April 13, 2016
Three Cultivations Sites And One Dispensary Approved
I listened to last night's meeting of the Planning Commission from my private personal health facility, where I can exercise my right shoulder and hack up my left lung without disturbing the general public. Got to keep track of which marijuana facility is going where.
Last night the commission approved three more cultivation sites and one more dispensary.
Desert's Finest Patient's Cooperative
The dispensary (Lawrence Bynum - Desert's Finest Patient's Cooperative) is going to occupy the long-former location of Thai Palms on the northeast corner of Palm and Acoma. FINALLY, something to fill that blank in a prominent corner location. This is certainly going to be the most visible dispensary right here in the city. The site, which the dispensary will be renting, is connected also to the empty lot just east across the alley. There will be parking in that lot and quite a bit of discussion was about how MUCH of it would be used. There also was a general lamentation about the planning standards of the 1940s and '50s in this town. Yup. That's our legacy.
The site will have no more than one green cross displayed, and that will be painted on the south-facing Acoma side of the building. There will be potted plants along Acoma as well, including a few palm trees.
You can see on this interior plan that the dispenary's space includes the area behind the barber shop next door. More than half of the space can be used for cultivation. This is, as far as I can recall, a larger space than at other dispensaries in town, but all the dispensaries are limited to 99 mature plants.
After the approval, there was some discussion about a billboard on Palm that can be seen as you are coming into the city that is promoting a low price at some dispensary. I don't recall seeing that sign, but there did used to be a sign that you could see as you headed south on Palm Drive that advertised "Home of the $5 Gram," but that was for PSA Organica, which is one of the newer dispensaries in Palm Springs. The city attorney explained to the commission what the city was able to control and NOT able to control in public advertising. At least one commissioner thought advertising like that could sully the image of the city as "Dime bag DHS. While it did look like the low class sort of advertising you can find in Los Angeles, I think some price competition between dispensaries could be beneficial to the patients.
The first cultivation site on the agenda last night was by Ryan Po of DHS Diversified located at 65441 Two Bunch Palms Trail. That building has been used as a recycling center up to now.
One thing I have not heard is where are the tenants of these industrial buildings that are being snapped up for marijuana cultivation, relocating to? The Pentecostal church surely has enough money from its sale to relocate into a residential area of the city, but the industrial businesses must be leaving town. There are no spare buildings in our industrial zone now, and anyone who tried to buy a site to put up a new building would be competing with the marijuana industry. I hope all these cultivation sites become fully developed and employ as many people has they have been saying they will.
An advantage to going into an existing building, is that electric service is already there. Mr. Po said he has 400 amps, which was plenty.
Kamran Amirianfar for Blue Mango was there last night for two different sites, each requiring a separate CUP. The Planning Commission handled them separately. The first will be at 65118 San Jacinto Lane; the second at 65265 San Jacinto Lane.
The interior of 65118 is divided into 18 separate units which have been rented out to industrial tenants. The interior will be redone to create space for four large cultivation rooms and five smaller rooms for curing, processing, shipping, etc. Chair Romero encouraged them to removed the ficus and palm trees that decorate the street frontage, to be replaced with more drought tolerant plants.
65265 San Jacinto Lane will not require nearly as much work to re-arrange the interior. They'll keep most of the existing interior partitions and have two large, interconnected, double-deck growing rooms. The interior features a mezzanine from which, I imagine, one could gaze across the big spread of green leafy plants, as any farmer likes to do. They will also be cultivating up on the mezzanine.
Both sites were approved unanimously.
The single non-marijuana item the Planning Commission considered was a request to be permitted to erect vinyl fencing on top of existing "retaining walls" between new homes in the Gallery Vista Santa Fe homes at the northern end of Sonora Drive. The agenda packet describes them as "retaining walls," but it seems unlikely there would be an actual retaining wall between each house, unless they were built on a fairly steep hillside. Nevertheless, the fencing was proposed only between the newest homes (which I think are Coachella Valley Housing Coalition sweat equity homes). There would be no vinyl fencing facing the street.
The Planning Commission rejected the request.
April 3, 2016
DHS Walmart Petition
I finally got around to reading the Walmart petition. There's no game-playing in it that I can detect. No exemptions from any taxes or fees. In fact, they'll kick in an additional $75,000 on top of the DIF fees. That's supposed to help pay for something at what will be the future intersections of Cactus and Camino Aventura and Claire Avenue—although I don't think $75,000 would cover very much. Here are some of the bits I found interesting:
- Permitted to be open 24 hours.
- Exterior payphones permitted. Open 24 hours, outside payphones, right across the street from Dos Palmas. Potential for a public safety issue there.
- Landscaping will be xeriscape, but they don't say they will conform to MSWD's ordinance on this.
- They will need to extend a 1,806 foot sewer line from Camino Idilio.
- Palm Drive will be widened to allow for a right-turn lane.
- Traffic signals will be installed at Camino Aventura and Palm Drive.
- All (or almost all) of the lighting will be LED. There will also be a daylight harvesting system (is that like a sophisticated skylight?) and a computer controlled continuously active system that adjusts lighting up and down.
- Waste heat from refrigeration will be captured and used to heat water.
- The site will be inspected for desert tortoises and burrowing owls. But they don't make any promises about any other endangered creatures or plants.
- They will also observe the usual rules if they discover archaeological artifacts.
Summary: if you want the Walmart, you can sign this petition with a clear conscience. Unless somebody wants to point out some heinous provision in it that I missed.
March 13, 2016
DHS Planning Commission - March 8, 2016
Dispensaries approved: 3
Total dispensaries approved: 12
Dispensaries open: 5
Dispensaries denied: 1 (technically a continuation, but it's going to be denied)
Cultivation facilities approved: 1
Dirk Voss presiding at first, as Chair Cathy Romero was late, but Ms. Romero arrived before the Commission had even approved the agenda.
City Manager Magaña and Financial Director Tanner spoke at length about the budget and taxes. After years of underspending and cutbacks, whaddayaknow, there's a lot of critical stuff that's going to start failing. Like staff, even. And some taxes are going to expire. [My editorial: meanwhile the City Council (well, three of 'em) have voted not to even study new or revised taxes.] But I'll spare you the really bad news.
As with last month's report, just the marijuana:
Benno Pabst and Valley Compassionate Care
This is a proposed CUP for a medical marijuana dispensary at 11522 Palm Drive, which is the southeast corner of 4th and Palm, the old chiropractor's office which is 1,207 square feet. Parking for 6 vehicles is proposed to be on the south side of the building (where there may also be a mural) with access via the alley. Four head-in parking spaces on 4th will be eliminated.
Commissioner Cirner recused himself due to a possible conflict of interest.
Benno Pabst was not present this night for health reasons, but his representative was there and spoke. Pabst owns the building outright.
There was a lot of discussion about the parking. Staff had first laid it out with diagonal parking so that patients would drive in from the alley and exit on Palm Drive. The Commission thought it would seem more sensible to drivers coming up Palm Drive to reversed that. Now, the thing I wonder about is left turns from southbound traffic. That entrance on Palm Drive is only 25 feet away from 4th Street.
Yes, there will be two dispensaries directly across the street from each, so there will be no need to run across Palm Drive at night wearing dark clothes, right? And that ought to solve the problem of left turns too.
