Fivefold expansion of Kings Garden cannabis facility approved following debate over solar requirements

Approval of a major expansion of the Kings Garden marijuana grow operation on land inside the Palm Springs city limits nearly hit a solar snag Wednesday night.

The Palm Springs Planning Commission, in considering approval of a permit for a 175,000-square-foot expansion of the cultivation operation on 19th Avenue, debated whether to require Kings Garden’s owners to place solar panels on the property as a condition of that approval. They retreated from that position, however, after a company executive, pressed for a commitment to install solar panels, could only agree to exploring the option.

“Will I be willing to look into it? Absolutely, without a doubt,” Gary LaSalle, vice president of operations at Kings Garden, told commissioners. “I just don’t know how the economics will work out. … There’s a lot of legwork that needs to go into that before I can give you a yes or no.”

LaSalle knows a few things about that legwork. Prior to joining Kings Garden, the largest marijuana cultivator in the Coachella Valley, he owned LaSalle Solar Systems in Cathedral City for more than a decade. While he remains a proponent of the technology, he explained Wednesday evening that even if he were to cover all available space at the operation’s 9.4-acre lot with solar panels, the power produced would only be a fraction of what the larger facility would need.

“Can we put it on the roof? That’s not an option,” he said, as equipment required to operate the business, such as that used to eliminate odors, needs to be placed on the roof. “Can we put it in parking lots and on carport roofs? I can take a look.

“But you’re talking about $2 million to offset five percent of your energy use. It’s tough to squeeze.”

In the end, councilmembers voted 4-2 to move the project forward. They had earlier voted unanimously to merge six parcels at the property east of Interstate 10 into one — also a requirement to begin construction.

Related news: The city is hoping to help operations much smaller than Kings Garden enter the retail marijuana business in town, thanks to nearly $870,000 in state grant money. Applications for the city’s Equity Business Program were expected to open June 1. That opening came a bit later than expected, but as of last week it is in full swing. Interested parties who meet income requirements and other requirements can get more information on the city website here.

Any retail marijuana business that opens in Palm Springs will have plenty of company. As previously reported in The Post, two dozen dispensaries currently operate in the city, including a dozen along a three-mile stretch of Palm Canyon Drive. Unlike other cities in the state, Palm Springs does not appear to have placed a cap on the number of cannabis licenses it will issue. There is currently one license per every 2,100 residents — a higher density than any other city in California that allows retail marijuana sales.

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