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May 13, 2018

Desert Hot Springs City Council, May 1, 2018

Approval of the Agenda

Item 12 on the agenda (in the consent calendar) was to approve the second reading of the development agreement with Desert Land Ventures, who intend to build a large development along I-10 that would include cannabis facilities along with other uses. Mayor Scott Matas said that Desert Land Ventures had asked to have the item pulled and continued until the next council meeting on May 15. Councilmember Russell Betts made a motion to approve the agenda without pulling that item. His motion failed for lack of a second. Councilmember Yvonne Parks moved to approve the agenda, pulling the item and continuing it until May 15. Mayor Pro Tem Anayeli Zavala seconded. Approved 4-1 with Mr. Betts voting against.


Public Comments

Rene Hickey, who has been involved in the operation of the Wardman Park pool for the last several years, disagreed with the negative assessment of the condition of the pool reported by staff at the previous council meeting.

Mike Picardi said the Angel View outlet store on Dillon has installed their public art. The artwork was created by students at Painted Hills Middle School. The Community and Cultural Affairs Commission will present a battle of the bands concert Friday, June 15, 5-9 PM, in Tedesco Park. Additional concerts will take place on the third Friday of July, August and September.

Greta Carter commented on item 17 on the previous city council agenda for April 17. Item 17 was the second reading of an ordinance that clarified that marijuana dispensaries could engage in "light" manufacturing. She asked that the item be returned to a future agenda so that she could explain the details of financial operations caused by that item. She said it created an inequity between dispensaries and cultivators.

Simone Sandoval, who works for High Road Consulting Group, wanted the city council to get moving on permitting cannabis sales in hotels.

Ryan Fingerhut, also of High Road Consulting Group, said the Brown Act made it difficult for him to speak with the city council members. He wanted the city council to have a study session on permitting microbusinesses.

Peter [no last name given] said that his motor vehicle was towed. He told the tow driver to drop the vehicle because his medication was in it, but he did not drop it. He said the tow company had no permit to operate in the city. He wants the city to regulate this. He seemed to suggest it was his HOA that ordered the tow. He said the HOA was controlled by a dictator.

Jan Pye said that public servant recognition week is May 6-12.

Dora de la Cruz expressed her support for a traffic light at Palm Drive and Camino Aventura. She is afraid she will be the target of retribution by the trailer park where she lives.

John Sclafani of Desert Land Ventures expressed his support for a study session dealing with marijuana businesses.

James Velasquez from Vets Leaf also expressed his support for that study session.

City Manager's report

City Manager Charles Maynard had Community Development Director Danny Porras provide the current status of a traffic signal at Palm Drive and Camino Aventura. It was determined that the intersection met all the requirements for a new traffic light. The design should be completed and construction started within two months. It will be the first of more traffic lights that will be installed along Palm. The city will also install medians to eliminate a left turn conflict. The stop line will be place behind the exit/entrance for the mobile home park on the west. They are also looking at being able to double traffic fines and installing additional signs.

Mr. Maynard said that the city is working on two different licenses for canna-tourism. One will be for use in hotels and spas; the second will be for tasting rooms in cultivation sites. He said there will be a study session on the subject within the next month.


Council Member Reports

At a previous council meeting a private developer's proposal to annex a triangle of land on the southwest corner of Little Morongo and Two Bunch Palms Trail into the city (it would be zoned industrial so it could be a site for marijuana cultivation) was discussed. LAFCO may want to make that annexation contingent upon the city also annexing Cholla Gardens, which the city does not want to do because of the expense of upgrading the roads there, among other good reasons. At this meeting, Ms. Parks, who is serving on the LAFCO board, said the item had been continued until the May 24 meeting of LAFCO.

Cholla Gardens
Cholla Gardens is outlined.


Councilmember Joe McKee mentioned an article he had read about Teachers Of The Year (including our own Dr. Brian McDaniel) meeting with Education Secretary DeVoss. I believe this article in Huffington Post is what he was referring to.

Mayor Matas summarized his recent trip to Washington, DC. The city has not been able to afford a lobbyist for a few years. His trip was a trial run with a firm that wants to be retained as our lobbyist. He had 20 meetings in four days with legislators, DOT, DOJ, and Homeland Security. Thirteen of the meetings focused on cannabis.


