September 25, 2018

2018 Burning Man Photos

View of My Camp from Box Office Camp (0117)
A view of my camp from the elevated deck at Box Office Camp
. This was taken my second day on the playa.

Trago Peak (0108)
Trago Peak on the eastern edge of the playa.

Stephanie & Klank (0280)
Burner Buddies Stephanie and Klank.

Stack of cars (0169)
Every year there's one art piece that is obviously dangerous, and BMOrg will let people play on it until someone gets seriously hurt and then they make some changes
. Before this one had been open for too many days, someone fell off and it was shut down.

Sphere (0299)

Sperm Kites at Kidsville (0138)

Setting Up Box Office (0121)
The front of Box Office while we were setting up.

Self on trike (0131)

Rainbow Arch (0303A)

Rain on the playa (0107)
My first evening on the playa.

My truck at the Nugget Casino in Sparks Nevada (2082)
My truck in the Nugget Casino parking garage in Sparks.

Menorah Bike (0142)
A menorah constructed on a tandem bike.

Men Working On Themselves (0239)

Little Black Dress Party (0218)
At the Burner Buddies Little Black Dress Party.

GPS Tracks From Burning Man 2019
GPS tracks as I traveled around Black Rock City on my trike and on the bus going out to Box Office on Gate Road, plus my exodus in the truck.

Galaxia Temple Burning (0344)
Galaxia Temple Burning.

Galaxia Temple (0261)

Elephant Art Car (0156)

Crashed Plane (0290)

Champagne Bitches Art Car (0147A)
The Champagne Bitches art car stopped in front of Burner Buddies for a while.

Burner Buddies Drive-Thru (0216)
Customers at the Burner Buddies Drive-thru.

Burner Buddies aerial on Saturday by Frank Martin
Aerial view shot by Frank with Burner Buddies camp highlighted.

Burner Buddies & Me - 2018
Burner Buddies group shot by Ed.

Art On The Playa (0259)

Art car on the playa (0312) denoised

My complete set of 2018 Burning Man photos can be seen here.

Filed under Architecture,Burning Man,Photography | September 25, 2018 at 08:00 PM | Comments (1)

September 14, 2018

Videos from Burning Man 2018


My videos.

Filed under Art,Burning Man,Naturism-Nudism,Photography | September 14, 2018 at 08:04 PM | Comments (0)

September 11, 2018

El Capitan State Beach

When I was at El Capitan State Beach with Great Outdoors Santa Barbara I walked what used to be the paved bike path from El Capitan to Refugio State Beach. Part of the route has eroded away, so much so that the path is closed, although pedestrians still hike along the closed portion.

Aniso Trail (1)

Refugio State Beach (0095)
Refugio State Beach
.

Offshore Oil Drilling Warning System (0075)
Sirens for the offshore drilling platforms
.

El Capitan State Beach (0090)

Aniso Trail flower (0080)

Aniso Trail (0094)

Aniso Trail (0086)

Aniso Trail (0077)

Aniso Trail (0079)

See the complete set of photos here.

Filed under California,Photography | September 11, 2018 at 04:57 PM | Comments (0)

Supersonic Passenger Aircraft

Aerion Corp. of Reno is developing a supersonic airplane that could carry 12 passengers. Their intent is to develop a plane that would not require any change in regulations in order to fly legally. The plane would fly at just below the speed of sound over land, so there would be no sonic boom, with speed increasing to Mach 1.6 over water, but they say it will be able to fly at Mach 1.2 without generating a sonic boom. Target price is $120 million. Twenty-three jets have already been sold at that price. The first flight is planned for 2023.

Filed under Technology | September 11, 2018 at 10:10 AM | Comments (0)

August 12, 2018

LAWNBR 2018 Video Slideshow - ThiEYE Camera

Here's the third of the slideshows of my photos from the Los Angeles World Naked Bike Ride back in June.

Filed under California,Cities/Urbanism,Cycling,Naturism-Nudism | August 12, 2018 at 08:02 AM | Comments (0)

August 10, 2018

"Ignite"


Just released, this video documents the 2017 Burn. 2017 was my 11th time at Burning Man, and that makes the narration in this video seem a bit over the top...because I've been there and seen it and I know every second of this video is just real. The only "special effect" in this video is that it was shot at a high frame rate so that it could be slowed down a bit to make this.

There's no great voiceover narration to thrill you as you bike across the playa. No dramatic music. But the excitement is the same, nevertheless. It's just hard to convey the feelings in a video. I can still recall clearly how stunned I was by the first Burning Man I went to. It was bigger, brighter and louder than what I was prepared for. Today, Burning Man has about twice as many attendees as it did in my first year and the technology has leapt forward. If 2017 had been my first year, I probably would have needed a bucket to catch my melting brain.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | August 10, 2018 at 07:16 PM | Comments (0)

August 6, 2018

Los Angeles World Naked Bike Ride 2018

The Los Angeles World Naked Bike Ride for 2018 took place on June 23. They do it in two loops, the first loop being shorter than the second loop. The day started out completely overcast with a bit of drizzle, temps in the 70s, despite trans-100 temperatures back home in the desert.

I've accumulated a number of action cameras and knew this would be a good opportunity to do some comparisons while getting a ton of photos of the other riders. The complete set of photos is here.

I used four action cameras:

  • ThiEYE (link to photos) on my helmet, facing rearwards for both loops.
  • Lightdow (link to photos) on the handlebars facing forward during the first loop.
  • GitUp (link to photos) on the handlebars facing forward during the second loop.
  • And GoPro Hero4 Silver (link to photos) mounted above the rear wheel facing rearwards for both loops.

As you will see, quality was all over the place, but the GoPro tended to do the best under the varying lighting conditions. The full sun came out on the second loop.

I have prepared video slideshows of the photos from each camera, but I've only uploaded two three. Due to upload limitations at Vimeo, I won't upload the others until sometime in September. Here are links to the two three that are up:

Los Angeles World Naked Bike Ride 2018 - Lightdow Camera.


Los Angeles World Naked Bike Ride 2018 - GitUp Camera.


Los Angeles World Naked Bike Ride 2018 - ThiEYE Camera.

They both all end when their batteries died. The GoPro had the longest battery life. It was the only camera still running at the end of the first loop. It ran far longer on the second loop than the other cameras, but died just as we came to the intersection of Silver Lake and Sunset Boulevards. Next year I think I may try hooking it up to a USB battery so I can actually photograph the entire ride (for the first time ever).

Below are some of the more interesting shots, IMO.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (105605)
That's Rocky and his husband.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (103820)
This guy happened to park next to me
. It was his first WNBR.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (105923)
This guy stayed dressed like this for the whole ride
. The ride is clothing optional and a lot of riders wear some clothing, but to be 100% dressed in serious bike rider drag on a fun ride like this seemed weird. Creepy almost. He certainly looks uncomfortable to me.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (110116)
There were a number of Metro Bikes in use
. Some riders covered the seat as they are supposed to; some didn't.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (110724)
This little guy rode the first loop only and was our only child rider
. Usually, we have a few kids, but only one this year. He was accompanied by at least four adults and it looked like they must go on rides together quite a bit. He was a good rider and communicated well with those around him.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (110619A)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (110622A)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (111110)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (111124)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (111152)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (111506)
The LAWNBR is conducted with the close cooperation and supervision of the LAPD
. In prior years they would run us "like a funeral" (in their terminology), meaning they stopped traffic for us at most intersections and gave us right of way. The downside of that is the line of naked riders would stretch out further and further as the faster riders at the front left the slower riders behind, so occasionally the cops would stop all the riders until everybody had caught up. That could mean standing in the street for 10 or 15 minutes sometimes. This year, we were supposed to handle intersections as just ordinary vehicles, with a few exceptions. So a lot of the photos here are shot while we are waiting for a light to turn green. Once we got to Sunset Boulevard on the second loop, and we began the long straight run back to the end of the ride, the cops stopped traffic for us at almost every intersection. Maybe we were behind schedule.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (111658)
Spiderman's costume lasted the length of the ride pretty well
. Sometimes full body paint shows some wear and bare spots before we get to the end.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (111936)
That's Ed
.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (112118)
You get to see more than just naked bike riders while doing the LAWNBR.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (112236)
Los Angeles Fire and Police Pensions building
.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (112454A)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (114106A)
This guy.
I had a brief discussion with another rider about whether the guy knew he had a glaring typo in his sign.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (114130)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (113244)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (113654) Anthony Quinn-Victor Clothing Co mural
The Victor Clothing mural with Anthony Quinn.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (113748)
Passing the Bradbury Building.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (113934)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (112800)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (114439)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (114504)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (114706)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (114748)
Coming up on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (115029)
Waiting at a light near the LADWP.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (115139)
Between the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and Disney Hall.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (134754)
Electric skateboard.
He wasn't with us at the end of the ride, so maybe his battery ran out.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (134759)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (134529)
The double-wheeled bike on the right is supposed to float better on sand, the rider said.
He brought it from Florida. I have to admit, he never got stuck in any sand during the naked bike ride.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (134319A)
Couldn't find matching shoes or saddle, I guess.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (134339)
The guy on the phone would later be seen drinking a foamy beverage from a brown bottle.
He must've had a supply in his backpack.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (134513)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (115234) Disney Hall - Dorothy Chandler Pavilion

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (115454A)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (133731)
The second loop begins.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (134119A)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (135318)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (135539)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (135738A)
Metro Bike with seat covered.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (135752A)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (140038) Union Station
Passing Union Station.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (140142) Union Station

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (141534)
We didn't get to go right up the middle of Chinatown this year.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (141502)
The Los Angeles State Historic Park has re-opened.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (141632A)
This bright red seat might work for that other guy with the bright red trim.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (143032)
Jim practicing to be a North Korean dictator.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (143126)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (143150A)
Just so you know I'm not the only nerd on the ride.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (143416)
The passengers on the Amtrak bus from Oxnard get a special greeting.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (143456)
These two followed me though an intersection on a yellow light, so for several blocks I had almost nothing to photograph behind me but them.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (143938)
They held us all at the rotary where we enter the Los Angeles River Greenway Trail.


