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April 28, 2011

DHS City Council - April 19

Mayor Parks introduced the Youth Council representative, sitting at the dais for the first time, Yvette Rodriguez.

New Police Officer

Chief Williams came forward to introduce, pin and swear in Matthew Gomez, who comes to us from Colton, California. He has three years experience and is a qualified motor officer.

Officer Matthew Gomez & Chief Williams (1716)
Officer Matthew Gomez and Chief Williams

Officer Matthew Gomez and family (1721)
Officer Gomez and his family

New Police Canine

Chief Williams invited Rick Teisan, President of Noon Rotary to come forward. The Chief presented him with a plaque in appreciation for Rotary raising $5,000 to help pay for the cost of acquiring and training the new police dog.

Bruce Montgomery, Rick Teisan, Chief Pat Williams (1729)
Rick Teisan and Chief Williams at the podium, Bruce Montgomery in the foreground.

He than called on Joddi DeMarco to come up. She is the principal at the DHS Alternative Education Center. Name nominations for the new police canine were solicited from throughout the PSUSD. The winning name, Zeus, came from the Alternative Education Center.

Then Chief Williams introduced Zeus whose handler is Miguel Preciado.
Zeus (1742)

Zeus is cross-trained in being a patrol dog and narcotics detection. Chief Williams had a standard-sized police badge, which he placed around Zeus's neck. He said there is also a smaller badge that will be easier for Zeus to wear on an everyday basis.

Public Safety Commission Report

Chair Russ Martin gave this report. Public Safety Commission meetings are at 6 PM on the second Thursday of every month at the Carl May Center. It's the one opportunity where you'll find the Chief of Police, Fire Chief, head of Code Enforcement and an Animal Control representative all in one room and available to answer questions.

The commission has dealt with Safe Routes To Schools, including Verbena and Hacienda. They have also dealt with issues of graffiti, illegal signs, infrastructure repair and maintenance, illegal dumping, aggressive panhandling and blighted houses and businesses. They made recommendations to reduce the speed limit in front of Cabot's and to increase traffic enforcement on Palm Drive. They have taken testimony on the Governor's plan to shift parole to local levels. They've also discussed the fire services study.

RDA Land Acquisitions

Rudy Acosta provided this update. He had two maps for us.
RDA Acquired Parcels 2007-2011
RDA Acquired Parcels 2007-2011 (click for full size 2.9 MB scan).
This first one shows all the properties the redevelopment agency currently owns. Each parcel is identified by APN and a color code. The majority are yellow which means the purchase was funded with bond proceeds. Orange is tax default. Red means "RDA housing funded." And blue are non-housing funded. There's one green parcel, the business owned by Mayor Pro Tem Betts, and there's a red line around it showing the 500 foot buffer that is used to determine potential conflicts of interest when the city council/redevelopment agency is voting.

The map includes a list of all the parcels, their square footage and purchase price. This makes it fairly simple to do a cost comparison like I've done below, where I've calculated the price per square foot for some of the properties around Palm & Pierson. Of course, square footage is only one of many things that go into determining land value.

PlacePurchase PriceLot Size (sf)Cost/sf
12063-12105 Palm Drive$1,649,22721,355$77.23
66459 Pierson (tool shop)$450,0006,534$68.87
Grandpa Bill's$280,6057,566$37.09
Hart Building$1,114,20541,634$26.76
Builder Supply & Save A Lot$2,200,00087,556$25.13
B of A site$700,00036,155$19.36
Nick Sargent's$100,6806,500$15.49

The price for the Temple becomes $37.82/sf if you include the $50,000 demo, but I don't have the figures for the expense of demolition or upgrades (as at the Hart Building/Visitor Center) for all the parcels, so the fairest thing is to compare just the purchase prices.

Councilmember Baker asked if the RDA would be reimbursed by Borrego Community Health Care for the cost of the Temple. Rick Daniels said they would. They will either pay us in a lump sum or pay it over 20 years. They have received a $7.9 million grant for the clinic and they are allowed to include the cost of property in their rate base. The RDA will be made whole.

NRP NSP Properties Map
NRP/NSP Properties Map (click for full size 2.1 MB scan).
NRP properties (homes where the owner resides) are in blue. NSP properties (foreclosures being fixed up by the RDA for resale) are in red. First-time buyers get highest priority, but the NSP program is not limited to first-time buyers. The buyer does have to qualify as moderate income or lower, and the homes have to become owner-occupied.

Until recently there was a 9 to 11 month waiting list for NRP. They are looking at the most cost-effective strategy to speed up the process. For instance, they might bundle up to five NRP homes that are close to each other into one contract for approval by the RDA Board (the City Council). They want to get the wait down to no more than 90 days.

In NRP the resident homeowner can get a loan of up to $15,000 for home improvements, which becomes a tax lien on the home. The loan is forgiven at the rate of 20% per year, so long as the owner continues to live in the home. After five years, the loan is completely forgiven. Goes away. It's as close to free money as any little guy can get. In addition to the $15,000 the owner may also be eligible for another $5,000 loan on the same terms for landscaping. Energy efficiency, beautification, code compliance and safety are goals of the program. The ultimate-ultimate goal is to raise property values, which will raise revenue to the RDA.

Rudy Acosta said that $3 million from the RDA bond sales has been allocated strictly for NRP. A family of four with an annual income of $78,000 or less could qualify. The actual amount varies with family size. As Rick Daniels summarized it at the recent RDA Amendment meetings: 95% of the residents of Desert Hot Springs would meet the income guidelines.

Public Comments

Dot Reed reminded us that Thursday night, April 28, is the last Historical Society Soup Supper of the season. It's at 6 PM in the Lozano Center. Cost is $15, which includes soup, salad and bread. The speaker will be Pastor Bruce Montgomery.

George Fisher talked about CERT training which will be May 6, 7 and 8. It's open to all residents of Desert Hot Springs. Applications are available at the Chamber office. CERT class gives you skills to help your neighbors in an earthquake, fire or flood. It also includes information on how to reduce risk. 90% of earthquake victims are saved by other victims.