Lisa Lozano and Stephanie Bodde and Desert Hot Springs Dispensary
Another proposed CUP for a medical marijuana dispensary. This one was continued from last month. You may recall that potential neighbor Rose Mortuary raised objections about inadequate parking. There were other issues as well.
Chair Romero said that she could see all of the issues she had with this CUP had been addressed.
Thomas Moen, manager of Rose Mortuary, said he was concerned a dispensary could conflict with his business. Parking only in the street is still an issue.
Michelle and Michael Lally both expressed their support for medical marijuana generally, and spoke well of Stephanie Bodde. Mr. Lally also criticized Rose Mortuary, saying they both serve the same community, one in life and one in death.
David Lally (son of Michelle and Michael, if you hadn't guessed) talked about the tax benefits to the city. He described the personal experience with medical marijuana by a friend.
Jordan Bratonburg, owner of Rose Mortuary, also shared a personal experience in his family. He was concerned that some of his clientele would be offended by the proximity of the dispensary.
The applicant said that her security guard would not let her clients park in the Rose Mortuary parking lot.
Vice Chair Voss said that he, too, was concerned about the parking situation, especially the lack of a designated handicapped parking space. He also wanted to clarify what will happen with the small house in the rear of the property. He said this is the wrong location for a dispensary.
Commissioner De La Torre said he agreed with Mr. Voss.
Commissioner Terifaj said these were all the same issues brought up last month and that she, too, thought it was a poor location for the dispensary.
Rich Malacoff asked the Commissioners to specify which findings in the prepared CUP the Commission would determine had not been met. Then staff would use that information to craft a legal resolution of denial and bring it back next month. Staff prepared only the positive resolution of approval for the agenda packet, not wasting time on a negative just in case.
Ms. Terifaj cited the parking issue as the reason to deny.
The applicant came back to the podium to say that an elderly gentleman lives in the house in the rear and that he is a member of her collective. She does not want to kick him out so that she can tear down the house for parking. She was not aware of any problems with parking until this meeting. (It did come up as an issue the previous month, though.)
The Chair reopened the public hearing at the suggestion of the city attorney.
The applicant said she had an informal parking survey done at the Brown Dog dispensary which is east of Palm on Pierson. Over the course of a week there was only one time during the day when there were three cars there and the overlap was for only two minutes. In the evenings there would sometimes be as many as three cars there. She expects the same traffic at her dispensary. Street parking would handle that small amount.
Vice Chair Voss moved to continue this until next month at which time staff will have prepared the proper denial paperwork. Approved 5-0.
Eduardo Rivera and D.H.S. Alternative Healing Corporation
How about another CUP for a medical marijuana dispensary? This one is also continued from last month (and the month before that, IIRC). The continuance was to allow a neighbor to come in and comment on this. No changes have been made from last month. This one is going to be at 66328 Pierson Boulevard.
Unfortunately, the aggrieved neighbor did not show up. There were no public comments at all.
Vice Chair Voss moved to approve with the additional requirement that there be no neon lighting. Approved 5-0.
Dino Sogoyan - Desert Hot Springs, Collective, Ltd.
This item is a CUP for a medical marijuana dispensary to be located at 66292 Pierson Boulevard. That's just to the east of Wiefels Mortuary.
The monument sign in front of the building will have to be upgraded to meet current sign standards. The applicant is buying the property and said he plans to tear down that monument sign.
Commissioner Cirner moved to approve with the additional requirement that they come up with a different color scheme (and no neon). Approved 5-0.
Adrian Sedlin - Canndescent, MBC
This is for a CUP for a marijuana cultivation facility at 65334 Two Bunch Palms Trail, which is currently occupied by an auto repair business and tire recycling business. The two buildings are about 4,800 square feet each.
The applicant says he hopes to be operating by June 15.
Vice Chair Voss moved to approve with the addition of a ban on neon signs. Approved 5-0.
The Planning Commission also approved a design review and development permit for a warehouse and retail facility for Angel View on Dillon Road.
They also appointed Andrew Cirner to the Arts District Committee.
February 16, 2016
MSWD Approves Water & Sewer Rates
At the 218 Public Hearing tonight, after listening to comments from many residents of the district, the MSWD board approved the proposed new rates for both water and sewer by a vote of 4-0, John Furbee being absent for health reasons. One commenter railed against the folly of fluoridating the water. MSWD board President Nancy Wright explained that MSWD does not fluoridate.
One complaint heard repeatedly was that the board was going to "double the rates." This began with, I think, one person who had pointed out the very low per gallon rate and didn't consider all the numbers after the decimal point before rounding.
From 2016 to 2020 the residential rate for 13 units of water (the average amount used in this district) will go from $28.94 to $43.40, a 50% increase, not a doubling. The cost per gallon will go from 0.3¢ to 0.45¢. Again, a 50% increase, not a doubling. Half of that increase will go to pay for chromium 6 abatememnt, which is a complete waste of money, but mandated by the state.
Residential sewer will increase from $31.23 to $50.16 over the same time period. That's a 61% increase.
February 9, 2016
Surprising Guzzler Discovered In Joshua Tree National Park
Tom Mahood, investigating an artifact seen in Google Earth, found an interesting guzzler way back in some nearly inaccessible corner of JTNP. Built in 1993 and well camouflaged, the guzzler for bighorn sheep is protected from discovery by a 25-foot dry waterfall.
February 2, 2016
Southern California Geology
Brand new: "Roadside Geology of Southern California." And only $22.
Since Mountain Press started the Roadside Geology series forty years ago, southern Californians have been waiting for an RG of their own. During those four decades which were punctuated by jarring earthquakes and landslides geologists continued to unravel the complexity of the Golden State, where some of the most dramatic and diverse geology in the world erupts, crashes, and collides. With dazzling color maps, diagrams, and photographs, Roadside Geology of Southern California takes advantage of this newfound knowledge, combining the latest science with accessible stories about the rocks and landscapes visible from winding two-lane byways as well as from the region s vast network of highways.
Join Arthur Sylvester, an award-winning UC Santa Barbara geologist, and Elizabeth O Black Gans, a geologist-illustrator, as they motor through mountains and deserts to explore the iconic features of the SoCal landscape, from boulder piles in Joshua Tree National Park and brilliant white dunes in the Channel Islands to tar seeps along the rugged coast and youthful cinder cones in the Mojave Desert. Whether you want to find precious gemstones, ponder the mysteries of the Salton Sea, or straddle the boundary between the North American and Pacific Plates, be sure to bring this book along as your tour guide.
January 6, 2016
From the DHS Police:
January 6, 2016
Sgt. G. Paiz
760-329-6411 x 325 firstname.lastname@example.org
Kidnapping/False imprisonment arrest
On Tuesday January 5, 2016, at about 12:32 PM, Officers responded to Desert Regional Medical Center, regarding an adult female kidnapping victim. Officers spoke with the victim who said her ex-boyfriend, Marshall Jones, kidnapped her and held her against her will at his home for several days. Officers responded to Jones' home and conducted a surround call out. Jones walked out of his home in the 9700 Block of San Rafael where he was detained without incident. Jones was booked for the above charges and he was transported to RCJ-Banning jail.