In the several years I've done the LAWNBR we've approached this intersection from just about every angle, both on sidewalk and on pavement, due to construction. But, finally, all construction is complete. We approached it from North San Fernando Road this year.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (144121)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (144254A)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (144139)
Out of the rotary and onto the bike trail.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (144233)
Dodger Stadium is up on the other side of that hill.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (144333)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (144616A)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (144745)
We often see kayakers on the Los Angeles River
and water birds, but I don't recall seeing geese before.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (145728)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (150045)
A major stopping point on the L.A. River bikepath.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (150350)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (151434)

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This is where they hold us after we exit the bikepath.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (154308)
These guys with matching skin tones and bikes.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (155605)
I think L.A. Tourism should adopt this rider as their new "Welcome To Los Angeles" maiden.
Postcards, posters, billboards. They'd love her in Iowa.

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (155645A)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (155710)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (160225)

L.A. World Naked Bike Ride 2018 (161015)
It's Los Angeles.

Filed under California,Cities/Urbanism,Cycling,Naturism-Nudism | August 6, 2018 at 07:46 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2018

DHS City Council - June 19, 2018

End Of RDA Oversight Board to the Successor Agency

The DHS "RDA Oversight Board to the Successor Agency" has reached the end of its duties. Its responsibilities are passing on to a county-level board. Mayor Matas presented certificates of recognition to the members of the Oversight Board.


Public Comments

Planning Commissioner Gary Gardner came to the podium to give the Planning Commission update.

Nina Duarte thanked all the volunteers for the Emergency Preparedness Seminar.

Linda Barrack, President and CEO of Martha's Kitchen in Indio, spoke about homelessness. During the first five months of this year, Martha's Kitchen housed 57 people from Desert Hot Springs.

Mike Picardi reported on the first "Jammin' In the Desert." He then spoke against the federal government's policy of separating children from refugee parents at the border. He asked the city council to approve a referendum condemning this practice.

Bruce Hutchison complimented Doria Wilms, Assistant to the City Manager. He said if it weren't for her, he would not have stayed in DHS.

James Velasquez said he has seen some DHS dispensaries are not in compliance with rules that will be enforced on July 1.

Mark [no last name given] talked about cannabis tourism in Colorado.


66071 and 66079 Pierson Boulevard

These two adjacent parcels have been property of the late RDA. They are being sold for $98,010 to Richard Feenstra. Both of these parcels are vacant. One extends from Pierson to Acoma.

The RDA originally paid $315,950 for these parcels.

Approved 5-0.


66146 Pierson Boulevard

This is another RDA parcel which is also being sold to Richard Feenstra. This one is going for $22,542.

Approved 5-0.


APNs 641-191-008 and 641-191-009

These are two adjacent vacant lots on the north side of Ironwood; one on West, the other on Santa Ysabel. They are being sold by the Housing Authority (not the RDA) to Richard Johnson for $12,500 each ($25,000 total). These were acquired with low or moderate income housing funds, which is how they ended up in the hands of the Housing Authority rather than the RDA. The proceeds of the sale return to our Housing Authority rather than being turned over to the county for redistribution, as in an RDA sale.

A realtor who did not state his name said that NAI (the real estate agency handling these sales for the city) had not returned calls his agency had made to them and he thought he "might" have people who would make an offer higher than $12,500.

The properties were listed on MLS. Any real estate agent could have found them easily. They were listed for 20 months. Several offers were received that were lower than $12,500. An offer was received on the day of this city council meeting for $10,000 per parcel.

Approved 4-1 with Mr. McKee voting against. Mr. McKee did not speak during these items and did not explain his vote.

Besides these two parcels, the Housing Authority is retaining 13 other parcels where affordable housing might actually be built someday.


Contract For City-wide Janitorial Services

There were bids from three firms: Santa Fe Building Maintenance ($105,367.24), Merchants Building Maintenance ($81,032.68) and R&R Janitorial Services ($284,520.00). Staff recommended Santa Fe, who had a contract with the city some years ago. Staff said references for Merchant Building Maintenance came back negative.

Mr. Betts moved to deny and to put this out for bid again for at least 30 days with bids solicited from every janitorial service the city has ever had any dealings with. This was seconded by Mr. McKee.

Danny Porras said staff had contacted every city in the valley to find out who they contract with. Bid requests were sent to every firm named.

The motion to deny was approved 3-2 with Mayor Matas and Mayor Pro Tem Zavala voting against.


Furbee Pool Maintenance Contract

The city got two bids for this: 1 Stop Pool Pros for $128,070 and Ocean Springs Tech for $139,104. 1 Stop Pool Pros has been the current contractor and city staff recommended awarding the contract to them again.

Mr. Betts moved to award to Ocean Springs Tech, a DHS firm, and to lower the contingency amount from $25,000 to $10,000. Mr. Porras explained the contingency fund is to pay for broken equipment, and some of the equipment at the Furbee Center is very expensive.

Approved 4-0 with Ms. Pye voting against.


General Municipal Election November 6, 2018

The deposit for candidate statements will be $400. The nominating period is July 16 through August 9. The filing fee is $25. The cost to the city for the election is estimated at $30,000 to $45,000. Approved 5-0. Mail-in ballots will be sent out about October 8.


Rotating Mayor Selection

A resolution to be submitted to the voters which would change the city's mayorship to a position that rotates among members of the council in order by longevity for a one-year term each. Not coincidentally, this measure was proposed by Russell Betts who has run for mayor and lost, but who has the greatest longevity on the council and would (if this were to be approved as proposed) be the first to serve as rotating mayor.

Mr. Betts cited Rancho Mirage as an example of a city with orderly leadership. This is not the first time Mr. Betts has held up Rancho Mirage (or Palm Desert) as an example of what we should be like, ignoring the fact that none of us here in DHS have chosen to live in RM or PD. IOW, why would we want to be like Rancho Mirage, which recently has taken on our former role as disruptive asshole city of the valley?

The proposed resolution would not take effect until November 2020 to determine who becomes the new mayor in December.

Mr. McKee, who co-sponsored this proposal, cited the current matter that a sitting council member can run for mayor from a "safe seat," so that if they lose they will still remain on the council. Rather than filling the position in order by longevity, Mr. McKee proposed that the order of rotation be determined by ordinance because "it will give us the ability to look at something and make sure that if it's not working well, we can change it without going to another election."

Now there's a variation on this proposal that am sure will never fly. In effect, the mayor will not be selected by an objective, pre-determined method (rotation by longevity, for example) but by whatever method three members of the city council prefer. And they could change that preference with every election, if the voters let them.

He went on to say that the council is getting along well with Mayor Matas in his seat, but he called this situation "an outlier," a polite way of saying "unheard of in DHS history." He's certainly right about that. He described the current role of mayor to have a lot of responsibility and very little power, which Mayor Matas immediately agreed with.

Donna Poyuzina expressed her opposition to the proposal, saying "We are not Rancho Mirage." She wants to vote directly for mayor...and it sounds like she'd be happy to re-elect Mr. Matas several times.

Gary Gardner opposes this because the Mayor's position should be filled only by someone who wants to be Mayor. (Mr. McKee had pointed out that taking the job is voluntary, any member of the council can excuse himself or herself from being Mayor).

Michael Picardi said that, in effect, our city council members represent different parts of the city. If that's true, I want him to tell me which one represents me. Mr. Picardi favors a 4-year term for mayor.

In response to a question from Mayor Matas, City Clerk Soriano said that each item added to the ballot costs the city $10,000 to $15,000.