Amendment to Development Agreement No. 14-16; Green Bond

This development agreement is for a cannabis cultivation site on the south side of unpaved Thomas Avenue east of Little Morongo. The current developer is Green Bond. They want to revise the development agreement to permit manufacturing and distribution in addition to cultivation. The manufacturing area will consist of about 1200 s.f., reducing the cultivation area by that amount, and thereby reducing their tax payment to the city a little.

Mr. McKee pointed out that although these changes could have been made administratively, Green Bond wanted to go the public hearing route, even though its expensive.

There was no public testimony. Ms. Zavala moved for approval, Mr. McKee seconded. Approved 5-0.


Furbee Aquatic Center Professional Services/License Agreement for Swim Programs

USA Management submitted a proposal to manage the Furbee Center this summer for $68,180. The hours of pool operation will be expanded. "During the week, there will be swimming lessons and aquatic programs from 6:30 AM to 11:00 AM. The pool will then be opened for community, open recreational swimming from 12:00 PM to 7:00 PM. On Saturdays and holidays, the pool will be open to community, open recreational swimming from 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM."

Morris Barkley was at the meeting representing USA Management. They will hire locally.

Mr. McKee suggested that the city should begin planning for the summer swim program when the new fiscal year starts in July, rather than the city's habit of waiting until the first of the calendar year. The contract was opened for bidding just in April 2018, limiting the number of firms that could make a bid. He also said that in the past people coming to swim were charged $2.50 to $3.00 a head, which becomes prohibitive for a family with several children. He suggested rates like 25¢ per child or $1 per family.

Mayor Pro Tem Zavala moved to approve, setting the fees at 25¢ per child, 50¢ per adult, or $1 per family and a provision for afternoon swim lessons. Seconded by Mr. McKee. Approved 5-0.


Resolution of Intention to Place Desert Valley Disposal Annual Billing On the Tax Roll

Residential billing for trash removal has been done via the annual property tax bill rather than billing the resident directly for several years now. This item is routinely done annually. This resolution sets the date for the public hearing for June 5, 2018, which is necessary to actually approve all the individual bills and to authorize them to be added to the tax roll.

The price has gone up to $305.84/residence.

Mr. McKee moved for approval, Ms. Zavala seconded, approved 5-0.


Public Art for Vets Leaf

Vets Leaf Public Art Proposal (1)

Vets Leaf Public Art Proposal (2)

This is a rendering of the public art project that Vets Leaf proposes to erect on their property. This would be placed on the northeast corner of the project at San Jacinto Lane and Cabot Road. In the agenda packet this project is described thusly: "The plans show a 6-foot-high black wrought-iron fence (existing) on which the plaques (approximately 3 feet by 5 feet) will be mounted. Five proposed flag poles (four 30 ft. tall, one 35 ft. tall) will be installed behind the fence and will fly flags of the Marine Corps, the United States, the State of California, POW/MIA, and the Vets Leaf insignia. LED accent lighting will up-light the monument."

If the cultivator were to pay the in-lieu fee to the Art In Public Places fund instead of doing their own project, that fee would be $20,751.65.

Mike Picardi, Chair of the Community & Cultural Affairs Commission (CCAC) which approved this project 4-1, commented. He was the No vote at the CCAC. Part of the legal definition of public art in DHS is that it was created or designed by a professional artist (or plural). This project does not identify an artist. Mr. Picardi feels the project as whole does not meet the defintion of art. He also said that he believes it's not public art because it's on private property. The installation will be behind a fence. Flags, he said, are not art.

The city code allows Public Art to be placed on private property, however, the code also requires the developer to provide evidence "to demonstrate that the public art will be displayed in an area open and freely available to the general public or otherwise provide public accessibility in an equivalent manner based on the characteristics of the public art or its placement on the site."

Mr. Picardi suggested that the city work with the developer so that this display would be installed in Veterans Park. He said the developer is calling this piece a monument which, he said, means it is not art. [This interpretation would mean that the Statue of Liberty, a monument if there ever was one, is not also art.] He went on to say that since it would be on private property, any future owner of the property would be free to tear it down. [This possibility is addressed in the city code, which requires the developer to replace it or contribute equivalent funds.]