Marshall Eddie Jones 48 years old
M, Black, 5'11, 175, Black, Brown
Desert Hot Springs resident
Sgt. G. Paiz 325
December 31, 2015
December 22, 2015
DHS Planning Commission Approves One More CUP For A Medical Marijuana Dispensary
The Planning Commission held a special meeting on Monday, December 21. Commissioner Voss was absent because he was still in China (or in the process of returning), but the other four commissioners were present.
There were three items on the agenda; all three were CUPs for medical marijuana dispensaries. The proposed dispensaries are:
- Benno Pabst and Valley Compassionate Care on the southeast corner of Palm Drive and Fourth Street, formerly the Hart dental building.
- Thomas Miller and Greenleaf Wellness at 12285 Palm Drive, Suite B, formerly a church and, I have been told, before that, a theater.
- Eduardo Rivera and the D.H.S. Alternative Healing Corporation at 66328 and 66338 Pierson Boulevard which was used by Ocean Tech some years ago.
I sure hope listing these spoilers doesn't ruin your enjoyment:
- Continued to the January meeting with no discussion.
- Continued to the February meeting after quite a bit of discussion.
Let's move right along to the second one, Thomas Miller and Greenleaf Wellness. There is already a nail salon and convenience store as neighbors to this proposed location. The site has already been improved for those businesses. The only exterior improvement suggested by staff was to put more lighting on the Palm Drive front of the building because (1) there's a bus shelter there and (2) it's always too dark at night.
The dispensary will occupy 2,016 sq. ft.
Thomas Miller, the applicant, came to the podium. He said his dispensary will provide free medication to cancer patients and to veteran PTSD patients. He is already in contact with the local Veterans Association. They will offer buy one, get one deals (known as "BOGOs"). There will also be early bird, happy hour, birthday and loyalty card specials. They will offer free classes to patients on the proper way to purchase and use edibles, as well as classes on the effects of the different strains. They have hired two DHS residents already, one a budtender, the other a security guard. They have art from local artists to put on their walls.
Mr. Miller said he has experience in the restaurant business which, he said, is very similar to the marijuana business, especially in terms of customer service. He invites anyone and everyone to come and visit and see what they are building.
Commissioner Duffle asked how many local residents he expects to hire when he opens. Mr. Miller said they plan to have only five employees, because they will not start growing plants immediately. He and his partner will be two of the employees. The other three will all be from Desert Hot Springs, he said. A second security guard will be needed too, and he hopes to hire that guard from DHS as well.
Mr. Duffle asked if he had a system set up to capture the proper sales tax on the free and specially-priced items. Mr. Miller said he did and the tax money for those will come to the City of DHS.
Mr. Miller said he has already been in touch with his landlord about putting in the lighting on the Palm Drive front and he also plans to install a gate of iron bars across the stairs on the south side of the building that go down to the basement. The nail salon has already set up an exterior camera. There will be a camera inside the dispensary as well.
Commissioner Terifaj asked about his delivery service. Mr. Miller said they have run a legal delivery service out of Cathedral City for 2½ years, which sservice I believe is called 420 Express Delivery. He has 400 delivery patients in Desert Hot Springs. Currently any tax on those sales go to the City of Cathedral City. But he said he planned to move the delivery service to his dispensary in Desert Hot Springs, so that tax on deliveries to other cities will come to Desert Hot Springs. [Finally beginning a reverse action on the flood of sales taxes we pay to other cities.]
Mr. Malacoff said the city's current ordinance does not allow deliveries. The city code is actually silent on that issue, but under zoning laws nothing is permitted unless the zoning ordinance specifically says it is permitted. The city council could revise the ordinance, but I don't think it needs to. The new California laws on medical marijuana begin to go into effect on January 1, 2016. Here's what I found in the new law covering deliveries to patients:
Article 9. Delivery
(a) Deliveries, as defined in this chapter, can only be made by a dispensary and in a city, county, or city and county that does not explicitly prohibit it by local ordinance.
(b) Upon approval of the licensing authority, a licensed dispensary that delivers medical cannabis or medical cannabis products shall comply with both of the following:
(1) The city, county, or city and county in which the licensed dispensary is located, and in which each delivery is made, do not explicitly by ordinance prohibit delivery, as defined in Section 19300.5.
(2) All employees of a dispensary delivering medical cannabis or medical cannabis products shall carry a copy of the dispensary's current license authorizing those services with them during deliveries and the employee's government-issued identification, and shall present that license and identification upon request to state and local law enforcement, employees of regulatory authorities, and other state and local agencies enforcing this chapter.
(c) A county shall have the authority to impose a tax, pursuant to Article 11 (commencing with Section 19348), on each delivery transaction completed by a licensee.
(d) During delivery, the licensee shall maintain a physical copy of the delivery request and shall make it available upon request of the licensing authority and law enforcement officers. The delivery request documentation shall comply with state and federal law regarding the protection of confidential medical information.
(e) The qualified patient or primary caregiver requesting the delivery shall maintain a copy of the delivery request and shall make it available, upon request, to the licensing authority and law enforcement officers.
(f) A local jurisdiction shall not prevent carriage of medical cannabis or medical cannabis products on public roads by a licensee acting in compliance with this chapter.
Desert Hot Springs does not explicitly prohibit delivery, so I think that it will become legal in DHS on January 1. Once the dispensary gets its final approval the delivery service can move up here.
Ms. Terifaj asked why the city would not allow deliveries. "It just doesn't make any sense." There was a discussion about sending a request to the city council to revise this situation...and that was included in the motion to approve the CUP.
Mr. Miller said there are a lot of DHS residents who don't have cars. And, I might add, there are patients who don't want to be seen entering or exiting a dispensary.
Mr. Duffle said that the crime rate in DHS may make delivery services unsafe. Mr. Miller said he has never felt unsafe in Desert Hot Springs. A patient has to text a copy of their ID and letter of recommendation to his phone before he will deliver. [I think that means delivery is restricted to patients who have access to a smartphone, unless there's some other way to text images.] The one time he was robbed was in Cathedral City.
Commissioner Romero said there is a parallel with how massage is regulated in DHS. One can get a permit to do massage in a hotel, or a permit to do outcall massage, but there is no permit to operate massage therapy out of a home. She rhetorically asked what the city thinks would go on in a home that doesn't go on in other massage settings. It's the mindset and stigma that are still in place along with concerns for legitimacy and propriety.
Mr. Miller said Palm Springs has just dealt with this, allowing deliveries only by established dispensaries.
Steven Henderson, the accountant for Mr. Miller's business, came to the podium to comment. He said he stays on top of the shifting accounting rules that apply in the marijuana business.
Mr. Duffle moved to approve the CUP and to ban delivery services until the city's policy is changed and to install their own camera in the same place as the nail salon's camera (because the nail salon's camera is not compatible with the system used by the police).
This was the fifth marijuana dispensary CUP approved by the Planning Commission, but the dispensary also must get a regulatory permit. On top of that, I believe the number of dispensaries is still limited to three, but that limit is set by City Council resolution so it will be easy to change.
Next, Mr. Duffle moved to have staff notify the City Council that the Planning Commission recommends making delivery services legal. This was approved 4-0. Mr. Malacoff said he would send the message to the City Manager who will then forward it to the council.