Mayor Pro Tem Zavala said she is still undecided on this proposal for a 4-year mayoral term, but she will vote for this so the voters can decide.

Ms. Pye pointed out that the council has not budgeted for these items. She said this is a decision for the voters, not the council. She said there has not been enough time for people to even discuss it with the council.

Mr. McKee disagreed with Ms. Pye, but he said that if the voters don't approve this, he'll be back to say "I told you so."

Mr. Betts said that if Mr. McKee wanted to suggest a basis other than longevity on which to selecting the rotating mayor, he would be open to that.

Mayor Matas said that if this rotating mayor proposal is put on the ballot, then the voters should also be given the choice of a directly elected 4-year term mayor.

Ms. Zavala said she didn't know which proposal she would prefer personally, and as far as a rotating mayor goes she didn't know what method she preferred for choosing the mayor, but she is okay with submitting it to the voters.

Ms. Pye said the public has not had enough time to figure this out.

Mr. McKee made a motion. "The first part of the motion is that the mayor's term...the mayor's or fifth person that's left on the council will be four years; and that the people, as a second item, will vote on having a rotating mayor with a methodology being formatted by ordinance at a later date...beginning in 2020." Upon questioning by Mayor Matas Mr. McKee clarified that he meant there would be no 2-year term for mayor. He also clarified that "no matter what" the term of mayor will be four years.

Ms. Zavala asked "That first component, is it basically putting in another measure saying 'Would you like a 4-year mayor.'" Mr. McKee clarified that yes, that is what he meant.

Mr. Betts pointed out that the motion would have to come back to the council in written form in time for them to vote on it before the deadline to add items to the ballot.

Attorney Mizrahi clarified that Mr. McKee meant for the 4-year term mayor to be directly elected and that he meant a rotating mayor would serve for only one year at a time.

Mr. McKee now rephrased his proposal, first, whether we should have a rotating mayor and all council seats be for four years, and, second, if not, should the mayor's term be four years. Ms. Zavala and Mr. Betts both said this would require two separate ballot measures, with one able to supercede another. Attorney Mizrahi said she would have to research that.

[There have been several times we've had conflicting statewide items on the ballot that included language saying that if the other measure got more votes, then it would win, and vice versa.]

There was a discussion among council members (Mr. McKee's motion still had not received a second) about how many people would need to vote for a provision for it to be approved. Mr. McKee said that "if you vote to get rid of the mayor, then the other thing becomes void."

Since no one had made any proposal to "get rid of the mayor," it's hard to know what "the other thing" would be. Mr. McKee rephrased it a litte for clarity. "If you voted to get rid of the mayor there's no requirement then to have the mayor with four years."

At this point, let me interrupt to say that I'm disgusted both with how incredibly clumsy Mr. McKee has become with words and that five politicians and a lawyer can't figure out how the vote would work. Let me tell you how it would work. The ballot will have two questions, one for a directly elected 4-year term mayor; the other would rotate the mayorship on an annual basis among the council members. Call them questions 1 and 2.

Question 1Question 2Outcome
Scenario 1>50%<50%Question 1 wins
Scenario 2<50%>50%Question 2 wins
Scenario 3>50%>50%Higher votes for 1 or 2 wins
Scenario 4<50%<50%No change, we stay with a 2-year directly elected mayor

An individual who votes NO on both questions is voting to retain the 2-year term for a directly elected mayor. A person who votes YES on BOTH questions or who does NOT vote on both questions is leaving the decision to the other voters. A YES vote on one question while leaving the other question UNVOTED is a vote in favor of that one question, but it's not as strong as if the voter had also voted NO on the other question.

Mr. Betts proposed approving the rotating mayor proposal now and then considering a separate 4-year term mayor proposal at the next council meeting. Ms. Zavala said she would not be at the next council meeting.

Mr. Betts seconded Mr. McKee's motion. Mr. Betts clarified that the directly elected 4-year mayoral term question would come back at a future meeting.

Ms. Zavala, who clearly needs to study a bit more on California politics, wanted to specify that neither measure would pass if it didn't get more than 50% of the vote. Mr. McKee explained to her that a No vote would be a vote to retain the current system. Ms. Zavala was having none of that. She didn't explicitly say so, but I think she wanted that written into the proposal. [This may go down in future joke books as the first voter referendum in California that included a provision saying that if enough voters didn't approve it, it did not pass.] This was accepted by both Mr. Betts and Mr. McKee, without laughing.

Ms. Pye pointed out how confusing this is for the five council members, saying that if it was delayed a year, people would have more time to discuss it.

City Manager Maynard explained the basic concept of democracy, that if either question got less than 50% it would fail. He said that does not need to be specified in the provision [there goes the joke book opportunity]. Mr. Betts did not understand this. Ms. Zavala was still confused and needed to rehash this.

Mr. McKee understood the matter, but apparently hadn't understood it before. Now he said he was sure the proposal for a directly elected 4-year mayor would get many more votes than the proposal for a rotating mayor, so there's no point in putting the rotating mayor proposal on the ballot.

Why, one must ask, did he cosponsor a measure for a rotating mayor, if he is completely sure that the majority of voters prefer a directly elected mayor?

Mayor Matas thought the voters should still be provided the choice.

Gary Gardner came to the podium to say that the attorney needs to write a new proposal to be brought back to the city council to allow the public to discuss it more fully. [He did not seem to account for the looming deadlines to get items on the ballot.] But then he began a more philosophical point of what should and should not be on the ballot. He cited marriage equality as something that should not be on the ballot. [Quite true, but this is California and putting marriage equality on the ballot was totally legal and I've heard of no viable proposals to limit the power of voter referenda in this state.] He said this change should be initiated by the voters through the initiative process.

I think that may have been a point Ms. Pye was trying to make earlier, although I'm not clear about that. Why this should originate in a petition initiative, neither explained.

Mike Picardi spoke next saying that if the 4-year mayor proposal got a majority then it automatically would override any rotating mayor proposal. He didn't explain why. He did not see these as two competing measures. "One is the extension of the other." [Clearly, he understood these two provisions even less than the four non-Pye members of the council.]

Ted Mayrhofen said he never heard any complaints about the mayor's 2-year term, except from Mayor Weyuker. He said the council was reinventing the wheel and wasting resources on something that is not necessary.

Mr. Betts said that if someone wanted to add a ballot measure through the initiative process they still had time to do so. [Unrealistic nonsense.]

Attorney Mizrahi asked to be allowed to summarize the changes she had heard about this motion to make sure everyone was on the same page.

  • Rotating mayor proposal only this night.
  • Directly electing a 4-year term mayor will come back on July 3, to include language explaining that if both measures get more than 50%, the higher vote total wins.
  • The order of rotation to be adopted by ordinance.
  • Beginning 2020.
  • Ordinance controlling the order of rotation to be adopted 6 months prior to November 20 [of each election year].
  • All seats on the council would be for four years.

Again, Ms. Zavala asked for language to be included stating that if both proposals fail, then the status quo continues.

Approved 4-1, with Ms. Pye voting against.


Palm Springs Airport Commission Nomination

Ms. Parks had been our representative on the airport commission. Ms. Pye had already volunteered, so Mr. Betts nominated her. Approved 5-0.


Second Reading and Adoption of an Ordinance Amending Chapter 17.180 (Medical Marijuana Facilities Operation and Location) of the Zoning Code

This was on the Consent Calendar, but Mr. McKee had pulled it for discussion. The ordinance presented in the agenda included this:

B. There are no changes to the following:
i. Size of structure(s)
ii. Existing or approved grade elevations.

Mr. McKee said the council did not add that. Just before that in the ordinance is this text:

There is a ten (10) percent or less than deviation to each of the following:
i. On-site circulation and parking, loading and landscaping;
ii. Placement and/or height of walls and fences., and structures;
iii. Exterior architectural features, including colors, and/or modification of finished materials that do not alter or compromise the previously approved theme;
iv. The density or intensity of a development project;

Mr. McKee pointed out the difference between 10% of a 50,000 s.f. building and 10% of a 3,000,000 s.f. building. He suggested this be brought back with some provision other than the simple 10%. He suggested 10% up to some limit, 5% up to some higher limit, 2.5% up to yet a higher limit, etc.

Attorney Mizrahi explained that she had merely moved these items in the ordinance. The two items under B had been under A originally, while A originally had said "no changes." Item A was changed to the 10% rule, but the 10% rule wasn't to apply to structure size or grade elevations.

Mr. McKee moved to remove those items under B.

Approved 5-0.

Filed under Desert Hot Springs | July 27, 2018 at 11:06 AM | Comments (0)

July 14, 2018

DHS Planning Commission, June 12, 2018

Chair and Vice Chair

Jan Pye having moved on to the city council, Commissioner Gary Gardner nominated Larry Buchanan for Chair. Commissioner Scott De La Torre nominated himself for Vice Chair. They were both elected unanimously, 4-0.