Also the Vietnam Moving Memorial Wall will come to DHS October 13 through 17 at Cabot's. It will not return to the Coachella Valley for three years after this.

May 30 will be a Memorial Day celebration in Veterans' Park. The DHS High School band will be performing.

Camille Linde reported on the Blind Canyon clean-up. It was a wonderful success. There was a monster tractor. Fourteen people showed up to help. A week's worth of work was accomplished in 3 hours. She thanked Rick Daniels for helping to arrange for materials. She thanked the City of Desert Hot Springs for providing shovels, wheelbarrows, and other equipment and supplies. She said the city employees showed great professionalism and expertise. She thanked Mission Springs Water District for providing access. She also thanked Desert Valley Disposal for providing two dumpsters. One huge dumpster was filled to overflowing. The smaller dumpster was filled with tires. BLM provided snacks and taxi service. The volunteers were Bryce Alden, Eric Becht, Bob Dominguez, George Fisher, Ron Gilbert, Carol and Jim Nolan, Francine and Greg Powell, and Mary who provided a feast. Blind Canyon is now 95% to 97% clean she said. A bit more remains to be done, but it is do-able.

Yolanda Rustad provided information about plans for Earth Day at Aqua Soleil on Saturday including the film festival and concert. Sponsors include DVD and Bacardi. She thanked city staff for all their support.

Dean Gray said that the Desert Valley Star had received a grant from the American Advertising Federation and they are using that grant to put to work a DHS High School student in their graphics department. So far they've helped more than 18 interns from six different schools. The newspaper is three years old and rents an office here in town. Public notices are published in the paper. In the Desert Sun, he said, on March 30 the city published a public notice. He said the Desert Valley Star's adjudication papers give them the same rights and privileges as the Desert Sun in this matter.

At this point Attorney Duran interrupted. He said comments are limited to the business of the city as a government. He asked Mr. Gray if he was trying to advertise the paper. Mr. Gray responded, "Well, I would like to know of Dot Reed can come up here and talk about the Soup Supper, is that the business of city government?" Attorney Duran explained that the Soup Supper is a community event that does affect the civic affairs of the city. Mayor Parks said we try to avoid anyone using the public comment period to try to sell their business "and you're treading very close to trying to sell the Valley Star to the City of Desert Hot Springs and this council." She encouraged him to continue, but to avoid discussion of public notices. Mr. Gray interrupted the Mayor saying "The business of the city does publish public notices." He wanted to bring a way to save money to the attention of the city. The line rate for that same ad in the Desert Valley Star would be $365. In the Desert Sun it was $505. By supporting the local newspaper, the city would save money, he said.

Marbella Villa Apartments

The Marbella Villa Apartments will be located generally northwest of Palm Drive and Camino Campañero, wrapping around the north and west sides of the small mobile home park that is directly at the intersection. The developers are requesting a second one-year extension for their development permit. This had already been approved by the Planning Commission and staff recommended approval of the extension.

The development will be age restricted and have 398 units.

Councilmember Baker asked the attorney if the purpose of tonight's action was strictly to continue the permit. He asked if it was not permitted to discuss the relevance of the project or of imposed requirements. Attorney Duran said the council could impose additional requirements when granting the extension.

Tom Hile came up to comment. He owns Mission Lake Realty and several rentals around town. He is normally pro-growth, but because of the economy he doesn't like to see large projects progressing. 52% of the housing in DHS is rental. He said the city has said it wants to change that percentage (to a lower one, I presume). To maintain the balance of single-family homes, there would have to be 398 single-family homes built and sold. He stopped buying in 2003, but even so he is upside-down on all of his properties. He has been forced to get rid of properties by giving them away, foreclosures or short sales. The subsidized Hacienda project went on the market with 2-bedroom, 2-bath, 2-car garage apartments at $625 [with a view to boot], he lost three tenants. Older properties in reasonably good condition are struggling. Vacancy rates are high. Less desirable tenants are being accepted. It's not fair to stop owners from building what their property is zoned for, but every time you approve something like this, other owners will lose buildings to foreclosures.

Tim Radigan-Brophy spoke as President of the Property Owners Association. The association represents ownership of more than 2,600 units in "this area." They object to the project. Its size and scope are the biggest object, adding a huge number of units to the market. In some areas the vacancy rate tops 20%. This will lead to further foreclosures. The developer says the project will be funded privately. Mr. Radigan-Brophy said that is disingenuous. "The subsidies are, perhaps, not now, but they will in the future be a foregone conclusion in order to provide cash flow to service the debt." He envisions only a portion of the development will be age-restricted because economic reality will not permit that. The project does nothing to further the city council's mandate, he said, to move the city away from renters to homeowners. "This is a policy advocated by the city's own economic advisor." He said that it is a great compliment to him when one of his renters moves out because they have been able to save enough money to buy a home.

Now, what you had there was two businessmen coming to the city council asking them to kill their competition solely because it is competition. Imagine how we might react if, when the Wal-Mart development permit comes up for a vote, the manager of the K-Mart store asked that Wal-Mart be denied the right to develop their property because K-Mart would probably lose customers to them. We might tell K-Mart that if they made their store more attractive than a Wal-Mart, their business might even increase. Yes, Mr. Hile and Mr. Radigan-Brophy prefer free market capitalism for the other guy, but would themselves like to be protected by government from competition.

Jessica Music of the KTGY group, the architecture firm that worked on the project came up to introduce herself. She is an architect, but couldn't answer any questions about feasibility or funding. She represents Cathay Bank, the current owner.

Mayor Parks clarified that a bank owns it now, so it has evidently gone into foreclosure, and the bank wants to keep the permits because it makes the property more valuable. If the project became other than age-restricted in the future, would they have to come back to the Planning Commission, the Mayor asked. City Manager Daniels and then Martín Magaña said that yes, since age-restriction is included in the conditions of approval, any change in that would have to come back to the public hearing process: the Planning Commission and then the City Council, for approval.