Next was the application for CUP by Eduardo Rivera and the D.H.S. Alternative Healing Corporation who want to set up on Pierson Boulevard a few doors west of Casa Blanca. The site is two parcels. The buildings sit on the western parcel which is also paved. The eastern parcel is just dirt. Mr. Malacoff said that if they ever plan to build anything on the eastern parcel, the city will require a parcel merger. The applicant wants to use the dirt lot for special events only, for now. Mr. Malacoff said that each special event will require its own special event permit, which has to be approved by the police and other city departments. The existing buildings have an area of about 1,783 sq. ft.
A couple letters of opposition were sent to city staff. Mr. Malacoff read them into the record. Lisa Mullen wrote that she opposed the application because they have broken the rules. They set up an illegal dispensary at this location in January 2015.
Police: Desert Hot Springs marijuana dispensary closed
Barrett Newkirk, The Desert Sun 5:31 p.m. PST January 13, 2015
Police in Desert Hot Springs say they shut down an illegal marijuana dispensary Monday and arrested two people for possession of marijuana with intent to sell.
Edward Vargas of Cathedral City and Danielle Pappas of Palm Springs were arrested Monday shortly after 6 p.m.
The pair were operating an illegal dispensary out of a standalone commercial building at at 66328 Pierson Blvd., according to a news release. They were arrested at the site.
Police went to the scene after receiving multiple calls about a sign twirler at Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard, possibly advertising a dispensary, the release said.
Police closed the dispensary and conducted a search after obtaining a warrant, the release said.
The Desert Sun found no signs of activity at the building Tuesday. The property was enclosed by a metal gate secured with a padlock.
Police said they found evidence of illegal marijuana sales in the building. Vargas and Pappas both were arrested on suspicion of possession of marijuana with intent to sell and were booked at the Riverside County jail in Banning. The investigation is ongoing.
The Desert Hot Springs Planning Commission is set to meet Tuesday evening to consider permits for the city’s first two authorized medical marijuana dispensaries.
You'll see that article doesn't name either Eduardo Rivera or the D.H.S. Alternative Healing Corporation.
Mr. Malacoff continued reading Ms. Mullen's letter. She said they opened with no business license and lied to her as a new patient, claiming they were the first licensed shop in the city. She saw the sign spinner at Palm and Pierson that is mentioned in the Desert Sun article.
Another letter, from Joseph Miner, was lengthy, so Mr. Malacoff summarized it. The letter said that putting a dispensary in a location within walking distance of residents will exacerbate the health and safety of the community. Mr. Miner owns residential units adjacent to the vacant lot that is behind (north) the proposed location. He said that lot has been a conduit to crime for 20 years. A 90-year old woman and her daughter live next to the vacant lot. He used to own the buildings that D.H.S. Alternative Healing wants to move into so he knows that people climb the chain link fence in back to burgle the place.
Mr. Malacoff reminded the Planning Commission that they deal solely with land use issues. Other issues brought up by the letters from the two residents will be dealt with in the regulatory permit process.
Commissioner Duffle said he had a couple of big concerns. One is the proximity to a high drug crime area. [¡I think he means my 'hood!] He is also concerned about the high number of high school students that would walk past the dispensary.
Ms. Romero asked how many dispensaries are operating and how many are proposed. Mr Malacoff began to list them off, but then Ms. Romero clarified that she meant only on Pierson. Mr. Malacoff said he doesn't have accurate figures because some of dispensary applicants that originally proposed Pierson locations have lost their leases and have not yet re-applied. He said the city does have five applications in queue in addition to the three on this night's agenda.
Ms. Terifaj said the location was isolated. "This is not close to anything, really." There's vacant land next to it and residential property. She said she thinks it's a terrible location.
IMO, the same things could have been said about the Brown Dog dispensary, but there it is, not ruining the city.
Mr. Malacoff said that the applicant had not suggested doing anything to the north side. This surprises me, because there is a chain link fence on the north side of the property. City staff is usually very good about making developers get rid of chain link fences, but this one seemed to get by them.
Chair Sobotta said the existing gate and fence on three sides of the property were supposed to have been temporary. He said the gate opens out into Pierson Boulevard. He is incorrect about that. It's a sliding gate.
Here's the site layout. North is to the left; Pierson Boulevard is running up and down along the left side. Notice there are only 7 parking spaces, including two handicapped spaces. The space closest to Pierson is going to be almost impossible to park in.
Mr. Sobotta said the ideal solution would be to pave the eastern portion of the site and use that for additional parking. He said this is a chance for the city to really improve that site, but the CUP doesn't call for any real improvements. As an example, he cited the wheel stops in the parking lot. Those are not allowed by the city code, but the CUP doesn't require them to fix that.
Eduardo Rivera came to the podium. He said he's from Hawaii. He has owned a hair and nail salon in La Quinta. He has also worked in the food and hospitality industries. He has been a chef and wants to create his own edibles. He said the back building on the site will not be used for growing, so there's little need to be concerned about the security. Mr. Rivera will have his office there and he will occasionally make it available to a doctor. [That seems to be a violation of the law - if it's the office for the owner of the dispensary, then I'd say it's part of the dispensary, and you can't have a doctor set up in a dispensary.]
He said he only found out about this meeting at 5 o'clock that day. I find that difficult to believe, unless Mr. Rivera is in the habit of not reading his mail; something which is not advisable if you are in the process of trying to open a marijuana dispensary.
He said the gate does not swing out into the right of way. It slides along the fence. He said that if a turnaround is required, it's no problem. He said he will agree to whatever accommodations the commission thinks are necessary, "so long as they are reasonable." He said he could set up a street fair there, or he could serve bread and soup to the hungry. He said those are the sorts of things he wants to do because he's a Rotarian. When he lived on Maui he helped create three Rotary clubs.
"You tell me what you want, I will do it," he said. He said he would light up the vacant lot north of him, if the commission wants that. If they want him to buy that vacant lot, he will.
Mr. Duffle moved to continue this item to the February meeting, including look at its proximity to a high crime area, look at its proximity to the high school and the foot traffic going past the location, look at the concentration of dispensaries on Pierson Boulevard, consider the condition of the north side of the property and what should be done with that, the site is isolated, consider the impacts to the neighboring residential area, investigate the law on locating a doctor's office, check that the gate does not open into the right of way, re-examine the parking, get a better landscape plan (there's a tiny bit of dirt along the fence in front where something skinny might grow), get a lighting plan that shows type of equipment, examine the circulation of the site, examine the exterior of the building and consider whether exposed conduit should be painted or screened. Mr. Sobotta added that the wheel stops should be taken out and replaced with continuous curbing. He also wants to examine whether the fence should be improved or perhaps removed.
December 9, 2015
What's Up At Sungrow?
There was an item on the 12/8/2015 Planning Commission agenda concerning Sungrow. Apparently at an earlier meeting (I've missed so many!) there was a discussion of code violations or failure to conform with the CUP. Rich Malacoff reported that all of the items discussed previously had been corrected. Mr. Malacoff said there had been an issue with a trailer and an issue with the hours. Both have been resolved. At the point when this item came up in the meeting, no representative for Sungrow had shown up, but the Operation Manager arrived later. Mr. Lee (the younger) showed up just as the meeting adjourned at 8:30 PM. Their "Marketing Director" was nowhere to be seen.