CUP Time Extension International Cannabis Group (formerly GFarma Labs)

This is on the east side of currently unpaved Little Morongo, south of Dillon. This development will have five buildings. Approved 4-0.


Amendment To CUP To Permit Distribution At We Care DHS

This cultivation facility is on the south side Two Bunch Palms Trail between Cabot and Little Morongo. Approved 4-0.


Liquor License For Carniceria Rancho Grande

The store already has a license for beer and wine. As ususal, there are too many liquor licenses out there, so the city must make a finding of "public convenience or necessity." The only time I've seen one of these requests voted down was the one that came from the Shell station at I-10 and Indian. I believe the city was worried that people would buy liquor and then immediately drink it on on the freeway.

A representative of Rancho Grande came to the podium. Commissioner De La Torre asked what sort of liquor they would be selling, and would the liquor be in a locked cabinet or not. The answer is it will be a locking cabinet near the cash register.

Mr. De La Torre moved to approve on the condition that they extend the hours of their security guard to cover all hours that the store is open. Commissioner Gardner suggested that in one year the police prepare a status report on crime in the area around the carniceria that may have resulted from the change in license. Approved 4-0.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | July 14, 2018 at 05:44 PM | Comments (0)

July 13, 2018

Desert Hot Springs City Council, June 5, 2018

STUDY SESSION

Cannabis

Ted Mayrhofen commented that the odor of cannabis in the industrial zone was noticeable.

James Velasquez of VetsLeaf said his business uses an enzyme system to prevent cannabis odors from entering the environment. He encouraged the city to focus on "infrastructure."

Greta Carter spoke next. She said that for a long time she recommended DHS as the place for cannabis developers to invest, but now there are other cities that are preferable. Some cities have committees to help cannabis businesses with their advertising, and to help them organize as trade organizations.

Ryan Fingerhut said that the hotel industry in the Coachella Valley did $5.5 billion in business in 2017. In 2016, the Coachella Valley hotel industry paid $24 million in TOT. He went on to say that DHS saw 2.6% of that TOT. Some of his numbers have got to be wrong. 2.6% of $24 million is $624,000. But we know from the previous City Council meeting that TOT revenue in DHS was more than $1.9 million this fiscal year. I suspect his total figure for the valley ($24 million) is too low. I learned from the recent Question C campaign in Palm Springs that single-family rentals alone bring in more than $6 million TOT to that city. Take that $6 million plus our own almost $2 million in TOT away from $24 million, and you're left with only $16 million TOT for all the hotels in Palm Springs plus all the hotels and single-family rentals for the rest of the valley (outside of DHS). The number is just too low. But, if we assume that the figure of 2.6% is correct, then the total TOT in the valley would be more than $73 million, which is a reasonable figure in my seat of the pants opinion.

Mr. Fingerhut's point was that DHS needs to develop something to attract more visitors here.

John Sclafani from Desert Land Ventures and chair of the Cannabis Advisory Board for DHS, said he had heard that DHS has authorized 11 million square feet of cultivation. He thinks demand needs to be created for this cannabis. He said we need a tax advantage here in order to make exporting cannabis to other parts of California profitable. Also, we must create reasons for people to visit DHS. He said the "advisory board" is open to everyone in the city, not just industry people. He wants to have a wellness R&D center, for example, that will be open to tourists.

Karl Baker spoke next. He said he has seen many plans in DHS fail due to poor planning. Representatives from the city's spas, the water district, the electric company, and long-time DHS residents need to help plan. We can be the Napa Valley of boutique cannabis, he said. DHS needs to create a brand with a well-coordinated plan.

Simone Sandoval from High Road Consulting group spoke in favor of tasting rooms at cultivation sites. She also spoke of Napa Valley and compared the development of micro brew brands with how cannabis could be developed.

Jocelyn Cane representing CV-Cann said the advisory council is in favor of expanding cannabis business in DHS.

Richard Cromwell (the younger) spoke about cannabis testing. He wants testing labs to be able to operate in commercial zones.

Mayor Matas said he would like to fund a strategic planner who understands the cannabis industry.

Councilmember Betts said DHS has had a plan since day one, despite the comments of some members of the public. He said he would be willing to reduce the current cultivation tax ($25 per square foot for the first 3,000 square feet and then $10 per square foot for the remaining space) to a simple $10/s.f. but he would want that to be a trade for jobs. IOW, local hires.

Councilmember McKee said the state is more screwed up on this subject than DHS is. He thinks testing should be okay in either commercial or industrial zones. He supports legalization of cannabis lounges. The city may need to create a special license for that, something similar to a brewpub. He supports sales in hotels & spas.

Mayor Pro Tem Zavala said the city council has been in a reactive position in relation to the cannabis industry. But she feels a strategic plan needs to be devised. She also does not oppose testing labs locating in the commercial zones. She believes, however, that cannabis lounges would be contrary to our push for pedestrian safety. But she's okay with tasting rooms in the cultivation facilities.

Mr. McKee moved to put together a study group of staff, industry and two council members. City Manager Maynard suggested that he put together a study group of staff and industry and present their findings to the city council. He revised that to call it a "task force" with "experts from the marijuana industry" who would sit down with staff to provide suggestions. Ms. Zavala wanted a moderated study session to make a strategic long-term plan for cannabis in DHS. Mr. McKee said the proposal needed an outside consultant. The final motion was for staff to work with the cannabis industry for input while also getting an expert outside consultant for strategic planning. Approved 5-0.


REGULAR SESSION

Farewell to Yvonne Parks

Scott Matas and the rest of the council honored Ms. Parks with a plaque. She moved here in 1994, became active in the Chamber of Commerce and Rotary, and was appointed to the Planning Commission in 1997 where she served for two years. She was reappointed as a Planning Commissioner in 2004 and '05, where she served as Vice Chair. She ran for City Council and won in 2005 — she had run before, but lost. In 2007, she ran for Mayor, won and held that seat until 2013, being re-elected twice. In 2015 she ran for city council again and was elected again as Scott Matas became Mayor, vacating a council seat.


Public Comments

Mike Picardi said the city should look at funding the library. Other cities in the valley fund their county libraries. He also said he agreed with revisions made in the Art in Public Places proposal that would be coming up later on the agenda...but he had to leave the meeting early.

Ted Mayrhofen said the previous mayor Sanchez and current mayor Matas both ignored the Public Safety Commission and started up a Human Rights Committee. He complained that the difference between the two has not been made clear. He claims his own human rights had been violated. He said the Public Safety Commission fell apart years ago and has done nothing. He is a Public Safety Commissioner.

Greta Carter thanks Mayor Matas and Richard Cromwell (the elder) for their support in setting up a cannabis certification program with College Of The Desert. One course will be "compliance," another will be HR, the third will be professional development. They will be offered in DHS. Also, High Road Consulting will be working to get out the vote in the November election. They will be hiring people qualified to take voter registrations.

Judy Shea suggested that COD use $3 million of its bond money to build a computer lab for the new DHS county library.


Replacement for Yvonne Parks

The city council had agreed to consider only candidates who had prior experience as a city council member. Jan Pye was the only person to submit an application. Mr. Betts suggested that city staff should have contacted other potential candidates to let them know of this opportunity. IMO, if a retired city council member didn't know that Ms. Parks was resigning and didn't know that the city council was looking for a replacement, then they would not be somebody I would want on the council. Ms. Zavala moved to approve Jan Pye for the position. Mr. Betts repeated his earlier opinion that someone who would be running for election in November should not be appointed by the city council, and said he would abstain from this vote for that reason. Ms. Zavala's motion was approved 3-0-2 with Mr. Betts and Ms. Parks abstaining. Ms. Pye was immediately sworn in. This is the third time she has been appointed to the city council.


Budget 2018-19 and 2019-20

DHS Three Funds

The primary sources of income for the General Fund are...

  • Property Tax $3.2 million
  • Cannabis taxes $2.9 million (25% of which is sequestered into an emergency rainy day fund)
  • Development fees $2.3 million
  • Transient occupancy tax $1.9 million
  • Sales tax $1.6 million

Major sources of income to the Public Safety Fund are...

  • Public Safety Parcel tax $2.4 million
  • Utility Users tax $1.9 million
  • Prop 172 Sales tax $132,600
  • School Resource Officer reimbursement $121,000
  • Supplemental Law Enforcement Grant $100,000

The annual costs paid from the Public Safety Fund are...

  • Police $8.1 million
  • Animal Control $360,862
  • Fire $2 million

Danny Porras, Director of Community Development, described some upcoming city projects.