Councilmember Pye said she understood the council needed to weigh whether an extension is warranted. The applicant stated the grounds for the extension were "economic conditions." Yet, Cathay Bank sent a representative who stated she is unable to answer questions related to economic conditions. Ms. Pye said she could not assume what economic conditions Cathay Bank referred to, so the applicant had not proven a need for an extension.

Councilmember Baker agreed, saying he was flummoxed that an institution as big as Cathay Bank was financially challenged.

He said he was curious about the comment saying the council has a policy of changing DHS from a city of renters to a city of homeowners. While he would like to see that personally, but does or can the city have any kind of restriction on rental units being built. The attorney answered that the city cannot limit rentals directly. Cities can use their zoning power to limit high-density housing, which tends to be= rental property. But the city cannot tell a property owner that he cannot rent out his property. It's a basic, fundamental property right to rent your property.

The project conforms to the general plan and did not require any general plan amendment.

In answer to another question from Mr. Baker, Attorney Duran said the city code requires the applicant to "show good cause" to get an extension.

Mr. Magaña said that he had had a conversation earlier in the day with a representative of Cathay Bank who said the bank wants to sell it with entitlements. But they are having difficulty finding a buyer. Mayor Parks asked if Cathay was not in a position to finance the project for a new developer. Mr. Magaña said he would be speculating to answer that.

Mr. Daniels said that Cathay was notified of the hearing and had the opportunity to show up and make their case. The fact that the architect was present was evidence that they were aware of the hearing.

Mayor Pro Tem betts said the city council had a free hand to re-evaluate the entitlements for this project. He asked if there was an opportunity to send this back to the Planning Commission. Attorney Duran said it has already gone to Planning Commission.

Councilmember Matas asked about the possibility of negotiating additional infrastructure improvements from the applicant in return for the extension. Mr. Magaña said additional conditions for infrastructure improvements were put on the permit by the Planning Commission.

Councilmember Baker moved to deny the request. The second came from Councilmember Pye. Approved 5-0.

Name Change For Coyote Park

This was a proposal to rename Coyote Park "Rotary Park" to honor Jack Webb and his significant contributions to the community. The request for this came from the Rotary Club. Councilmember Karl Baker asked if the four city councilmembers who are members of Rotary had to recuse themselves. Attorney Duran explained that since they have no financial interest in Rotary, and they cannot benefit financially from this, then there is no potential conflict of interest, and no one need recuse themselves.

Mayor Parks noted that the Rotary said they would affix a plaque to the water fountain and pledged to repair or replace the fountain if it were damaged. She asked if Rotary would be willing to actually maintain the water fountain and plaque. Rick Tyson promised that Rotary would maintain the fountain and plaque.

Councilmember Matas said it had been reviewed and approved by the Parks Committee. He suggested that the plaque should say "Desert Hot Springs Noon Rotary." Mr. Tyson said it was a great idea, but the plaque had already been ordered.

Mr. Tyson said that Jack Webb and Rotary built the trails in the park initially in the 1980s.

Councilmember Baker said that Jack Webb is one of the unsung heroes of the city. He said that when the city received a grant to put in new trees on Palm north of Pierson, but then had no money to water them, it was Jack who showed up with buckets of water to keep the trees alive.

Approved 5-0.

Festival Advisory Committee

At the time of this meeting there were 32 people who had indicated interest in working on the Festival Advisory Committee. Their brief bios were in the agenda packet. Councilmember Pye prepared a grid to make it easier to tally the votes for each candidate.

Councilmember Baker moved that the Festival Committee be made up of seven individuals. One of them would be chosen by CCAC. Another would come from the Hoteliers. The other five would be chosen by the city council, who first would narrow the list down to 10. Then they would winnow it to five. Mayor Parks said she would like to interview the finalists in person.

Approved 5-0.

Consent Calendar

Three items approved 5-0 without discussion:

  • Desert Hot Springs had the use of two Cathedral City police officers and one records supervisor. We reimbursed Cathedral City for their salary. Due to overtime, their costs exceeded the previously approved amount of $450,000 by $22,082. This was an approval to pay that $22,082 to Cathedral City.
  • Authorize the City Manager to negotiate a construction agreement with Doug Wall Construction for an amount not to exceed $119,000 to renovate Carl May. Doug Wall was the lowest bidder, but his bid came in at $197,072.
  • To reject the bids for construction of the Health & Wellness Center and solicit new bids. Some of the bids received had discrepancies and errors, and rebidding will allow the bidders to correct them.

Purchase Of 4 Parcels On Pierson

The properties were originally listed at $440,000. Staff negotiated a price of $375,000. Cliff's Garage is one of the parcels. The seller is required to demolish the garage before the sale is complete.

Marilyn Heidrick came forward with a comment. She said that for the entire 15 years she has lived here, that's been a derelict property. She wondered if comps had been obtained for properties other than those already purchased by the city. She wondered if the RDA would be the biggest landholder in the town. She wondered what happened to the emphasis on getting property around Palm & Pierson. "Why here down by West Drive?"

Rudy Acosta said that appraisals on parcels this size have been running from $80,000 to as much as $140,000 each. This purchase involves four parcels, averaging $93,750 each. Four adjacent parcels have additional value because they are adjacent. City Manager Daniels said the goal had been to assemble the properties and then put them in clusters and sell them to investors.

Mayor Pro Tem Betts predicted that in five or ten years, the lots would still be in city ownership. He thinks $375,000 is too much. He asked about the possibility of hazardous substances in the garage and whether that had been checked into. He did not wait for an answer. He said the city should wait until a developer comes along and asks the city to buy up parcels for a development.

Councilmember Matas said that the city council had set a goal to combine parcels in the Vortex zone so that when the economy is right, developers would come to the city.

Approved 4-1 with Mayor Pro Tem Betts voting against.


Mayor Parks attended the Volunteer Hero Awards in the Moreno Valley conference center. Much to her surprise when she saw George Fisher's name listed as a recipient. Unfortunately, no one thought to notify Mr. Fisher or the Chamber of Commerce, who nominated him. So the city will present the award to him at the May 3 City Council meeting.

