Cash-for-gold businesses may soon see tougher rules as Richmond officials mull over a proposal that would give them more authority to regulate the dealers.
City planners are drafting an ordinance amendment to establish new zoning regulations for the specialty businesses that offer customers cash in exchange for selling their gold. Once complete, the Planning Commission and City Council will decide whether to approve the zoning amendments.
The updated zoning rules come after a 45-day moratorium the city council passed in June and extended in July that prohibited any new permits for cash-for-gold businesses. The city’s Planning Commission requested the moratorium to study the way other cities regulate such establishments. Nearby San Pablo passed its own moratorium in April.
The Planning Department has received a surge in inquiries from potential gold buyer, city planners said. And while the state has rules regulating such secondhand businesses, Richmond has no specific guidelines in any of its land use policies.
At last Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting, Commissioner Andrew Butt said the issue does warrant regulation and neighborhoods should be allowed say if this business will go in and how it will operate.
“I think it’s a good idea to at least try and stem some of the onslaught of these businesses that in my mind are an eyesore,” he said.
City planners have expressed concern over these types of businesses and the negative stigma they can bring to a community. Police officers say such establishments could increase criminal activity, giving thieves an easy way to make money off stolen jewelry.
Lt. Louie Tirona, criminal investigations commander with the Richmond Police Department, said while the city saw a five-percent decrease in robberies the past three months, it’s difficult to speculate if it’s related to the moratorium.
“If more businesses are allowed to operate, it really becomes a matter of us staying on top of them and them complying with the regulations already in existence,” he said.
The city has closed one cash-for-gold business because it falsified its application saying it was only selling jewelry, but it was actually buying gold at the location, said Jonelyn Whales, a senior planner.
Under California law, cash-for-gold dealers are already required to turn over transition records to police and wait 30 days before melting the gold. State law also requires that customers are fingerprinted and identification from the seller is photographed, all rules that Siddiqi Hansoti, who owns Cash 4 Gold in Hilltop Mall, says his store already follows.
As more people fall on bad times, he said, they begin to rely more on such establishments to get out of a financial pinch.
“There are so many ways these businesses help the public,” he said. “When my customers can’t pay the rent or buy food, they need to sell their gold.”
Hansoti, who also owns cash-for-gold businesses in Santa Rosa and Fremont, has concerns the new regulations could affect his business.
“I want to cooperate with the police department, the city and the public,” he said. “I don’t want to lose my business, but I will follow the rules.”