  • A bridge on Dillon Road to cross the Little Morongo wash. $431,000 in FY '19-'20.
  • Relocation of bus shelters. $86,400 each in both FY '18-'19 and '19-'20.
  • Pothole, street striping, sidewalk repairs. $69,120 in FY '18-'19 and $151,200 in '19-'20.
  • Palm Drive bicycle & pedestrian improvement project; new sidewalks, ADA ramps, new street lights, a median, bike lanes, all between Camino Aventura and Two Bunch Palms Trail. $700,000 in '18-'19 and $326,499 in '19-'20.
  • Palm Drive from Two Bunch Palms Trail to Pierson Boulevard. New street lights, new traffic lights, signal synchronization. $2.3 million in '18-'19; $1 million in '19-'20.
  • Desert View sidewalk project from Verbena to Palm Drive. $509,000 in FY '18-'19.
  • Indian Avenue widening project between I-10 and Dillon Road. Palm Springs, Riverside County and CVAG are involved with this one too. Our share, $291,6000 in '19-'20. Mr. McKee asked Mr. Porras to find out about the widening of the Indian Avenue bridge over the railroad, south of I-10.
  • Sidewalks on Palm Drive between 8th and 12th Streets. $108,000 in '19-'20.
  • Upgrade to Palm Drive at I-10 to include palm trees on both sides of Palm Drive (meaning some will be in Cathedral City), sidewalk on the west side and an improved median. $108,000 in '18-'19.
  • Restriping and slurry seal Mission Lakes Boulevard and Two Bunch Palms Trail. $30,000 in '18-'19.
  • Replacing overhead street name signs and traffic signal head casings at all 14 intersections with traffic lights. $81,000 in '18-'19.
  • New city directional signs. $30,000 in '18-'19.
  • Installation of median curbs on Palm Drive. $81,000 in '18-'19. Mr. McKee said that Mr. Betts told him that in China they sometimes put fences in the median to prevent jaywalking. He wondered if it were possible for us to do. Newsflash for Mr. McKee: cities in the U.S. also put fences in the medians to prevent jaywalking. I've seen it often and am of the opinion that it is the only thing that will put a stop to the slaughter of jaywalkers on Palm Drive.
  • Citywide asphalt overlay, paving and road reconstruction. $480,000 in '19-'20.
  • Upgrading sidewalk lights to LED on Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard. $25,000 in '18-'19.
  • 8th Street storm drain. I'm amazed that this has been delayed this long. I thought everything had been cleared and financing arranged while Rick Daniels was City Manager, but here we are. $1,587,000 in '18-'19 and $1,575,000 in '19-'20. This will run from Mesquite to West. Mr. Porras said it is "in design."
  • Design (design mind you, not construction) of open channel for Big and Little Morongo Creeks between Pierson and Dillon. $45,000 in '19-'20 and again in '20-'21. The open channel will be designed to hold water. It can be used for recreation. Actually, I'm not really clear what this is.
  • New playground equipment and park improvements in Tedesco and Mission Springs Parks. $43,200 each in the three fiscal years '18-'19, '19-'20 and '20-'21.
  • Walking path on Mission Lakes Boulevard at Palm Drive. $212,867 in '18-'19.
  • Cabot's Museum administrative offices. $43,299 in '18-'19.
  • Design of a new park south of the city corporation yard. $209,110 in '19-'20.
  • Completion of the city solar system. Ultimately, these are funds from AQMD, meaning funds from the Sentinel power plant. The solar array is 90% complete now. $496,050 in '18-'19.
  • IT infrastructure upgrades. $324,000 in '19-'20. Mostly A/V in the new city hall.
  • City Hall construction. $4,745,000. '18-'19, '19-'20.
  • The will-it-ever-happen General Plan update. $200,000 in '18-'19 and $150,000 in '19-'20.

Mr. McKee said the marijuana tax set-aside was intended to create a cushion in the event that the city's cannabis revenue suddenly dropped or ended.

Mr. Betts moved to approve the budget as presented with the addition of a $100,000 "place holder" for repairs and upgrades at Wardman Park. The budget surplus, however, is only about $40,0000. Adding a $100,000 item to the budget puts the city in deficit. Mr. Betts argued that all the city needs to do is to reduce the amount of money spent on something else, but he had no suggestion for what should be cut. His motion died for lack of a second. Then Mr. McKee moved to approve the budget as presented. Approved 5-0.


Safety Enhancement Zone

This was proposed to be on Palm Drive between Two Bunch Palms Trail and Camino Aventura. Fines can be doubled for traffic violations in the safety enhancement zone. This item includes two parts: first an ordinance authorizing the city council to establish safety enhancement zones by resolution and, second, the resolution establishing this zone south of Two Bunch Palms Trail.

Mr. McKee noticed that in the paperwork the zone was sometimes described as between Two Bunch and Aventura and sometimes between Pierson and Aventura. Chief Mondary admitted it was his error, that his intention had been to cover the area from Pierson Boulevard to Camino Aventura. Mayor Matas asked if there was a reason not to extend it as far south as Dillon. Mr. Porras responded that it could be extended to Dillon, but they had only studied as far south as Camino Aventura. Mayor Pro Tem Zavala pointed out that the ordinance included more than traffic and pedestrian violations. It includes fireworks, noise, vandalism, littering, public consumption of alcohol, etc.

Ms. Zavala moved for approval with removal of those provisions that are not traffic safety related, and covering the distance from Camino Aventura to Pierson. Mayor Matas wanted the zone extended to Dillon, in order to more fully protect the intersection at Camino Aventura. Ms. Zavala suggested the city should study the stretch from Aventura to Dillon first.

Approved 5-0.

Mayor Matas allowed one public comment after the item closed. A bus driver said she thought the safety zone should start at Dillon Road.


Desert Valley Disposal Assessments

A public hearing to place the annual residential trash bills on the tax rolls. Approved 5-0.


Desert Valley Disposal Delinquent Accounts

This is to place delinquent accounts (not residential) on the tax roll. Approved 5-0.


Streamlining Additional Entitlement Process

This would allow already approved cultivation facilities that are in good standing with the city to add marijuana testing and/or distribution facility to their list of approved activities through administrative action, not city council action.

Mr. McKee expressed his opinion that the standards in the ordinance were not objective, so that any time a developer is excluded from the expedited process, he'll come complaining to the city council.

Mr. Betts moved that the standards in the ordinance be defined as no more than a 10% change, and that a report be made to the city council in 6 months on the results of this ordinance. Approved 5-0.


Amendments to Art In Public Places

The existing ordinance places a cap of $20,000 on the "in-lieu fee." The amendment would remove the cap. Secondly, the amendment would require developers in the industrial zones to ONLY pay in-lieu fees. No longer could they fulfill their AIPP requirement by building art on their property. Thirdly, lighting and landscaping costs would no longer count toward fulfilling the AIPP requirement. Fourthly, it clarified some of the procedures relating to the Cultural and Community Affairs Commission and AIPP.

Daniel Porras summarized the sources of fund in the AIPP to date: $109,662 from commercial development, $80,436 from industrial development, and $90,241 from residential development. Total AIPP revenue from 1/1/2014 to 4/23/2018 has been $280,338.22. He also provided a bit of a pie-in-the-sky estimate for future AIPP revenue IF all 62 cultivator CUPs are fully developed as planned. That would generate $5.2 million in AIPP fees at a rate of 0.75%, the current AIPP rate for industrial development.

No one from the public rose to comment in favor of these amendments. Ryan Fingerhut came to the podium to speak in opposition. He said that these amendments would single out developers in the industrial zone and not let them have a say in the art that is developed at their expense, while commercial and residential developers still get that choice. He pointed out that there are people in the industrial zone all day long, coming and going, eating lunch, entertaining investors, and those people will want to enjoy art as much as anyone else.

A gentleman who didn't identify himself commented that back in January the city council approved a first reading of an ordinance that set the AIPP rate at 0.25%, but there was never a second reading. Now we have this new ordinance. What gives?

Greta Carter cited the tale of the goose that laid the golden eggs.

Mr. Betts asked the city attorney to explain what happened to the earlier ordinance that set the rate at 0.25% and for an explanation of why now other, higher rates are being considered. Ms. Mizrahi explained there was no second reading and no requirement for a second reading...but the ordinance would not become law without approval at a second reading.

Mr. McKee said he supported the 0.25% rate, but only if industrial developers were required to pay the in-lieu fee. He revealed that an item for future city council consideration would be a policy that would allow the tax rate on cultivation to be cut in half in order to help with infrastructure development. City Manager Maynard said not all members of the city council had seen this proposal. Mr. McKee then criticized the art project at VetsLeaf, saying it would be hidden back in a corner away from anyone else. He said that if industrial developers wanted to be able to fulfill their AIPP obligation by building on their own site, then the rate should be more like 0.5%, not 0.25%.

Mayor Pro Tem Zavala said that see, too, thought some of the art was borderline. She said that art installed at industrial sites would not be seen by as many people as art in a median in the city. I don't believe one of the standards of the AIPP ordinance was that the art had to be seen by the maximum number of people. Her arguments could apply just as easily to commercial and residential developers paying an AIPP fee. More people would see their art if it were in the median of, say, Palm or Pierson. Ms. Zamora emphasized the "public" aspect of the art, saying it needed to be where it was easily accessible.

