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January 19, 2018

Desert Hot Springs City Council - January 16, 2018

These are some of what I think are the important bits of the January 16, 2018, meeting of the Desert Hot Springs City Council.


Fully Staffed Police Department

Five new police officers were sworn in. Chief Mondary said the police department is fully staffed. I think the definition of fully staffed is "up to the limit authorized by the City Council," because we all know our PD has never been staffed up the level we really need.


AIPP Cut To 0.25% In Industrial Zone

Some people didn't like that the AIPP rules were being assessed fairly for all kinds of property. That is, the value of the art or the amount of the in-lieu fee in effect since the program was approved in 2009 has been 0.5% of valuation for residential property and 0.75% of valuation for commercial and industrial properties.

The proposal was to eliminate the choice of putting a piece of art on site in the industrial zone. Development in the industrial zone would have to pay the in-lieu fee. I am not sure who didn't like it that the art paid for by the industrial developers would be displayed on the property developed. I didn't hear any of the City Council members express an objection to that.

This proposal went to the Planning Commission first, and they didn't like it. I could explain just why the Planning Commission didn't like it if the city's damn website would actually play the audio of that meeting, but it doesn't and they don't upload the audio to Youtube or any of the other several easy, reliable websites that actually play recorded audio flawlessly.

The choice before the City Council seemed to be to follow the Planning Commission's recommendation (leave things unchanged) or to re-insert the language taking the choice away from industrial developers. So imagine our surprise when Mr. McKee suddenly proposed to drop the rate for industrial development from 0.75% to 0.25%! Even more surprising was that Russell Betts immediately agreed to it! Ever since this program was approved, any mention of it would trigger a story-telling by Mr. Betts, in which story he would cast himself as the lonely white knight standing against everybody else who hates art. In reality, support for the AIPP program was widespread and the only discussion was the rates. The proposed rate was an even 1%, I believe, and Mr. Betts will tell you a story about how he had to fight to keep it as high as 0.75%. But now that it is 2018, he easily agreed to a two-thirds reduction in the rate.

Yvonne Parks had said she wouldn't vote for an ordinance that retained the 0.75% rate because she thought it was too high. But when the vote came, she still voted against it, even though the rate had been lowered to 0.25%. The vote was 4-1.

Some of the cannabis developers got up and complained about the surprising costs they've run into, and seemed to think this AIPP was something recently concocted to get more money out of them. In reality, the reason the cannabis developers are running into these expensive surprises is that many of them don't do sufficient due diligence (probably due to lack of experience in real estate) to find out all the expenses before they commit themselves. One cannabis developer argued that since he was having to build a road and put in underground infrastructure he ought to be excused from paying the AIPP. Again it's probably due to inexperience in real estate, but he didn't realize every developer is responsible for all that work and all those expenses. The city didn't come up with any new ideas to get in the way of cannabis development. Quite the contrary, they've now given them a two-thirds fee reduction.

In case you thought that the super-high price of land in our industrial zone would offset this rate cut, the cost of land is not included in the valuation against which the fee is assessed. IOW, it is a percentage of the value of the building only. Once you've removed the land cost, the value of the buildings will be whatever the usual value of such buildings are. The reduction in this fee is, therefore, a genuine cut to the amount of money that we would have expected to come into our AIPP fund.

Mr. McKee said he intended this to be temporary, and the council has asked that the ordinance be brought back before them in about 6 weeks to re-examine the rates. Mr. Betts said he didn't think it needed to be brought back; he was happy with the new 0.25% rate.


Resolution Setting Forth Certain Regulations Pertaining to Dispensaries

This item was removed from the agenda to be brought back at a later meeting. The proposed text in this agenda packet would have permitted a marijuana dispensary to change location, but they would still have to get a new CUP and any other of the usual necessary paperwork. The city started with 19 people who were allowed to seek a CUP and open a dispensary. Three of those people withdrew, leaving 16. Eight of those people have, indeed, opened dispensaries in town. The remaining eight still have all their rights intact, but the resolution would have specified that the right to apply for a CUP and open a dispensary is NOT transferable. The resolution also would have set the limit for cannabis dispensaries in the city at 16.

Here is a handy table provided in the agenda packet which you can use to keep track of the players. Click it for a bigger version.
DHS Marijuana Dispensary scorecard


New (and Re-Appointed) Commissioners

 MatasParksZavalaMcKeeBetts
CCACMichael PicardiBarbara EastmanMichael BurkeUntumane TurnerDonna Poyuzina
PlanningDirk Voss[hasn't decided]Jan PyeLarry BuchananScott De La Torre
Public SafetyDonna LozanoLee EastmanNina DuarteWalt MeyerTed Mayrhofen [this is not a typo]


New Library

Riverside County has proposed to build a completely new library on the vacant land between Aqua Soleil and the new county building at Park Lane and Palm Drive, entirely at County expense. The current library is 3,500 s.f. The proposed library would be 15,000 s.f.

When the current library opened in 1972 the population of the city was less than 3,000 and half of it was senior citizens. The official population is 9 times greater now, and it's 40% kids 18 and under.

This item simply authorizes city staff to continue to work with the county on this. After construction of the new library the old library will be converted to a broom closet, but it won't be big enough to let everybody keep their brooms there.

Filed under Cities/Urbanism,Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | January 19, 2018 at 11:05 PM

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