Mr. Malacoff said neither of the dispensaries in town have permanent permits yet. They both have things to accomplish in phase two.
Commissioner Dirk Voss raised the issue of how conformance to CUPs in general are monitored. Mr. Malacoff suggested the city do what some other cities do: they get together staff from the community development department, the Planning Commissioners, and Committee Members from the ALRC; put them all on a bus and drive around town to view some properties.
Commissioner Richard Duffle said he had heard reports that Sungrow has been doing "what is called five dollar wax dabs." Meaning the patient buys a dab of medical marijuana wax, and then consumes the wax on the premises. This not only goes against their CUP, but is outright illegal. When Mr. Duffle asked the city attorney (it was Robert Lee this night) about this, the attorney apologized, saying he was not really up on marijuana law. Yes, he said that. May I suggest that that any attorney sitting in with the Desert Hot Springs Planning Commission should always be well versed in marijuana law. We are, after all, the pioneering city in this area, and the Planning Commission is where the business happens. Would the water district have an attorney who knew nothing about water law?
Mr. Duffle continued, saying that in addition to the dabs, Sungrow is also selling medical marijuana slushies which are made on the premises (a health code violation) and the patients then take them out to their vehicles and drive away, possibly consuming them on the road. The people reporting this to Mr. Duffle said they had gotten their physician's letter of recommendation from the doctor who was operating in a trailer just outside the dispensary.
Mr. Duffle said that if there is trouble with this dispensary it could mean trouble later on for other potential marijuana businesses.
Mr. Malacoff said that if any edibles were being prepared on site, the health department needs to be made aware of that.
Mr. Duffle said he considered Mr. Lee's failure to show up as disrespectful. He said he wanted to follow up personally on this matter with Mr. Malacoff, the City Manager and the Chief of Police. He said we need to get a handle on it immediately, so we don't risk losing any businesses. Mr. Malacoff offered to set up such a meeting.
Mr. Voss warned that if a dispensary were operating illegally, it invited intervention from the state or federal government, and that sort of thing would cast yet another shadow on Desert Hot Springs.
Ian Armstrong came to the podium to comment.
Commission, my name is Ian Armstrong. I'm with the American Cannabis Chamber of Commerce*. All the policies that you're saying you need - we implement this for cities free of charge. Those edibles that are sold at Sungrow, they need to be produced in a commercial kitchen regulated by the State of California. They are not. Their slushies, by the same principle, should be produced in a commercial kitchen. They don't have a commercial kitchen.
Cannabis flowers, typically, in the State of California, have between 23% to 25% THC content. Three hits off of a typical bong or other smoking device is capable of getting an individual stoned. This impairs their judgement. Wax, by contrast, is 74% to 78% THC content. This facility is actively having a dabs bar and a wax bar on its premises, allowing its medical cannabis users to ingest this onsite. This is worse than driving drunk. Colorado has severe penalties in regard to this, as do Oregon and Washington. You're now aware this is occurring onsite. If you go to Weedmaps.com for Sungrow's listing you'll see multiple reviews, some as early as twelve days ago [see below for examples]. A case in point that I'll point is CamOne09 "Awesome Place. Went there Monday and it was fast and easy for first time patients. The bud is a lot better then the other place I went to. The Goji Og is awesome. I like the dab station they have there too. I got a free cheap grinder, lighter, and mini pipe and a free 180mg cheese cake."
Smoking dabs onsite is against every single type of law you can possibly imagine. Federal, state, county and it should be against city. It's basic common sense. The fact that this city is operating right now, I would yank its conditional use permit on the spot. As the head of the National Chamber of Commerce [there is a National Cannabis Chamber of Commerce in Florida that appears to be bigger than Mr. Armstrong's American Cannabis C of C] I work with policy in Vermont, Connecticut, Washington, Oregon. I set up Hawaii's medical cannabis program. The fact that they're doing this here is appalling. I've never advocated for the closure of a dispensary before, but this one I suggest you shut its doors immediately. There's no excuse for this [scattered applause]. None whatsoever. And every single day that you let this continue is a liability for this city. It's atrocious!
As the city attorney, you can tell us that if you let someone walk off those premises stoned or impaired after smoking THC in that context, that's a massive liability. And the city issued this conditional use permit to that liability. So, this facility needs to be closed down immediately. If not closed down, I suggest you suspend their permit. There's, what, eleven other dispensaries in line for permits for your city? And one operating already. There's no argument that can be said that there's not another facility in operation, so Desert Hot Springs' population is taken care of in that respect. You've got other dispensaries scheduled to open within the next two to three months which means there's no competition issue being raised from that. There's no reason to allow this to continue to go on. None whatsoever. And we are slightly horrified as the chamber of commerce about this, and this is something that you guys need to fix immediately.
* American Cannabis Chamber Of Commerce may be fairly new and small. Their website lists only one member. The chamber's contact information gives its address as 1766 E. Camino Parocela #10; Palm Springs, CA 92264, which is in a residential area at Ramon and Sunrise. Here is their Facebook page which seems to go back as far as April 2015. There is some indication that Dean Gray does not like Ian Armstrong. I think you know how to consider that information. The chamber's email address has armstronginternational.org for its domain. http://www.armstronginternational.org/ returns only an error page, but the Whois data for Cannabispolicy.org shows it was registered by Ian Armstrong, giving a mailing address of 1643 Clovis Avenue; second floor; San Jose, California 95124, which is a residential address that doesn't appear to have a second floor. Armstronginternational.org was also registered by Ian Armstrong using the Clovis Avenue address. He also registered 5StarFlowers.org using that address. 5StarFlowers is a dispensary in Palm Springs.
In response to a question from Chair Steve Sobotta, Mr. Armstrong repeated that consumption on premises is not allowed by any law in any jurisdiction in this country. "Furthermore," he said, "they also sell alcohol-based tinctures. ATF would have a field day. That's where you take something like Bacardi 151, fill a mason jar with cannabis, fill it with the alcohol, and then shake it around. After 30 days you have a cannabis tincture, which is mostly THC, chlorophyll, and a bunch of alcohol."
Mr. Armstrong said Sungrow is not a medical facility, that the doctor onsite is not using any medical knowledge. Mr. Armstrong said he is making himself available to the city as a resource. He will help the city draft policy. He will assist in checking the dispensaries. He'll help the city maintain compliance on federal and state levels. He said the main goal of his chamber of commerce is public safety. It is not pro-dispensary, it is pro-consumer.
Mr. Duffle asked Attorney Lee what his recommendation would be at this point. Mr. Lee said that first the allegations must be confirmed. If confirmed, he would recommend staff look into suspension or possible revocation.
If the city proceeded as fast as it could possibly go, they couldn't get the suspension hearing on the Planning Commission's agenda until March 2016, IMO. First you've got to investigate, then schedule a public hearing (which requires 45 day notice, IIRC). Consider that it's December. The investigation would be conducted by our short-staffed police or our very short-staffed code enforcement guy, unless we wanted to bring in the Sheriff to help. IOW, the investigation will not go fast.