Greta Carter spoke next. She has worked with Vets Leaf and Tony Rivera. She had Googled for a definition of art. [The city ordinance defines art for the purposes of Art in Public Places: “Art” or “public art” or “public art project” means an original creation of art that is designed by a professional visual artist or artists. Art includes, but is not limited to, sculpture, mural or portable painting, earthwork, fiber-work, mosaic, photograph, print, calligraphy, any combination of forms of media, furnishings or fixtures.] The defintion she cited said "The expression or application of human creative skills and imagination producing work appreciated primarily for the beauty or the emotional power."

She said that Tony Rivera has put emotional power into this display. Mr. Rivera has passed away. She pointed out that our light industrial zone has received national coverage, so people everywhere are seeing what it looks like.

Ryan Fingerhut represents Vets Leaf. He said that the late Mr. Rivera, rather than simply paying the in-lieu fee, decided to develop this project that would speak to the community about what he was. He pointed out the definition of public art in the ordinance [addressed above]. He also said that he thinks flags are art, since they were designed by someone to express something.

Simone Sandoval, who said she represents Vets Leaf, spoke next. She said the piece is deeply personal. Three of the plaques will memorialize Tony Rivera and two other comrades-in-arms who have passed away. They were all Marines, which is why the Marine Corps gets singled out to have its flag displayed.

James Velasquez, supervisor at Vets Leaf, was next up to the podium. He said this project is his and Mr. Rivera's dream. He said they would move the fence, if that was the problem.

Mr. McKee said "I think it's a memorial. I don't think it's a work of art."

By Mr. McKee's reasoning, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in DC is not art.
Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

Mr. McKee went on to say "I used to build food processing equipment as an engineer. That's art, then, I guess, if you used the definition you used."

[Wow, this is a great example of a tone deaf politician intentionally misunderstanding basic issues. Was his food processing equipment "appreciated primarily for the beauty or the emotional power?" Or was it appreciated for its efficient functionality? One of those defines art.]

He wants it to be moved to the Veterans Park.

[Why, if it is not art, would it become art if it were to be placed in Veterans Park? Is the level of art here really the core issue, or does the city just want something more in one of its parks?]

Flags, Mr. McKee said, were created as signaling devices in the military. "They weren't created as art at all."

[And therefore, they can never be art, is his logic. Sculptures were created to represent the religious entities. Does that mean every statue in existence now is a religious figure? Tell that to the Russians.]

This is not art, according to Mr. McKee.

Then Mr. McKee repeated what he said before, that public art should not be located in the industrial zone. Developers in industrial zones should be limited to paying the in-lieu fee. [Because no one ever travels through our industrial zone or no one there desires to look at anything but warehouses and fences?]

Mr. Betts said he supports the CCAC and until they "really mess up" they should have the latitude to decide what goes. He did, however, say he thought the proposed fence would not be adequate for the plaques that will be mounted on it. Also, the two renderings in the agenda packet do not look alike. City staff said the flag poles would be behind the fence and the plaques will be mounted to the existing wrought iron fence. Also, there isn't enough space for the landscaping as shown in one rendering. He complained about the abundant litter on Cabot Road and asked for it to be cleaned up.

Sandra Silva-Tello, one of Vets Leaf's owners, came to the podium to address Mr. Betts's concerns. She said they would make adjustments, if necessary, to satisfy city requirements.

Ms. Zavala asked what material will be used in the plaques. Ms. Silva-Tello said they would be bronze. Ms. Zavala said she is in much agreement with Mr. Picardi, that it is, basically, not art. She also agreed with Mr. McKee, that Art in Public Places should be paid for by developers in our industrial zone, but they should not derive the benefit of having it placed on or near their property. But, she said, if they would move the fence to behind the flags and mount the plaques on standalone structures, such as cement blocks, that would be acceptable.

Ms. Parks said she has been very impressed by the obvious improvements in our industrial zone, thanks to the cannabis developers. She thinks it's art.

Mayor Matas said he is very confused by art. He once questioned whether figures made from rusty metal are art, creating a brouhaha.
Dragon by Ricardo Breceda
Art made from rusty metal by Ricardo Breceda, available for viewing in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

Mr. Matas said he doesn't decide what art is and that he agrees with Mr. Picardi "half-way." He said he liked this proposal better than some of the other art that has been approved. He thinks the ordinance should be revised to make it clear that landscaping is not part of the art. He said there has been a problem with bronze being stolen, so he suggested Vets Leaf look into a less expensive material.

