen LLC, formerly known as Hanford Gardens.

Genezen has submitted an informal proposal to city leaders to put 1.65 million square feet of medical cannabis growing and processing operations in a vacant space in the industrial park.

The park, south of Houston Avenue in city limits, has struggled to find tenants in recent years.

As a bonus, Genezen is vowing to renovate the Bastille in downtown Hanford and convert it into a microbrewery or a steak restaurant.

Genezen officials, who haven't appeared at a City Council meeting yet to explain the idea to council members, couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

The other company that is pushing strongly for a Hanford location is Caliva, an established San Jose-based cultivation, processing, manufacturing and distribution operation.

Caliva wants to shift all of those operations to Hanford in a 400,000-square-foot site.

The only thing the company would keep in the Bay Area is corporate offices.

Now it also appears that Purple Heart Patient Center, an Oakland-based business that expressed interest in Hanford last year but backed out in March, is once again considering Hanford.

Hanford Community Development Director Darlene Mata said she received an email from a Purple Heart official "several weeks ago" indicating that the company may reconsider a Hanford site.

Mata said she hasn't heard from them since.

Keith Stephenson, Purple Heart's owner, couldn't be immediately reached for comment.

Caliva has committed to reimbursing the city for all costs, such as additional police officers and background checks, that would be associated with its Hanford site.

Tuesday night, the City Council will consider entering into a similar agreement with Genezen.

The agreement would require Genezen to put down a $50,000 deposit.

Under the arrangement, Genezen would also pay for city costs associated with preparing a permit and doing an environmental impact report.

Mata said Genezen and Caliva could end up splitting the cost of updating the city's ordinance to allow medical cannabis operations in the city.

Currently no commercial medical marijuana cultivation or sales are permitted.

A firm contracting with the city is working on the update.

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Genezen may also end up helping the city to prepare a medical cannabis tax ballot measure that Hanford residents would vote on in November 2018.

Caliva has already pledged its support for the measure.

If it passes, the measure would collect taxes from medical pot businesses in Hanford.

The city could use the revenue to do things such as build a new police station to replace the current one, which has termite problems and needs a new roof.

Mata said two additional medical pot businesses smaller than Caliva and Genezen have also shown interest in coming to town.

Mata said the two haven't committed to any cost sharing arrangements.

Mata said that once the ordinance is changed to allow for such businesses in Hanford – a process she hopes will be finished before the end of the year – it's likely than many other smaller medical pot firms will come calling.

Hanford is an attractive site because it is roughly halfway between the Bay Area and Southern California.

Mata said after some other cities adopted similar ordinances, "literally every parcel of land with the potential to be developed was snagged."

One such city is nearby Coalinga.

When Coalinga updated its ordinance last year, medical pot business proposals poured in for every vacant building and/or piece of property in Coalinga's industrial park.

Once Hanford changes its ordinance, city planning officials will open up the application period for businesses interested in coming.

That's when Mata expects the floodgates to open.

"I think that as soon as the ordinance is adopted, if there are any smaller spaces out there available, we will get more companies coming in," she said.

John Lehn, president of Kings Economic Development Corp., said the former Pirelli Tire plant, a cavernous 1 million-square-foot building in the industrial park, is "underutilized."

There are some storage/distribution operations in the facility, but Lehn said that a manufacturing-type business, such as what Caliva is proposing, typically brings more jobs, and higher-paying jobs, than storage/distribution businesses.

"If there's a higher, better use, we're always looking for that," he said.

Caliva has said its site could generate 400 to 600 jobs averaging $17.50 an hour at full build out.

"We are always interested in good-paying jobs," Lehn said.

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The reporter can be reached at snidever@hanfordsentinel.com or 583-2432. 

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