At this point Susan Miller commented on another topic entirely. There was some confusion if we were still discussing Sungrow, or if we had gone into a final period of public comments.
Bruce Hutchison spoke next. He will be bringing a proposal for another marijuana grow facility to the Planning Commission. He says there will be four buildings on 7 acres. When complete, they will employ 750 to 1,000 employees [which is, I'm fairly sure, more than one Walmart store employs.] He said that another grow facility that has already been approved expects to employ 800 people. He said his own grow facility, once it's operational, will pay the city $1.6 million per year in taxes, plus all the usual expenses one pays for employees. He has moved his family here.
He warned that Sungrow's activities are threatening all of this. The federal government will not tolerating breaking the law, he said. [The official position of some part of the federal government is that they will ignore medical marijuana so long as it's conducted in accordance with local laws. California's new medical marijuana law, effective 1/1/2016, will finally give us a formal law that the feds can accept.]
Mr. Hutchison said he had heard there is a public arts fund and he said he would be willing to put some of his money into that. Mr. Malacoff explained that when he built his grow facility he would, indeed, be putting money into the art in public places fund.
Chair Sobotta called Ian Armstrong back to the podium. Commissioner Duffle said he would like to see this matter dealt with in the next day or two, not next week. Mr. Armstrong suggested suspending the conditional use permit, saying that other dispensaries would pick up the slack. He repeated that Sungrow is a great threat to the future of Desert Hot Springs. He has witnesses who have seen the dab bar at Sungrow. He said he has never suggested shutting down a dispensary prior to this.
Mr. Duffle asked the attorney about suspending the CUP pending an investigation. Mr. Malacoff said a CUP cannot be suspended. It can be revoked, and that requires a public hearing. He suggested a meeting with the City Manager as soon as possible.
The attorney echoed what Mr. Malacoff had said.
Mr. Duffle said he was prepared to be at city hall the next day for a meeting. Mr. Malacoff said he wasn't sure he could get something on the City Manager's schedule for the next day, but would try for Thursday. Chair Sobotta asked Mr. Armstrong if he would be available, and he said he would be. Mr. Malacoff suggested the first meeting should be city staff (and Mr. Duffle) only.
Mr. Duffle pointed out that it appeared the Planning Commission now had a representative of Sungrow in the audience. Commissioner Voss said "Thank you for showing up, even if it was late."
Chair Sobotta said the goal is to get Sungrow to come into compliance, not to shut them down.
Then Ron Gilbert came up to make a comment. My question was why nobody was talking about sending in the police. If a liquor store was allowing people to drink inside the store and then walk out drunk, the first thing the city would do is send some police over there to stop it. They wouldn't schedule a public hearing to pull their CUP two or three months down the road. Send in Chief Mondary, who I'm sure knows how to identify a dab bar - or can educate himself really fast. He goes in, spots the illegal dab bar, tells management to stop it immediately. Comes back the next day to see if they've complied.
Mr. Duffle said he was will to call law enforcement and have them go down there right then. Mr. Malacoff tried to discourage him, saying he had already messaged the City Manager. Mr. Duffle said he was asking the Commission, not staff, and asked if the other Commissioners would like him to contact the police. [There was some applause from the audience.]
Mr. Voss said it was not uncommon for the police department to investigate conditions that were approved in a CUP.
A member of the audience called out that we should hear from the Sungrow representative, if one were in fact present. Everyone waited a few moments, but the alleged Sungrow representative sat there saying and doing nothing. Then Chair Sobotta invited him to the podium, and he came up.
I couldn't understand his name at all, but he said he is the Operation Manager at Sungrow. He is a representative of Sungrow, "but they are on their way." One assumed that "they" meant the owner. He said they would be there in 2 minutes.
In response to a direct question from Mr. Duffle, the Sungrow rep said they do not have a dab bar in their facility. Then Mr. Duffle asked if they were making medical marijuana slushies. The rep said that question should be directed to the owners. Mr. Duffle repeated his question. The rep said they do make marijuana slushies, but they are not for consumption on site. He said they do make the slushies on site.
Mr. Voss said he thought there should be no more discussion on this issue. The conversation had become investigative, he said. Further discussion may jeopardize legal procedures down the road.
Below are some of the patient reviews on Sungrow's Weedmap pages. For a dispensary that allegedly does not have a dab bar, there are a surprising number of patients who say they have enjoyed the dab bar there.
Seven days ago
"Great shop with knowledgeable staff. Its a one stop shop with a dab bar need I say more"
13 days ago
"Went there Monday and it was fast and easy for first time patients. The bud is a lot better then the other place I went to. The Goji Og is awesome. I like the dab station they have there too. I got a free cheap grinder, lighter, and mini pipe and a free 180mg cheese cake."
20 days ago
"Great Staff ! Sungrow is a well run Shop with great bud ! huge variety ! Gotta love the Dab Station & Smoothie machine-"
Oct 12, 2015
"this spot has dank bud, and awesome slushies! pink lemonade is the way to go. and the dab station is fire!! come support one of the best despinsary around!"
S e a l o w s
Sept 3, 2015
"On the Corner of Palm and Dillon in DHS. Upon first arrival, I thought I was going to get my oil changed because of the uniform (black w/ red trim) polo shirts This place is absolutely amazing. Deals are great. Selection and inventory are on point. The staff is very knowledgeable about their strains and qualities. Dab Station is next level. No one here in the valley that I know of is offering dabs on the way out. GENIUS! I am forever a fan of this place. It will be very difficult to get me to go anywhere else now..."
July 25, 2015
"I just love this place I love the people love the DAB Bar it is simply the best this is where every one needs to come!!!!"
July 21, 2015
"While it is a rare quality in today’s business world to find a business that still practices good ole’ fashioned customer service….it’s even rarer when the owner of a business reaches-out to its customers when there is an issue with service and/or product. I recently bought some of Sun Grow’s “Amber Fire” for my vape and I was left a little dissatisfied with the quality of the oil. I called Sun Grow to a few days ago to discuss my concerns about the quality of the oil and was met with a sense of helplessness from the girl that answered the telephone. She basically stated that there was nothing they could do to rectify the situation and I was left feeling almost victimized by the thought that I was stuck with some crummy oil. I was actually blown-away later that day when the owner, Anthony personally contacted me and apologized for the miscommunication between his staff any myself. He invited me in for a free Dab for my inconvenience and immediately exchanged the oil for, what I now must admit, is some of the best bud I have had the pleasure of smoking in quite some time. The bottom line is, Sun Grow didn’t hesitate to fix my complaint and went out of their way to assure that I walked away a happy and satisfied patient. Hat’s off to you Anthony for your understanding and for your commitment to professionalism….and for the DaVinci which moves you guys up to the top of my “go to” list for excellent bud!"
November 19, 2015
Wanted For Attempted Homicide
CITY OF DESERT HOT SPRINGS
Dale Mondary, Chief of Police
DESCRIPTION OF INCIDENT: Attempted Homicide/Arrest Warrant
On 11-12-15 at approximately 3:00 pm, there was a shooting at Tedesco Park in Desert Hot Springs. The victim was shot once and was severely injured. The victim is currently in stable but serious condition.