Mayor Pro Tem Betts asked if there is a reason the city is not taking advantage of less expensive legal ads. City Manager Daniels answered that "the certifications raised tonight aren't what they appear to be." The newspaper needs to be certified for the city and it needs to meet standards for, in the particular cited instance, CDBG. Also, the city council has designated the Desert Sun as the newspaper of general circulation.

Councilmember Pye said that the meetings Economic Development Committee are open to the public. Anyone who wants to participate at whatever level they choose.

Ms. Pye attended the PSUSD Superintendent's Parade. It's a parade of ROTC cadets. This was the 9th annual parade, and the 9th year that DHS High School won the award for "Pass And Review." DHSHS also won the superintendent's award.

City Manager Daniels said there are continuing problems of vandalism in the restrooms at Wardman and Mission Springs Park.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 28, 2011 at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

Golf Practice In The Mecca Hills

Filed under Coachella Valley | permalink | April 28, 2011 at 08:30 PM | Comments (0)

Taco Bell Tacos Open "Third Eye"

In Morrow, Georgia.:

The police report says [Harlan] Porter had been behaving unusually. Teachers told police that he was a vegan who'd sworn off soft drinks, yet he'd gone to Taco Bell for tacos in the hours before he stripped.

The arresting officer wrote in the incident report that Porter spoke of a "new level of enlightenment" and said "he wanted everybody to be free now that his third eye was open."

"I then explained the obvious problem with his third eye being opened in public," the officer wrote. "He readily agreed that his decision to remove his clothing posed a problem and stated that he understood why I would likely have to place him under arrest."

| permalink | April 28, 2011 at 11:28 AM | Comments (0)

More Flowers

Flowers (1754)

Cereus Bloom (1764)

Cactus Flowers (1752)

Cactus Flowers (1749)

Filed under Cactus,Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Photography | permalink | April 28, 2011 at 11:04 AM | Comments (0)

Riverside County Redistricting Hearing

I attended last night's Special Meeting of "the Redistricting Steering Committee 2011" at the Carl May Center. The audio recording is here, if you want it, but I assure you there was no excitement. Barely more than handful of people showed up. Three people commented, including Mayor Yvonne Parks. Her concern is that as soon as Desert Hot Springs annexes our sphere of influence that is south of Pierson, going west to highway 62, the city will be split over two supervisorial districts. The committee members explained that they would look at that again, but there are enough people living in that area that if they adjust the lines, the fourth and fifth districts get too far away from the ideal of one-man-one-vote. The U.S. Supreme Court allows a variance of up to 10% in districts for local government, but the goal for these supervisor districts is to get them within 2.5%.

The area of concern is roughly the rectangle I've colored salmon on the map below:
Riverside County Supervisorial 2011 DHS Redistricting Proposal (SOI highlighted)

Below is a photo of that portion of the map displayed at the Carl May last night.
DHS Detail on proposed supervisorial redistricting map (1763)

They had plastic in front of it, so that's why all the glare and reflection. But you should be able to make out the important thing, which is those small numbers on the map. Those are the populations of census blocks. On the right, the population of 6,565 appears to be for the area north of Dillon, west of Little Morongo, east of Indian and south of Pierson (I'm not sure of that northern boundary). 6,565 people there?! Amazing. But even more amazing is the population of 4,876 for the block west of that where I wouldn't have guessed there were more than a dozen homes. That's the area south of Pierson, north of Dillon, west of Indian, east of 62. My hat is off to the U.S. Census for finding 4,876 people there.

Here's the Desert Sun story on the meeting.

Some on the committee seemed quite proud of the growth of Riverside County in the last 10 years. Population rose by 644,000, the greatest figure for any county in California. That number exceeds the combined totals for growth in Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties, which were ranked numbers 2 and 3 in terms of population growth. We were told that fact twice. Some areas of the county experienced population growth as high as 1,100%. Ten years of growth, city creation and annexation left many cities divided across supervisorial boundaries. This first proposed redistricting map, which has a few undecided areas, leaves no city split except for the City of Riverside itself. Of course, within a couple of years more annexation by cities will change that.

The committee will settle on a final proposal and turn that over to the Supervisors, who must hold two public hearings on it. If all goes smoothly, they could give final approval in late July. If they haven't approved a new map by November 1, then the task goes to a committee of three county-wide officers.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 28, 2011 at 10:23 AM | Comments (0)

Pacific Crest Trail Hikers Rescued

Even as the weather becomes more fair, Mt. San Jacinto remains potentially dangerous, if you make the right mistakes:

Press Release: Search and Rescue / Stranded Hikers
Agency: Cabazon Station
Station Area: Cabazon
Incident Date: Wednesday, April 26, 2011 Time: 6:30 PM
Incident Location: Mount San Jacinto Wilderness, Snowcreek Drainage
Reporting Officer: Sergeant Al Meservey


On Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at about 6:30 PM, Cabazon Station deputies responded to the Snowcreek community west of Palm Springs regarding two hikers stranded in the Mount San Jacinto Wilderness area.

Two hikers, identified as 19-year-old Derek Calvano of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and 20-year-old Christopher Simmons of Greenfield, California, called 911 reporting they were without water and were disoriented.

The young men were traveling north along the Pacific Crest Trail, beginning in Tijuana, Mexico, with a goal of reaching the Canadian border. During the hike, the hikers encountered heavy vegetation where they became disoriented and wandered off the trail. The hikers found themselves at the base of the wilderness where they encountered rugged terrain and sheer drop-offs. The pair had limited provisions, but had run out of water. The hikers were able to call 911 by cellular phone and summoned help. One of the hikers fell down a 20 foot drop-off where he became stranded, but was uninjured.

The good weather conditions, coupled with the hiker’s limited provisions, allowed for Riverside Mountain Rescue Unit (RMRU) specialists and Sheriff’s Emergency Response Team (SERT) personnel to provide overnight instruction to the men with direction that they shelter in place.

On Wednesday, April 27, 2011, at about 8:00 AM, a Sheriff’s Department helicopter was mobilized with RMRU. After a quick search, the hikers were located in a remote area of Mount San Jacinto at about the 2,500 ft level. RMRU members were able to hike to their location and escort them down the trail. The pair sustained minor bumps, scratches, and minor dehydration, but did not require medical attention.