What I see here is a city council, every member of which has some property interest in a residential and/or commercial zone, and who are treating industrial developers as a "them." None of the city council have any financial interest in the industrial zone that I'm aware of. Mr. McKee and Ms. Zamora talk like the industrial zone is way out on the Aleutian Islands. I find myself passing through the industrial zone maybe half a dozen times a week. How do the city council members avoid going there?

Ms. Zamora continued her explanations, never explaining why her opinion would apply only to the industrial zone.

Both Mayor Matas and Mr. Betts cited the rocks that appear to have been just dumped in front of the new county building on Pierson Boulevard as an example of failed AIPP. There is supposed to be landscaping for those rocks.

Ms. Pye moved to approve the amendments as written with the tax at 0.75%. Mr. Betts tried to amend the motion to a tax rate of 0.5%. The motion failed with Ms. Zavala and Ms. Pye voting in favor. Mr. McKee moved to approve the amendments as written with a tax rate of 0.25%. Approved 3-2 with Ms. Zavala and Mayor Matas voting against.


Community Development On-Call Services

Business is picking up at City Hall and, despite new hires, the city is still understaffed and sometimes needs to call in outside help to deal with the volume. The city received statements of qualifications from three firms: PPM Group, Dudek and HCG. Staff recommended going with PPM Group up to $200,000 per year.

Mr. McKee clarified that any money spent on this will come solely from fees, not from tax revenue.

Approved 5-0.


City Council Meeting Schedule

There will be NO city council meetings on the following dates: July 17, August 7, December 18 and election day, November 6. Approved 5-0.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | July 13, 2018 at 08:06 PM | Comments (0)

June 17, 2018

Desert Hot Springs City Council, May 15, 2018

STUDY SESSION

Budgetary Adjustments For FY '17/'18

Revenues have been $2,825,404 higher than budgeted. Expenditures have increased $2,775,466 more than budgeted. Those increased expenses break down like this:

  • $1,351,803 for 16 new job positions, job classification changes, salary and benefit increases.
  • $424,500 for an increased use of contract labor, plus there was an increase in the CalFire services contract.
  • $147,000 to improve the animal control shelter, to upgrade the animal control vehicle, and to buy a new vehicle for the Police Department.
  • $64,451 for on-going general repairs and maintenance of city equipment and public facilities.
  • $432,868 to cover costs for new equipment, new software, etc. required for the 16 new hires.
  • $124,907 for general repairs and maintenance at the Health and Wellness Center and to make a final payment to the Coachella Valley Boys and Girls Club.
  • $229,937 in transfers out of the General Fund into other funds: $155,000 to the Citywide Lighting and Maintenance Fund because the assessments being collected were not sufficient; $52,695 into the Cabot's Museum Fund for increased cost of insurance, Cabot's Sponsorship and maintenance; $22,242 to cover costs of a vehicle purchase.
  • $141,280 in staffing costs were charged to the Citywide Lighting and Maintenance District Fund, the Gas Tax Fund and the Successor Agency Fund.

The $2,825,404 higher than expected revenue breaks out like this:

  • $40,000 Property Tax Pass Thru;
  • $175,000 Triple Flip VLF;
  • $200,000 Dispensaries;
  • $872,000 Cultivation;
  • $350,000 Planning Fees;
  • $415,000 Building Fees;
  • $85,000 Grading Permits;
  • $315,000 Engineering Fees;
  • $208,000 Transient Occupancy Tax;
  • $165,404 Other.

The 16 new hires were allocated thusly:

  • Police 4 sworn, 3 non-sworn;
  • Finance 1;
  • HR 1;
  • City Manager's office 3;
  • Community Development department 2;
  • Citywide LLMD/Streets 2.

At the end of this fiscal year (June 30, 2018) $2 million will be transferred from the General Fund to the City Hall Capital Improvement Project Fund. In the next two-year budget cycle, $1.2 million will be transferred. At least half of that money transferred from the General Fund to the City Hall Fund will be replenished by DIF fees "over time." The estimated total cost for the city hall project is $7.2 million. $4 million will come from bonds and restricted funds; $3.2 million will come from the General Fund, to be replenished over time via DIF fees.

Approved 5-0.


Draft Two-Year Budget and Capital Improvement Projects for Fiscal Years 2018-2019 and 2019-2020

General Fund - Expected Major Revenue

The budget will be brought before the City Council for approval at the June 5 meeting.


REGULAR SESSION

Public Comments

Mike Picardi announced the first "Jammin' In The Desert" concert. It will be Friday, June 15 at Tedesco Park, 5 to 9 PM. Subsequent concerts will be on the third Friday of July, August and September.

He also expressed his opinion on the new county library which is to be built in the space between Aqua Soleil and the County building on Palm Drive. He wants the city council to discuss making additional funds available for that library. The new 15,000 s.f. library will be the first one built in Desert Hot Springs in 46 years (that's 1972). Other county libraries in other cities have been remodeled and expanded over that time.


City Manager Report

Community Development Director Danny Porras reported new traffic signals will be installed at the following intersections:

  • Pierson & Cholla
  • Palm Drive & Desert View
  • Palm Drive & Camino Aventura
They are all funded. All that remains to do is to work out the final design details and then put them in.

The bus stop near Buena Vista on Palm Drive will be moved further south.

Fire Department Battalion Chief John Cortez was filling in for our Fire Chief this night.


City Council Comments

Mayor Pro Tem Zavala agreed with Mr. Picardi that she was disappointed that so long has gone by since the county spent any money on the library here. She was, however, more optimistic, saying "Progress is being made." She said the county is not telling us to "be happy." She favored looking at the city budget to see if there is money there to add to the library project.

Councilmember Betts said that the new DHS library is one of three new ones in the county. He said he got a call from a person he did not identify because some people in DHS had indicated they were unhappy with the proposal. Mr. Betts told the unidentified person that we are happy.

So, it would seem that it's important to the county that we say we are happy.


Annexation No. 29 to DHS Community Facilities District No. 2010-1

This would just be a routine thing, annexing a new business into CFD 2010-1, but in this case the developer of Blackstar Industrial Properties (one of the cannabis developments going in along Indian between I-10 and Dillon) came to the podium to express his thanks to city staff for their involvement and support. He said he has built over a billion dollars worth of assets in the western U.S. over the last 25 years, and in terms of complexity (on a scale of 1 to 10) this development was a 10. He identified individual city staffers, saying working with them was a breath of fresh air. He expects their business to be up and running before the end of the year. Their site is the one where you can see actual vertical construction happening now.


Marijuana Manufacturing Facilities Are Not Subject to DHS Cannabis Taxes

This has been previously discussed by the council, but this is the act to actually codify it into an ordinance. A couple of representatives from the cannabis industry spoke in favor of this. No one from the public expressed opposition.

Mayor Pro Tem Zavala said this was premature. She would prefer negotiating a lower level of tax rather than no tax. Councilmember Parks agreed with Ms. Zavala, pointing out that no other city in the valley has exempted cannabis manufacturing from special cannabis taxes. I would have thought that Ms. Parks, a Republican, would have recognized this no-tax measure as a way of attracting manufacturing to DHS - and that means more jobs and more occupied structures.

Councilmember Betts pointed out that the voters approved taxes on cultivation and dispensaries, not manufacturing, so the city council couldn't impose a manufacturing tax without returning to the voters. Mr. Betts is right about that. Here is Measure HH as voted on and approved by the voters in November 2014.

Shall an ordinance implementing an annual tax of twenty-five dollars ($25.00) per square foot for the first 3,000 square feet and then ten dollars ($10.00) per square foot for the remaining space utilized in connection with the cultivation of marijuana for medical or casual/recreational use, for the purpose of raising revenue to fund general municipal services, be adopted?
“Space utilized in connection with the cultivation of marijuana” means any space or ground, floor or other surface area which is used during the marijuana germination, seedling, vegetative, pre-flowering, flowering and harvesting phases, including any space used for growing, planting, seeding, germinating, lighting, warming, cooling, aerating, fertilizing, watering, irrigating, topping, pinching, cropping, curing or drying marijuana or any space used for storing related products, supplies or equipment, no matter where such storage may take place or be located.
The City Council may repeal the tax, but it may not increase the amount of the tax or broaden the scope of the tax, without voter approval.

And here is Measure II, approved by the voters at the same election.

Shall an ordinance implementing a monthly ten percent (10%) tax on the proceeds from the sale/provision of marijuana for medical or casual/recreational use for the purpose of raising revenue to fund general municipal services be adopted?

Both of these measures are written narrowly so that they pertain only to cultivation and selling. Manufacturing is not mentioned.