There were multiple eye witnesses and the investigation identified the shooter as Efrain Hyman. Efforts to locate Hyman have not been successful and he is on the run.
Desert Hot Springs Detectives have filed the case with the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office and have obtained a warrant for Hyman’s arrest with a cash bond of $1,000,000.
Anyone who knows the whereabouts of Hyman is encouraged to notify the police of your local jurisdiction or contact the Desert Hot Springs Police Department. Please do not attempt to contact Hyman or take any other action, as he is considered armed and dangerous.
Anyone with additional information regarding this investigation please contact the Desert Hot Springs Police Department and ask to speak with Detective Larry Essex. (760) 329-6411 ext 322. Email: email@example.com Citizens can also call Valley Crime Stoppers at (760) 341-7867.
November 6, 2015
Wexler House For Sale
October 26, 2015
Mission Lakes Country Club
October 16, 2015
Two Busted For Stolen Water Meter & More
On 10/15/2015 Desert Hot Springs Officers responded to the 66300 block of 3rd St. regarding a stolen water meter and subjects trespassing into a vacant house. Officers were unable to contact any of the subjects who fled prior to their arrival. On 10/16/2015 officers went back to the location to conduct a property check and located two subjects trespassing in the house. The subjects were identified as Jeffery Claghorn and Steven Pupp; they were arrested for possession of stolen property as well as multiple other felony charges. Both Claghorn and Pupp also had outstanding felony warrants for their arrest, they were booked into Riverside County Jail.
October 13, 2015
Rare Volunteer Opportunity In Palm Springs
Volunteers are needed Friday, Nov 6 to set up, Nov 7 & 8 to staff the event and on Nov 8 to teardown. This is a great opportunity for Burners, admirers and anyone else looking for a penetrable experience that will bathe them in amazing music, state-of-the-art lighting, and the furry futuristic wool of a 40' long sheep whose only entrance is in the rear.
Volunteers for setup and teardown shifts will be directed in assembling the sheep by experienced BAAAHS staff. They'll need to be able to lift moderately heavy items (under 50 lbs). Some experience with tools or basic construction is nice but not required. BAAAHS will provide safety gear and training.
BAAAHS debuting in the Coachella Valley will provide a stage for queer artists on Palm Canyon Dr. during the annual Palm Springs Pride Festival.
Follow the link above to find the volunteer form to fill out and submit.
What is BAAAHS? An art car from Burning Man. You can see it towering over this crowd during this year's Naked Pub Crawl. Normally there would be lasers in the eyes, but lasers were banned at Burning Man this year.
October 8, 2015
An Earlier Involvement By Pastor Jesse Sanchez
People should recall that Adam Sanchez used residents of one of Pastor Sanchez's facilities to organize a protest at the police station. It was documented as part of the investigation into Rick Daniels' letter of complaint in 2013. I've got a long write-up on that whole thing at http://ronslog.typepad.com/ronslog/2013/08/the-report-on-the-investigation-into-rick-daniels-letter-of-complaint.html
But here is the part about bringing felons to protest at the police station:
Interference With Police Department Personnel Matters
Mr. Daniels accused both Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez of interfering with police department personnel matters. [Whole paragraphs are redacted on this matter, but it seems everything involving Sergeant Peary is unredacted.] On June 25, 2012, Mr. Betts accused Sergeant Peary of telling 'some real whoppers' to the POA and that Sgt. Peary owned Mr. Betts an apology.
In Spring 2011 Officer Paul Tapia [the redactor's marker sort of half missed the line] 'committed an act which warranted discipline. This was appealed to Chief Williams [the redactors are wearing down!]. While that was being investigated, Officer Tapia became POA President. A week before the POA vote there was a mailer showing Officer Tapia with Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Betts with a caption about 'supporting those who support the police.' When the hearing was scheduled in February 2012, Mr. Sanchez 'arranged for around 20 people to be bused in from a local drug rehabilitation facility to demonstrate in support of Officer Tapia.' One protestor told Desert Sun reporter Kate McGinty that he lived at 'Hope For Life' recovery center. He had been told to get up, get dressed and carry a protest sign. One police officer reported that he recognized one of the protestors as a felon on parole who he had arrested not long before. Mr. Daniels said he recognized the professionally made protest signs as coming from a company owned by someone [successful redaction!] who Mr. Daniels calls a 'hotelier' and 'Chief troll.'
Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Betts wanted a closed session on Monday before the personnel hearing on Tuesday. They would have needed a third council member to agree with them to call that meeting. There was already a closed session scheduled for Tuesday at which a performance evaluation of Mr. Daniels was scheduled. Mr. Daniels believes this was an attempt to pressure him and interfere in the discipline hearing scheduled for Tuesday.
Mr. Daniels notified Mr. Betts that [someone - Tapia? Peary?] was an employee and he should go through the City Manager's office on matters involving the direction of employees. Mr. Betts countered that it was a political issue not personnel issue.
Then there was the request to use the Senior Center for the police and fire department holiday toy drive. 600 children were expected, which is far too many for the Senior Center. Mr. Daniels said a more appropriate venue would have to be found. The story immediately found its way to the press, which Mr. Daniels blames on Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez.
Ken Peary had a statement that is massively redacted.
Mayor Parks confirmed the essential elements of the story of Mr. Sanchez bringing felons in to picket. She also confirmed the attempt to call a last minute close session by Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez. She also confirmed the toy drive story.
In Ms. Pye's statement Officer Tapia's name was never touched by the redactor's pen. Ms. Pye reminded Mr. Sanchez and Mr. Betts that the matter of Officer Tapia was a personnel matter and that the council could not intervene.
Mr. Matas believes that Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez encouraged Officer Tapia in his disciplinary appeal. Mr. Matas said he knows that a pastor friend of Mr. Sanchez runs a rehab facility for parolees outside of DHS.
A big part of Mr. Sanchez's statement [possibly about Officer Tapia] is redacted.
Mr. Betts said he wanted a closed session to discuss the POA contract.He denies that he wanted a closed session to review the City Manager's performance. He said his email to Sgt. Peary about telling whoppers was a joke. He said his interaction with Officer Tapia was not a personnel matter because the POA is a political entity.
Mr. Betts said there was no reason not to use the Senior Center for the toy drive. He said 1,200 people showed up for the event at the Miracle Springs hotel, but there were never 1,200 people in the building at one time.
The investigator found that Mr. Betts and Mr. Sanchez did attempt to interfere in a personnel matter. They did this by organizing the protest and by trying to call a closed session. Mr. Betts allegation that he wanted the closed session only to discuss POA contract negotiations is not believable because an agreement had already been reached with the POA. Also, Mr. Betts called for an impromptu job performance evaluation at the Tuesday closed session.
The interference in police personnel matters was a violation of contract and policy provisions.
August 21, 2015
Syphilis In The Coachella Valley
A surprisingly accurate and informative article in the Desert Sun about syphilis and the fact that Palm Springs has got just about the highest rate of infection in the country. In every city I have seen public health information booths set up at most large gay functions. In big cities I've seen the public health department actually taking lab samples at the event, to be processed later. I've never seen that in Palm Springs, and there has never been public health information campaign targeted at Palm Springs as far as I can recall. Riverside County has just let this ride for more than ten years.