The Riverside County Sheriff’s Department would like to remind hiking enthusiasts to carry proper equipment for any outdoor excursion. Proper preparedness includes a well thought-out travel plan shared with friends and family, as well as familiarity with common hiking equipment, such as GPS, maps and compasses. RMRU offers several helpful, lifesaving tips at their website (www.rmru.org). Anyone with information regarding this incident is encouraged to contact the Cabazon Sheriff’s Station at (951) 922-7100 or at cabazonstation@riversidesheriff.org

Filed under Coachella Valley | permalink | April 28, 2011 at 09:29 AM | Comments (0)

April 27, 2011

Shots Fired This Morning


INCIDENT: Shooting from Vehicle, Suspect and Vehicle Outstanding

DATE/TIME OF INCIDENT: April 27, 2011, 09:50 AM

LOCATION: Area of the 13800 Blk Verbena, DHS

SUSPECT: Male Hispanic, late teens, short brown hair, tattoos covering one of his arms

SUSPECT VEH: Black Mercedes Benz, Late Model (NFD) [No Further Description?]

CHARGES: Shooting from a Vehicle


This morning DHS PD responded to a shooting in the area of the 13800 block of Verbena Drive. It was reported that several shots were fired from a vehicle, possibly in the direction of a group of people. No one was hit. The shooter was described as a Hispanic male adult, in his late teens, with short brown hair and tattoos on one of his arms. The shooter was one of an unknown number of occupants of a late model black Mercedes which was last seen headed eastbound on Two Bunch Palms Trail. We have been unable to locate this vehicle.

The circumstances leading up to this incident are being investigated. No one is in custody. Anyone with any information about this incident is being asked to call the DHS Police Department 760-329-6411 x315.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 27, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Comments (0)

New Rail Express From San Bernardino to L.A.

Starting May 9, Metrolink will be adding an express train to its San Bernardino service. In the morning the train will depart San Bernardino at 5:45, stopping only in Rancho Cucamonga and Covina before arriving in L.A. at 6:45 AM. The return express leaves Union Station at 5:15 PM and arrives in San Bernardino at 6:20 PM, after stopping in Covina and Rancho Cucamonga.

In addition, Metrolink is adding four more trains to the San Bernardino line, which is their most heavily traveled.

Filed under California,Travel | permalink | April 27, 2011 at 09:30 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2011

A Job (A Real Job) Opening

This information came to me via Rick Daniels who would like to see a DHS resident get the job. It's connected with the construction of new power lines along I-10.

Yard Clerk Position Openings


Kenny Construction is seeking qualified personnel to coordinate and oversee receiving and distribution of construction materials in the position of yard clerk. Candidates must be able to work in high pressure environments with diverse groups of people. Responsibilities include but are not limited to; working with internet/web based programs to generate reports, coordinating the loading and unloading of trucks, processing bills of lading, maintaining inventory of materials and coordinating daily tasks with the site foreman. Qualified candidates will be able to use handheld scanners and barcode labels to maintain site inventory in a database specifically designed for this project

This position will be paid at an hourly rate and the person selected will be employed on an at-will basis for the duration of the current project. These positions need to be filled no later than 15 July 2011, Kenny Construction is an equal opportunity employer.


This position requires candidates to have reliable transportation to and from sites located near Desert Hot Springs, Desert Center and potentially other locations as needed. Daily responsibilities require an intimate knowledge of Microsoft Office, including Outlook, Excel, and Word. Prior experience of warehousing or logistics is preferred but not required.

Candidates must be physically capable of working in an open desert environment for extended periods of time.

Application and Interview Process:

At least three references are required to verify a candidate's professional experience and character. Send references list and one-page resume to Brian Rau at brau@kennyconstruction.com with the subject line of "yard clerk application." Candidates will be contacted individually to schedule intervrews.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 26, 2011 at 09:28 PM | Comments (0)

DHS Festival Committe Candidates Narrowed To 10 (Plus 2)

At this afternoon's special meeting of the Desert Hot Springs City Council, the field of 39 candidates for the Festival Committee was narrowed to ten. Those ten will be interviewed by the city council at a meeting on May 24. Where five will be chosen to be on the committee. Those five will be joined by the nominee from the Community and Cultural Affairs Commission: Mary Stephens, and the nominee from the Hoteliers: Sabine Pollermann. The final committee will be 7 people.

The ten are:

  • Brian Michaelz
  • Craig Michaels
  • D. Tom Hile
  • Ed Trost
  • Linda Lennon-Roth
  • Melody Hinks
  • Mickie Riley
  • Paul Ryan
  • Stephen Frisbee
  • Warren Bradshaw

Councilmember Baker said (speaking for everyone, I think) that if you were not selected, that does not mean the city does not want you involved. The meetings of the Festival Committee will be covered by the Brown Act and will be open to the public, so everyone is encouraged to come and participate.

Later I will provide a full write-up of the meeting including details on how the voting on the 39 candidates went. Or the audio recording is available now, if you want to listen to it.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 26, 2011 at 06:28 PM | Comments (0)

At Cabot's

Seri Indian Basket (0433)
Another photo of that big basket.

Seri Indian Basket - detail (0433)
A close up of some of the detail on the basket.

Cabot's Pueblo Museum (0426)

Cabot's (0434B)

Filed under Desert Hot Springs,Photography | permalink | April 26, 2011 at 10:02 AM | Comments (0)

General 'Buck' Turgidson

George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove
George C. Scott in Dr. Strangelove.

Filed under Film/Movies | permalink | April 26, 2011 at 09:32 AM | Comments (0)

Salvia microphylla

Sage (0436)
AKA "sage."

Filed under Photography | permalink | April 26, 2011 at 08:03 AM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2011

The Third RDA Amendment Public Info Meeting

There was a smaller crowd and fewer questions at tonight's third and final public information meeting about the proposed RDA Amendment. They've revised the presentation to indicate that staff will recommend against the eminent domain provision. But the biggest change is that the actual hearing for the approval of the amendment will be re-scheduled to the May 17 City Council/RDA Board meeting. You'll see it's still on the May 3 agenda, but staff will recommend a continuance to May 17, to give them time to cleanse the paperwork of all references to eminent domain.