Mr. Betts moved to approve with the condition that the fence be upgraded to be more fitting for the plaques and that the fence be moved to allow greater access by the public. He added that he agreed with Ms. Parks that art should be placed in the industrial zone.

Approved 4-1 with Mr. McKee voting against.


Filling Vacancy Created by the Resignation of Yvonne Parks

City Clerk Jerryl Soriano laid out the law. The city council could call a special election which would have to be held on the date of a regular election at least 114 days after the call for the election. That would mean the November 6 election day, and since the term expires in December, that would be a wasted effort. Or, the council can appoint someone to fill the spot within 60 days of the date of the resignation. The office cannot be left vacant.

[Mr. Soriano didn't mention this, but when vacancies occurred at the water district, it was said that if the body did not appoint a replacement, then the County Supervisors could step in and make the appointment.] Mr. Soriano suggested that applications for the spot be accepted for the period from May 3 to May 28.

Mr. Picardi encouraged the city council get moving on this as rapidly as possible.

Mr. Betts said the 60-day clock doesn't start until Ms. Parks actually vacates the position. [He's correct about that, IMO, but that doesn't mean the council can't interview candidates prior to that vacancy.]

Mr. McKee pointed out that if they appointed someone with no council experience, it would take them 2 or 3 months to get up to speed. He suggested making the selection from the pool of past city council members who are still in the city.

Ms. Zavala agreed with Mr. McKee, saying that in addition to the experience, they would be appointing someone who had been chosen by the voters at least once.

Mr. Betts said the council should not choose someone who plans to run for city council in the November election. He cited the previous time when Dot Reed was appointed to the council.

Mr. Matas said that in addition to former council members, the pool of candidates should be open to commissioners and former commissioners as well as the general public.

Mr. Betts moved open the application process, provided that candidates do not intend to seek election in November. The motion did not get a second.

Mr. Matas moved to open an application process so the city council could make an appointment at the first meeting in June (June 5). The city attorney is not sure if the interviews could be conducted privately, or must they be private. [Private interviews are permitted for commissioners, so I think this would work the same.] This motion also got no second.

Ms. Zavala made a motion to appoint someone with city council experience. Her motion was seconded by Mr. McKee. This motion was approved with a vote of 4-1 with Mr. Betts opposing. Later, Ms. Parks realized she should have abstained from this vote, so it was revised to 3-1-1.

The motion did not specify the candidates had to have been Desert Hot Springs city council members. It's quite likely we've got one or two retired council members from other cities living here.


Cancel Hearing and Abandon the Proceedings to Annex Rancho Del Oro to the Landscape and Lighting Maintenance District No. 2

This is part of a long story going back to the creation of Rancho del Oro, which was the city's first housing development, in the early 1990s. At that time, details were overlooked, including the need to create a fee levied on the residents to maintain the landscaping on the perimeter of the development. The city has been maintaining that landscaping since then at general taxpayer's expense. Various plans have been put forth, but none seem to garner majority support among the property owners in Rancho del Oro. At some point, if the residents do nothing, the city will have to stop maintaining that landscaping.

Some months ago the city did receive a petition signed by 93 property owners in Rancho del Oro, so action was undertaken to initiate the necessary public hearing process. But now word comes to the city that they should hold their horses. So the city is going to cancel the public hearing process for now, to let the property owners discuss and strategize further. The city plans to continue to subsidize the development with free maintenance. Approved 4-0, Mr. Betts having recused himself because he owns property there.


Amend the Budget To Reflect SB-1

SB-1 will increase funds available to the city for road maintenace. The city is required to submit to the state a list of projects to be funded through SB-1. DHS will receive $483,419. The city is proposing four different projects for that.

  • $320,000 for the Palm Drive traffic signal and street light project,
  • $100,000 for sidewalks on Desert View,
  • $30,000 to re-stripe Mission Lakes Boulevard and Two Bunch Palms Trail,
  • $33,419 for city-wide asphalt grind and overlay/slurry/road reconstruction.

Approved 5-0.


General Plan Update

Yes, this is the same General Plan Update that the city has been working on since I moved here. City Manager Maynard said public meetings will begin on May 30 (5 PM - 7 PM) at the Carl May.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | May 13, 2018 at 09:10 PM

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