August 15, 2015
Up Palm Drive, Down Santa Cruz Road
August 6, 2015
Eagle Mountain Boundary Study
I attended the public information meeting at UCR-Palm Desert about the Eagle Mountain Boundary Study that will be conducted by Joshua Tree National Park. They presented four different options to discuss, although the final decision may be something different than any of the four.
Option 1 is always "do nothing." Here you see a map of the Eagle Mountain intrusion as it exists today. The yellow areas are BLM-owned and are almost entirely undisturbed desert. This is good news. That's 70% of the area, or about 23,000 acres. The big brownish shape stretching from the eastern edge almost to the northwest corner is, of course, the former Eagle Mountain iron mine. Those little marks of the same color further west are small gold mines owned by individuals who work them mostly as a hobby. One of the owners of some of that land was present and told us that some Canadian investors have shown interest in taking over those mines. These are patented mines. There are also unpatented mines in the area, and we were told that some of the people who are trying to work those unpatented mines showed up at the meeting in the Town of Joshua Tree last night and raised a stink. The purple is "state school lands." I think that means it's the one square mile set aside in accordance with the Public Land Survey System. The purple slashed areas are where the Eagle Crest pumped storage hydro project will be. The small pink rectangle next to the site of Eagle Mountain town is where the grade school is. Currently, it's got fewer than 25 students. The blue areas are owned and controlled by the Metropolitan Water District to protect the Colorado River Aqueduct which is the blue line with dots running across the map. Those are the only lands from the original Joshua Tree National Monument boundaries that the NPS is NOT considering taking back into the park.
The next option would transfer all the BLM land to the park. This would be a much simpler deal compared to other proposals that would include more land. The Secretary of Interior is authorized to transfer land between BLM and NPS, so it would not require any Congressional authorization.
Option 3 would include all the BLM land plus all the private land west of about the middle line of the area. Eagle Crest has said they would be willing to donate lands that they own in that area to the park. As for the other private lands, the park representatives said repeatedly that including non-federal land inside the park boundary does not mean there would be a change in ownership. Private land would continue to be held privately. The owners would be free to donate or sell the land to NPS, or they could transfer it to anyone else they like. However, there is currently no real road for those little private gold mines. If someone wanted to operate them as a productive mine, they would need a road, power and water. Access to all of that would have to be negotiated with the NPS in all of these options, except for the first one.
The last proposal - just include everything (except MWD land). This is the one that makes the most sense to me. It doesn't necessarily mean that the park would ever actually acquire the mine or the pumped storage facility. But if those owners were willing someday to donate or sell the land to the NPS, the park service could accept the land without having to conduct another boundary study which would take another year and spend more money. Putting it all within the park boundaries gives both the park service and the private landowners the greatest flexibility going forward.
I was quite surprised at the number of people there who had no idea what the Eagle Mountain Pumped Storage facility will be. How can one be interested in Eagle Mountain and not know about this? But the real howler of a question came from a man who wondered if more bridges failed on 10 so that it was out of commission and if terrorists seized highway 62, would the federal government possibly consider building a freeway right through the park! Yes, despite the fact that it would be far easier and less expensive and far more popular to rebuild I-10 and to bomb all those terrorists, Congress would just throw up their hands and decide to pave a national park. Of course. What else could be done?
This was my first chance to meet David Smith the still-new Superintendent of the park. As soon as the public meeting ended he grabbed a moment to praise my new Burning Man shoes that I have been breaking in. You'll see photos later. But it's good to know the Superintendent is a man of good taste.
August 3, 2015
Eagle Mountain Boundary Study
From a National Park Service press release:
National Park Service Conducting Boundary Study of Eagle Mountain Area near Joshua Tree National Park
The National Park Service (NPS) is conducting a boundary study to explore whether it would be appropriate and feasible to add lands in the Eagle Mountain area in Riverside County, California to Joshua Tree National Park. Joshua Tree National Park was established to preserve and protect the scenic, natural, and cultural resources representative of the Colorado and Mojave deserts’ rich biological and geological diversity, cultural history, wilderness, recreational values, and outstanding opportunities for education and scientific study.
The initial comment period for the scoping phase of the study has started, and will extend through August 21, 2015. The NPS has published a newsletter on its public planning website that provides an overview of the study process and some preliminary findings and options under consideration. The NPS is also hosting several public meetings to explain the study process, answer questions, gather information, and listen to public ideas and concerns:
August 4, 2015, 6-8 pm Lake Tamarisk Community Center
26-251 Parkview Dr; Desert Center, CA 92239
August 5, 2015, 6-8 pm Joshua Tree Community Center
6171 Sunburst Street; Joshua Tree, CA 92252-2147
August 6, 2015, 6-8 pm University of California, Riverside - Palm Desert Center
75080 Frank Sinatra Drive; Palm Desert, CA 92211-5202
The area of study includes approximately 32,000 acres of land in the Eagle Mountains and Chuckwalla Valley. Federal lands in the study area, comprising approximately 22,500 acres, are managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The area also contains lands owned by the State of California, the Desert center Unified School District, the Metropolitan Water District, and private lands, as well as lands withdrawn by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) under the Federal Power Act for the Eagle Mountain pumped storage project. The pumped storage project received a 50-year license from FERC in June 2014. Valid existing rights in the public lands, including lands withdrawn by FERC for the pumped storage project, would not be affected by the study.
Bounded to the south, west, and north by Joshua Tree National Park, the eastern border of the study area is defined by the Colorado River Aqueduct, which roughly formed the original Joshua Tree National Monument boundary established in 1936. Originally part of Joshua Tree National Monument when designated in 1936, the study area was later removed for mineral extraction activities in 1950. Major mining activities in the study area ceased in 1983. In 1989, the area was proposed for a landfill. After decades of challenges and litigation, the landfill proposal was withdrawn in 2013. The Eagle Mountain area remains a key building block for landscape-scale conservation in the California desert. However, lands within the area and surrounding region continue to be open to various development proposals that could affect protection of the fragile desert ecosystems.
Inclusion of the study area in the national park boundary could help to achieve landscape-scale conservation objectives for the California desert region. Recent studies have documented the particular importance of the area for the migration of bighorn sheep populations. In addition, the study area: 1) contains prehistoric and historic resources that expand on cultural themes interpreted at the national park; 2) may offer new opportunities for public enjoyment; and 3) contains areas important for maintaining wilderness values within Joshua Tree National Park.
The NPS will work in partnership with agencies, organizations, and tribes active within the area, including communities and jurisdictions adjacent to the study area.
The study process includes the following steps, with several opportunities for public involvement:
- Public scoping of the study process (Summer 2015)
- Evaluation of study area resources, land uses, and opportunities (Summer/Fall 2015);
- Application of NPS criteria for national park boundary adjustments (Summer/ Fall 2015)
- Environmental and socioeconomic impact analysis (Fall 2015)
- Preparation and publication of draft report (Winter 2015/2016)
- Completion of study (mid-2016).
For more information:
- Contact: David Smith, Superintendent, Joshua Tree National Park, Phone: 760-367-5500
- E-mail the study team at JOTR_study@nps.gov
- View the project web site at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/eaglemountain
- Introductory newsletter, maps, and more information are available on the project website.