Rick Daniels was at another meeting, so this one was introduced by Jason Simpson. The audio recording of that part of the meeting is available here.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 25, 2011 at 10:00 PM | Comments (0)

MSWD Board Meeting - April 18

The audio recording of this board meeting of the Mission Springs Water District is available here.

Employee Recognition

A 15-year pin was presented to Don Mathein, Service Supervisor. General Manager Wallum said that Mr. Mathein is the head person for customer service field work. He's the man ultimately responsible for the 13,000 service calls per year.

A 10-year pin was given to Manny Rodriguez, Water Production Lead Worker. Mr. Wallum said he is the man out on the well sites who operates the system, along with three other guys. They are responsible for treatment systems and chlorinators.

Kristy Poms got her 5-year pin. She is an Administrative Services 1 worker - that is, she is one of the people at the front desk dealing with walk-in customers.

Brian Holdren, Construction and Maintenance Worker 1, received his 5-year pin. He's one of the workers you see out in the field operating heavy equipment.

Public Comment

Richard Cromwell came to the podium to talk about the petition. He had just received a copy of the petition that's been circulated. It demands that the rates be rolled back to 2009 levels.

Who's asking for this? Tim Brophy? Been to one meeting that I'm aware of. He's a local businessman. He volunteered for the [Wellness & World Music] Festival Committee, which I think is certainly interesting. Mary Stephens, former City Councilmember, current member of the Community & Cultural Affairs Commission. Doug Sherman, former City Councilmember. Steve Sobotta, member of the city Planning Commission. What is it they want? They want to roll back the water and sewer delivery rates to 2009 levels. Has this group attended any meeting regarding the rate increase? One has: Tim. Has this group participated in the several public meetings where the rate increase was discussed in great detail, where the staff stayed as long as there were questions? I guess Tim did. Has this group approached the district with their concerns? No evidence of it. So my concern is where is the press? The Desert Sun, the Desert Local News, the Hi-Desert Star? Why aren't they looking into these assertions? Who is financing the petition drive? Locally? Or from out of town? What is the motivation of those pushing this petition? These are questions the press needs to ask. They need to look at the numbers. They're available on the district website. They're available if you come to the meetings. They're available if you approach staff. And why not take a look at the progress the district and the board have made during the last several months in regard to the solutions. Tremendous! So what is the goal? Is the goal to collapse the Mission Springs Water District? Is that the goal? If so, why? It's the water, the very lifeblood of our community and you can't let outside forces carpetbag their way into our community for their personal gains. I call on the press to do their job and investigate this now. The future of our community depends on it.


G.M. Wallum said the district had received another email on this, and he thought things were moving along quite well. Vice President Bowman asked if there are any other projects in town whose contracts have not been transitioned to new owners. Mr. Wallum said there are none with water agreements. There is, he said, no water agreement with Snellenberger, but if they've got no water agreement, they get no water. Director Furbee pointed out that Snellenberger did contribute to paying for the sewer line that goes out there. Mr. Wallum said that during the district's town hall meetings last fall, there was a message from the public that the board needs to stand fast to make sure developers don't impose any cost on the ratepayers.

Sewer Connection Liens

Director Wright recused herself. She holds a note for a piece of property being bought by one of the people on the list. Approved 4-0.

Cost Sharing for Medical Benefits

Mr. Wallum recommended that this item be tabled. He distributed this document comparing the cost savings with employee participation for spouse and dependent health benefits ranging from 10% to 50%. He wanted more time to look at this again. The board wanted to look at an entire package. He could bring it back to the board in June and include it with budget discussions.

Director Martin said the report said that about 75% of the districts insuring with ACWA have employee cost sharing. He wondered how much their boards are paid. Mr. Wallum said the MSWD board gets much less money than other district boards. The MSWD board has never taken an increase. Coachella [CVWD] he said pays their directors somewhere around $21,000 per year. [The actual amounts paid to the CVWD directors in 2009 were $13,603, $20,516, $21,600, $14,373 and $26,415. The amounts paid to MSWD Directors in 2009 were $6,200, $4,200, $6,200, $5,800 and $4,500.] The MSWD board gets a stipend of $100 per day when they are dong board work - meetings, attending work-related conferences, etc.

Engineering Contract Renewal

Mr. Wallum said that a full-time Principal Engineer would cost about $197,000. Going with this consultant saves the district about $72,000 per year.

He went on to say that the district might get two grants this summer to put in sewers - "a lot of sewers."

Approved 5-0.

Sludge Press Rental Contract Extension

Staff has been doing some calling to consider the various options raised at the previous study session. Mr. Wallum suggested the issue be tabled for a month while additional data is gathered.

Property Acquisition

Mr. Wallum said that the CVMSHCP has no effect on this property. Approved 5-0.

Consent Agenda

Which was nothing more than the Register of Demands. Approved 5-0.

Staff Comments

Mr. Wallum said it's best to have a water district in this area that represents the interests in this area. If MSWD wasn't here, our interests would not be represented.

The district did get a $1 million planning grant.

There will be no study session in May. All work will be done at the regular board meeting on May 16.

Director Bowman asked about the "YK Spa" and "2 Springs Resort" in the report the General Manager distributed at the study session. "2 Springs" is also known as "Two Springs," the mobile home park on the east side of Indian, south of Pierson, formerly called "The Roadrunner." The YK Spa is five different lots that need to combined. It's around 6th Street. It's on Hacienda Avenue.

Water District Improvement Corporation

Technically, this is a separate agenda for the annual meeting of the Water Improvement Corporation. The only thing they do is approve last year's minutes. A year from now, they will approve the minutes for this meeting. Something to look forward to! The creation of this Corporation was required by the certificates of participation that were issued. The first were in 1986 for $3.5 million. In 1994 $348,000 worth of certificates of participation were issued for Improvement District "E" which is West Palm Springs Village and Palm Springs Crest. About $4,800 gets paid each year. They will be paid off in 2041.

Minutes were approved 4-0. Director Martin abstained since he wasn't hear a year ago at the previous meeting.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 25, 2011 at 12:24 PM | Comments (0)

April 24, 2011

Found Missing Juvenile

UPDATE: "Obet Leija has returned home safely. Leija was at a friends house and after news reports went out decided to come home," according to Desert Hot Springs Police.


INCIDENT: Missing juvenile

DATE: April 24, 2011
DAY: Sunday
TIME: 7:00 AM.

LOCATION: 65000 block of 5th Street, Desert Hot Springs, CA


On Saturday, April 23, at about 11:45 A.M., Officers from the Desert Hot Springs Police Department were called to the 65000 Block of 5th Street for an 11-year old boy reported missing. The missing child, Obet Leija, stands approximately 4'9" tall and weighs 120 lbs. He has collar-length brown hair with some blonde highlights, brown eyes, and wears braces. Obet did not return home after school on Wednesday, 04-20-2011, and he did not attend school the following day – Thursday, 04-21-2011. On Friday, 04-22-2011 at approximately 5:00 PM, his mother went looking for him and found him at Tedesco Park. Obet told his mother he wanted to stay at the park a little longer and would be home soon. Obet did not go home that evening, and his mother finally called the police to report him missing the following morning. Foul play is not suspected. Desert Hot Springs Police officers and detectives have searched for Obet at various locations, along with Obet's family, but Obet has yet to be found. Obet's mother believes he is somewhere in town, with friends, and is asking the community's help in finding her son.

Contact the Desert Hot Springs Police Department, attention Detective Henson (760) 329-6411 x339, or Dispatch (760) 329-2904, option 2.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 24, 2011 at 06:06 PM | Comments (0)

April 23, 2011

DHS Public Safety Commission - April 14

The audio recording of this meeting of the Desert Hot Springs Public Safety Commission is available here.

The meeting began with a moment of silence for Frank Persina and police officer Jermaine Gibson.

Commissioner Young was absent from this meeting.

DHS High School Public Safety Academy

Principal Dr. Anne Kalisek made this presentation. An academy at the high school is part of creating career technical pathways. Students start in the 10th grade taking career courses that are integrated with English, math and social studies classes. Dr. Kalisek had been looking into creating a public safety academy when Riverside County informed her that they had a full-time teacher available for DHS High School who could teach law enforcement, forensics, etc. The academy's community partners are College of the Desert, DHS Police, Riverside County Probation, Riverside County Office of Education, and the Sheriff's Department. The school has been awarded a $15,000 planning grant by the State of California. Next year they can apply for a $42,000 grant. Students are being recruited. They're starting with 50 potential students. The goal is to have 30 in each grade level. Those in the academy share the same teachers. The English teacher's job will be to teach them how to read the sort of technical documents that will be required in their careers. There will be a Corrections course and a security guard course. Students can go directly into the College of the Desert's Public Safety Academy after graduation.

Commissioner Hoopes asked if the Explorers are still associated with the Boy Scouts. Dr. Kalisek said they have 12 or 13 Explorers.

According to this Wikipedia article, "Exploring is a worksite-based program of Learning for Life, a subsidiary of the Boy Scouts of America." Moving on to the Wikipedia article on "Learning for Life" I find this welcome information: "All Learning for Life programs are open to youth and adults without restriction based on gender, residence, religion, sexual orientation, or other considerations, other than minimum age requirements." The website for Learning for Life confirms that. And, as if to reinforce the message, J. Edgar Hoover himself is quoted on the page for Law Enforcement Exploring: "No amount of law enforcement can solve a problem that goes back to the family."

Dr. Kalisek said the academy had to offer internships and the Explorer program was one way to do that.

Commissioner Heidrick asked how students get involved in the program. Dr. Kalisek said some came forward and said they were interested. Teachers were asked to select a few students who they thought might be good in law enforcement. Good people skills, good physical ability, leadership skills. Commander Bressler gave a presentation to the students. They expect that once it gets going, word-of-mouth will build it.

Vice Chair Bowman said that back when he was in high school, anyone affiliated with the police was labeled a narc. He asked how it is today. Dr. Kalisek said that they are in touch with some other public safety academies that are already going, and they had not noted that as a problem. She thinks that this fits well with Community Policing in DHS, that the image of police is changing.

Chair Martin asked that one of the assignments be that they have to attend a Public Safety Commission meeting.

Chief Williams asked the Principal to describe the academies in the valley. This is the second academy at DHS High School. The first one was the Renewable Energy Academy. Each high school in PSUSD has two academies. The idea is to keep students in the valley, let them see what is offered here in the valley, to encourage them to stay here and give back to the valley. Desert Sands and Coachella school districts also have academies. La Quinta High School has a Public Safety Academy. Palm Desert wants to start one. There is only one other Renewable Energy Academy in southern California. The other is in Coachella.

Chief Williams said that since Dr. Kalisek came on at the high school (July 2010), there has been renewed sense of energy, purpose and direction at the high school. Dr. Kalisek said the plan is to add CalFire down the line.

Animal Control

In March there were 86 stray dogs, 17 stray cats, and 4 stray others taken in. The officer said that the "others" are snakes, as they come in warmer weather. The single "other" animal impounded in January was a dove that had flown into someone's house, which is typical of cooler months, he said.

In warmer months people will begin to notice when dogs are left in cars. This is full swing for kitten season, he said. If you want a kitten, they have "many, many, many" at the shelter, plus they have pregnant cats who are about to make their own contributions.

Dogs become calmer during warmer weather, but cool weather in spring really brings out the unaltered males.


There were 324 incidents in March, 277 (85.5%) of which were medical. In February there were 297 incidents, which included 240 (80.8%) medical calls. In March 2010 there were 276 incidents including 238 (86.2%) medicals.

Chief Veik said that of the 290 calls for AMR Ambulance, they arrived on time about 270 times. The times they are delayed are when there are surges in called that are simply coincidental. AMR has been asked to put more units into service.

The first federally-recognized CERT class will May 6-8; a 20-hour class. The class will be limited to residents of Desert Hot Springs. They hope for 25 participants.

Commissioner Hoopes noticed that a Cathedral City ambulance had been called in and wondered how that happened. Chief Veik explained it would have been at a time when AMR had no ambulances to spare and passed the call on to Cathedral City.

Commissioner Heidrick asked if there were more accidents happening in the skate park. Chief Veik said there did not seem to be an increase.

Code Enforcement

Much of the focus recently has been on commercial areas. Many storefronts have been repainted. Some are putting in new landscaping, such as Stater Bros. Four major illegal signs painted onto sides of buildings have been removed. Al Sengstock said he was proudest of the fact that only two citations had to be written during this process. Almost all compliance has been done cooperatively.

March statistics:
Administrative citations issued: $33,700
Paid: $33,364.36

Abandoned/Foreclosed Citations/Penalties issued $197,600
Paid: $177,200

Demand letters sent: 23 with a value of $207,039.20

Mr. Sengstock showed the same presentation that he had given to the city council earlier in the week.

Commissioner Hoopes has noticed an increase in tagging with Sharpies, but he has learned that water or glass cleaner will remove that. They target reflective strips on power poles. Mr. Sengstock said Goof-off works well too. Mr. Sengstock has asked Javier (the graffiti man) and asked him to focus on some of the smaller graffiti as Mr. Hoopes described.

Alternate Commissioner Brady asked if the Blind Canyon clean-up was still on. Mr. Sengstock said it was, and that Mayor Pro Tem Betts was organizing it. They are working on getting some high school kids to participate. [None actually showed up].


Chief Williams said Part 1 crimes were fairly steady. He went on to describe some statistical anomalies that occur because the response times are measured to when the primary officer arrives at the scene, which is not necessarily the first officer on the scene. The primary officer is the one who gets the call from dispatch. There was one case where it took 13 minutes for the primary officer to arrive, when the first officer had arrived in only 36 seconds. They are talking to Cathedral City dispatch to try to get this worked out.

The calls for service in the first quarter of 2011 are up 23% compared to the first quarter of 2010. Officer-initiated actions are down 22.5%. Arrests are down about 10%. Citations are down 26%. The Chief said they need to find a way to increase officer-available time, because that's when they get the crooks and have time to work on community policing.

Matt Gomez, a motor officer, will be joining the force from Colton. There is one sergeant vacancy and one officer vacancy. Officer recruitment is on-going.

Chief Williams reported that last week the Governor signed AB109 which transfers non-sex, non-serious, non-violent offenders who would be on parole to the counties. That covers about 40,000 parolees. The legislation has no funding.

He said that Code Enforcement is averaging 28 inspections per day per officer. He is considering asking the City Council for funding for two more code enforcement officers. He will bring the proposal to the Public Safety Commission.

Commissioner Hoopes said AB109 is another unfunded mandate. He hopes that the new motor officer can do something about traffic control and jaywalking. He offered his accolades for interrupting a burglary in process.

Commissioner Heidrick asked if many of the offenders being caught are parolees, as were the two in the interrupted burglary. Chief Williams said that those two would have fit in the group that AB109 is turning over to the counties. They are the ones causing the most issues, he said.

The Chief said it was a good example, the case of the interrupted burglary, of someone calling them saying "Hey, something's going on that doesn't look right." Our guys got there and surrounded the house and caught them coming out.

The number of parolees in Desert Hot Springs is about 200 to 220, the Chief said. After AB109 the parolees won't b "parolees" and we won't be able to track them. The parolees will also be free to move from county to county.

Under the current law, the two arrested for burglary get a "parole hold." They are held in county jail and can't be let out. If the county were to release them, they could only release them to the state, who would hold onto them until they go to court. Under AB109, they would not go to state prison. They could only go to county jail, and we already know Riverside County doesn't have enough jail beds to hold people.

Commissioner Heidrick said she gets calls about the area around Mission Lakes and Cholla. A fence fell down leaving an open space. Cars used to drive through the wash. After bringing this up before, someone put boulders along Avenida Barona to block that. But cars can still get in, but then discover they can't get out. What can be done, who do we contact? Chief Williams said he would follow up with appropriate city staff, because the area she is talking about is in the city right of way.

Commissioner Bowman noticed that the number of auto thefts went down to only 10. In earlier months it might have been 30.

Mr. Bowman recounted the story of a guest at his spa who tried to refuse to leave when it was time to go. Mr. Bowman had to call the police, who responded quickly. The officer waited patiently while the man packed. The unwanted guest then tried to set up camp in a vacant lot across the street, so Mr. Bowman called the police again. The same officer returned and gave the man a ride in his police car.

Chair Martin said he had heard that Indio was contemplating laying off six police officers. Chief Williams confirmed that, saying they already have three vacant police officer positions. Indio has about 0.78 officers per 1,000 population. DHS has 1.2 per 1,000.


Chair Martin gave kudos to Code Enforcement for the new Save A Lot sign.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 23, 2011 at 08:05 PM | Comments (0)

Sex Ed

Julia Sweeney and her 8-year old daughter Mulan.

| permalink | April 23, 2011 at 05:54 PM | Comments (0)

Black Widow

Black Widow (0450)

Black Widow (0443)

Filed under Photography | permalink | April 23, 2011 at 02:18 PM | Comments (1)

Shipping Containers As Residences

The Long Beach Planning Commission has voted to permit the use of a shipping container as a residence. Long Beach city code did not allow metal siding or roofs. Of course, the shipping container needs to be modified in order to conform to other parts of the code. "[P]roject designer, Manhattan Beach-based Peter DeMaria...said that in addition to being inexpensive, sturdy, earthquake-resistant and virtually fire-proof, the containers are a sustainable form of housing that reuses existing materials." The Commission decided that all uses of shipping containers in construction must go through "site plan review," which usually costs "several thousand dollars."

Filed under Architecture | permalink | April 23, 2011 at 01:24 PM | Comments (1)