Ms. Zavala said that since the current ordinance did NOT say manufacturing is not taxable, the city can, therefore, tax it. I'd like to see the court case to resolve that nonsense! The ordinance also does not say the city can't impose a special tax on blogs written under the influence of cannabis; does that mean I should worry? The list of activities that are included as "cultivation" is long and specific. There is nothing in that list that sounds even remotely like manufacturing.

The city attorney is of the opinion that the word "provision" in Measure II (the dispensary tax) can be stretched enough to include manufacturing. IMO, if you're going to stretch it that far, you can consider every step of "providing" cannabis to be subject to the dispensary tax. And I mean everything from the cultivator all the way to the final retail sale. This would mean applying a 10% tax at every step of the process, resulting in a tax far higher than the 10% that voters intended.

The way the law is currently written, the city will get its 10% tax on manufacturing only once, when the manufactured items are sold at a dispensary.

Approved 3-2 with Ms. Parks and Ms. Zavala voting against.


Fire Services Contract

The proposed contract would be for three years, July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2021. The rates are:

  • 2018-19 $1,994,479
  • 2019-20 $2,130,752
  • 2020-21 $2,270,152
Approved 5-0.

| June 17, 2018 at 05:17 PM | Comments (0)

June 1, 2018

U.S. Botanic Garden

Some photos from my visit there about a month ago.

U.S. Botanic Garden (4644)

Cleistocactus winteri (4782)

Nepenthese 'Miranda' (pitcher plant) (4762)
Pitcher plant.

U.S. Botanic Garden (4746)

Yellow Kangaroo's Paw (4709)
Yellow Kangaroo's Paw.

Parodia warasii (4665)

The complete set of photos from the U.S. Botanic Garden can be seen here.

Filed under Cactus,Photography | June 1, 2018 at 07:37 PM | Comments (0)

May 24, 2018

Black Rock City Census 2017

Results from the 2017 Black Rock City census are available now, and I think the summary needs to be summarized. So here goes.

9,168 self-selecting people completed one (or more) census forms. That's 13% of the population. The BRC census people say they have good statistical ways to adjust the resulting numbers to make them reflect reality. I have my doubts, but they're the ones with college degrees in the subject, so let's go with that.

Total BRC "population" 69,493. I that means the number of people who came through the gate with a ticket. It does not necessarily mean that we actually had 69,493 people on the playa at any one time since people are free to come and go. It also doesn't count those who get in without tickets, like law enforcement and other third-party hires (water trucks, ice delivery, RV delivery, porta-potty people, etc.) I think last year they said the real number of people would be around 80,000.

Virgins were 36.2% in 2017, which is in line with previous years. I'm in the 11+ category now, which made up 4.8% of the population.
1. BRC virgins

The peak age range is 30-34, which made up 26.2% of the population in 2017. I'm in the 60-69 category which was 4.4%.
2. Age ranges

Highest education: that's bachelor's degree at 43.3%. The 0.6% who claim no education are, I hope, mostly kids under the age of 5.
3. Education

The peak in personal income is $50,000 - $99,999. Those with personal incomes of $300,000 and higher (all the way up to those pesky billionaires) are only 3.6% whose well known powers of destruction should be easily counterbalanced by the 42.4% of us who suffer with incomes under $50,000.
4. Personal income

But when you count household income, the category for billionaires and their ilk increases to 9.4%. Those under $50,000 drop to 25.8%. So the problem is that the poor people are also single...or at least single income sources for their household.
5. Household income

Male vs. female stays really steady through the years at roughly 58/40 with the difference made up by those who answered "fluid/neither/both."

"Ethnoracial characteristics" confirms what we all have seen: there are extremely few black people at Burning Man. Only 1% according to the survey. Compare that to Native Americans who report in at a rate of 0.5%. 77.1% white. But there is the category of "Other or Multiple" which was 9.3% in 2017. That could (being optimistic here) include a lot of people that might appear to be black to you or me.
6. Ethnoracial

Residence still shows the vast majority are from the USA (76.2%) but that's edging downward from a high of 84.3% in 2014. Canada stays in second place at 7.3%. Latin Americans (any place south of the Rio Grande) made up 3.3% and 4.4% in 2013 & '14, respectively. But those percentages dropped to 1.0%, 0.8% and 1.2% in 2015, '16 and '17, respectively. I'll bet we will see a further drop in 2018 numbers. I suppose Israel gets counted as part of Asia.
7. Residence

U.S. state of residence, Californians makes up 47.1% of the residents of Black Rock City [there should be a designated site where we could all meet and talk about which way we drove there and how it was]; down a bit from 52.3% in 2014. Nevada comes in fourth place at 5.6%. New York became the second most popular state of residence, surpassing Washington in 2015 (NY 7.2%; WA 6.3%) and was in second place in 2017 as well (8.2%). Massachusetts consistently lingers at the bottom of the top 12 states with only 1.5% in 2017. Occasionally, it is more popular than Florida (also 1.5% in 2017).
8. US State

77.5% report English as their native language. Spanish is only 3.8% (the percentage who consider themselves "Hispanic/Latino" was 4.9% in 2017). Hebrew reports in at 0.8%—that's where we'll find those Israelis, plus a scattering from NYC too, I'm sure.
9. Native language

These are the numbers for "relationship status." The question was "In the default world, do you share your life with a partner." Answers were No 35.9%; Yes - not married 31.3%; Yes - married 25.3%; and "It's complicated" 7.5%. No question asked about monogamy...not even about monogamy on the playa. How is one to know?
10. Relationship status

Spirituality: "Spiritual, not religious" (yeah, yeah) 46.4%; atheist 24.3%; agnostic 15.2%; I don't know 7.6% [man, this is more of a godless horde than I had imagined!]; religious 5.5%; deist 0.9%. I repeat, Religious 5.5%. There you have it. That's every single religion and denomination you ever heard of, whether they have a nice building on Main Street or if they have secret live human sacrifices. 5.5%. And yet the Temple is the second most popular gathering spot on the playa (last year's Tree of Ténéré being a rare exception).
11. Spirituality

But when you actually ask about religious denominations, you get something a little different. 71.8% no religion; 7% Roman Catholic; 6% Jewish; 4.1% other Christian; 3% Other other; 2.6% generic Protestant; 1.9% Buddhist [only 1.9%?! I'd have guessed there are at least 40% playing at being Buddhist judging from superficialities]; 1.4% pagan (they didn't ask them to specify time of day); 1.2% Pastafarian - you include it as a choice, this is what you get; 0.6% Muslim (if that's true, then I've met all 0.6% of them - I think a lot just prefer not to openly identify); Hindu 0.4% [again, like Buddhists, not counting those who just play at it].
13. Religious denomination

U.S. voting: I'm not entirely sure what to make of this, since I think they included all respondents in this count; That is, it wasn't limited to those claiming US residence or citizenship (they don't ask about citizenship, anyway). So 62.8% (of who?) say they voted in a US election in the last four years. 7.8% said they did not vote - are we to assume this means fully eligible but didn't vote? 29.5% said they were not eligible. Is that not eligible because they aren't American citizens, or not eligible due to age/felony status/not registered? 62.8% voting is way out of line with average U.S. voting, so it would be nice to know if it's because Burners highly value the democratic process or because of the way this census worked.

U.S. political parties. 5.4% Republican vs 51.7% Democratic; not like that wouldn't be obvious to a blind man. I would have expected a bit higher percentage for the Greens (1.8%) but OTOH, Burning Man isn't an environmentalist's dream and being a successful Burner means meeting the challenges of reality head on. Not saying that the Greens don't -- well, on second thought, I guess I am saying that.
14. US political party

If you continue down the report you can find other interesting statistics, like these:

  • Page 27, the use of generators has almost caught up with the declining use of batteries (about 50%), while solar holds steady at about 40%. There are actually 0.8% who claim to use NO power source - so, not even a flashlight (or maybe they use only hand-cranked flashlights). Hard to believe.
  • Page 28, just a bit under 30% say they lived in an RV/camper-trailer on the playa.
  • Page 29, the population residing in placed ("theme") camps has risen from 54.3% in 2013 to 67.4% in 2017. 2012 was the year of the ticket lottery debacle, when the organization learned that, no, not everybody is equal; that those who build theme camps are the people who make Black Rock City. Beginning in 2013 the ticket system was rejiggered to give a preference to theme camps...and others who contribute solidly to BRC.
  • Page 31, reasons for attending Burning Man. This was multiple choice and "to consume intoxicants" came in at 4.8% in 2017. Nowhere to be found is "to abandon myself to orgiastic sex" or anything even close to that. But 43.1% said "to play and experience freedom" which could cover a lot of territory.
  • Page 32, important question introduced in 2015: "Did you feel safe in Black Rocky City this year?" 96.5% said very or mostly safe. 0.7% said mostly or very unsafe. It might have been informative to break that question down by male/female, but they didn't.
  • Page 33, the second question boils down to "Did you make any new friends at summer camp, honey?" And the campers answer yes at a rate of 78.2%. "Good for you, honey!"
  • Page 34, "After going to BRC, were you inspired to learn or practice any of the following skills?" The one answer to this that I really like shows how many are impressed by the DPW: 15.6% said yes to "construction/heavy machinery." If you liked to read about Mike Mulligan and His Steam Shovel when you were a little kid, you might love Burning Man.
  • Page 40, which of the Ten Principles is the most difficult to practice back in the real world? 40.5% said "decommodification."
    Decommodification
    In order to preserve the spirit of gifting, our community seeks to create social environments that are unmediated by commercial sponsorships, transactions, or advertising. We stand ready to protect our culture from such exploitation. We resist the substitution of consumption for participatory experience.
  • Page 43, total spending in Nevada (not counting ticket price) averages $667/Burner or a total of $46,351,831. Yeah, so thanks Nevada, for adding a tax just for Burning Man on top of that because obviously we were such a drag on your economy spending all that money and then going out to an empty place in the desert and building everything at our own expense and then taking it all away at our own expense. Yeah, we musta nearly busted Las Vegas, we were such a leech on the state budget. The smell of money could turn any state into California.
  • Page 44, total spending on Burning Man, excluding ticket (and vehicle pass, I assume). This is for those who think Burning Man is "too expensive." 2.2% said they did it for under $250. 7.8% kept it under $500. 24.3% kept it under $1,000! I'm sure I've never exceeded a thousand in any one year, and several of my years were under $500, and I'm not miserable doing it. OTOH, there were those 7.8% who just couldn't keep it under $5000, but maybe a lot of that was for gifts.
  • Page 45 ticket prices. This does not tell you much, because they ask only about "face value" not dollar amount. The face value is whatever is printed on the ticket and that can be $425 (regular price) or "half price" which is $190, or one of the high priced tickets for those who want to donate more: $990 and $1,200. So 86.6% paid face value. This tells you nothing about how much they paid. It's more of a question of who got ripped off (paid more than face value, 1.9%) or got a great deal (by paying less, 0.9%).

Filed under Burning Man | May 24, 2018 at 05:52 PM | Comments (0)

May 16, 2018

DHS Planning Commission, May 8, 2018

New Commish
The meeting began with the swearing in of new Commissioner James Nindel. This is Mayor Matas' appointment to replace Dirk Voss. Mr. Nindel's application for the position tells us he has lived in DHS for only 9 months. He retired from USAID's Office of Procurement. He has not been on a city board in any city before now. He moved here from St. Augustine, Florida. He said in his cover letter "I believe that DHS should demand (through code enforcement) that boarded-up windows be immediately repaired and bars taken down and replaced with electronic security systems. The trash on vacant lots between buildings on Palm Drive should be picked-up by the land owners and businesses."

The four other Planning Commissioners are Jan Pye (Chair), Peter De la Torre (Vice Chair), Larry Buchanan, and Gary Gardner.


Amendment to the CUP for Snider Cannabis Cultivation Facility

The CUP was originally approved in November 2015. They want to convert 854 s.f. of their operations that were previously a secure storage room and a packaging room to a distribution area. This should not make any difference in their tax payments to the city. The address of the property is 13310 Little Morongo Road, the place with a lot of greenhouses.

Snider Cannabis Cultivation Facility (1)


Snider Cannabis Cultivation Facility (2)


After no testimony and no discussion at all, the amendment was approved unanimously.

If I understand correctly, the Planning Commission has final say on CUPs for marijuana businesses, so this decision does not have to be approved by the city council.


Amendment to the CUP for Maraparm DHS California

Maraparm DHS California wants to increase the size of their proposed facility from from 20,664 s.f. to 21,697 s.f. and to rotate the building to take better advantage of the sunlight. Their facility will be located on 15th Street (currently dirt) between Little Morongo and Cabot Road (also dirt there). Their CUP was originally approved in September 2017.

This facility will also have greenhouses. In the original plan the greenhouses were north of the building that will hold all functions other than growing. This very sensible proposal is to rotate the plan 180°, so the building will not cast a shadow on the greenhouses. (Kinda makes you wonder how it ended up the other way to start with.)

The cultivation area of the building will be 17,360 s.f. and will generate $218,600 in cultivation tax revenue annually for the city.

The facility will be on septic until sewers are put in there, but the septic itself is only for ordinary waste. Wastewater from cultivation itself has to be contained separately and not put into the ground.

After no testimony and extremely little discussion by the commissioners, approved unanimously.


Sign Variance for the Harborside Facility

Here is an interesting item, finally. Harborside, the very well known cannabis business in Oakland, will be running the dispensary to be built behind the Arco station at Palm Drive and Paul Road, next to the I-10 interchange. Their CUP was among the very first approved in the city, and it's taken quite a while to get to this stage.

Harborside has very high name recognition among cannabis aficionados.

Founded in 2006 by Steve DeAngelo, Harborside is the most respected and largest cannabis dispensary in the United States. Harborside has over 200,000 registered consumers and was first in the nation to support education for seniors, veterans and families with severely ill children; first in the country to offer CBD-rich cannabis; and the first to treat children with Dravet syndrome. Harborside continues to set an example of diversity and compliance, and is one of the prime advocates of diversity, sustainability and economic justice in the industry.

The sign will display Harborside's logo only, shown below. No green cross; no marijuana leaf.

Harborside Logo

The overall proposed height is 70 feet. Harborside proposed a 200 s.f. sign rated to withstand 160 MPH winds. City code would require only that the sign withstand 130 MPH winds. The usual height limit for a sign of this type in DHS is 25 feet and the maximum sign area limit is usually 125 s.f. So, Harborside is asking for a variance to allow this sign. A monument sign and the sign mounted on the building were also included in this package. The neighboring Arco sign is 49 feet high and 156 s.f. The Arco sign is further from the highway than the proposed Harborside sign, so the bridge there does not block the view of it. The Harborside sign needs to be higher to avoid being blocked by the bridge.

In the site plan shown below I've highlighted I-10 at the lower left as well as the two possible sites for the sign ("Second Choice" won out). Paul Road runs left to right across the top of this image.

Harborside Site Plan
(click for a higher res image)

City staff had proposed reducing the sign size to 160 s.f., but the developer said that it takes so long for a sign like this to be made, they have already ordered it at 200 s.f. The difference in size is not great and if the city insists on the 160 s.f. sign, there will be a delay for some months and extra expense for the developer. It takes 14 weeks from the time it is ordered for the final sign to be delivered. The dispensary's owner said they had done a survey of signs along interstates and 200 s.f. was the biggest they saw, and they saw a lot of them. The sign costs nearly $100,000. He expects 80% of their business to come from those who do not reside in DHS.

They hope to open in July 2018, but it may be early August.

A motion was made to approve subject to moving the sign back away from the highway to the "Second Choice" location as shown on the site map above, and keeping the 200 s.f. sign. Approved unanimously.


Streamlined Process For Amending Entitlements For Cannabis Cultivators

Cultivators, if they want to include manufacturing or distributing or testing facilities, have to come back to the city to get their CUP revised. Normally, this would mean a return to the Planning Commission which is expensive and takes time. Last year an ordinance changed this process so that if they wanted to convert some of their area to manufacturing (and they are in good standing in relation to the city), then city staff could make the revision without a trip to the Planning Commission. The proposed ordinance before the Planning Commission this night was to do the same for distribution and testing.

Ryan Fingerhut from High Road Consulting Group rose to comment in favor of this ordinance. He added, however, that the city also needs to revise their ordinances to permit testing facilities in the commercial zones.

Moved, seconded and approved unanimously with no changes.

Filed under California,Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Marijuana | May 16, 2018 at 06:24 PM | Comments (0)

May 15, 2018

Photos of the Library of Congress

Library of Congress (4807)
The ceiling in the grand hall where one enters the Jefferson building.

Library of Congress (1916)

Library of Congress (1915)
A bit of the ceiling.

Library of Congress (1913)

Jefferson's Library (1917)
Thomas Jefferson's library.

Baseball - Library of Congress (4814)
Naked baseball players on the ceiling of the Library of Congress.
I've got another photo showing football players.

Library of Congress (4827)
Down in the tunnels connecting the Jefferson and Madison (and I'm sure other) buildings.

Library of Congress (4825)
Some of the floor.

Library of Congress floor tiles (1912)
More floor.

Madison Memorial building (8120)
Columns at the entrance to the Madison Memorial Building.

Madison Memorial Building (5943)

Click here to see all 22 of my photos from the Library of Congress.

Filed under Architecture,Art,Books,History,Politics,Science | May 15, 2018 at 09:04 PM | Comments (0)

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 | May 13, 2018 at 09:10 PM | Comments (0)

May 12, 2018

No Spectators - The Art of Burning Man

No Spectators - Renwick Gallery (1892)

No Spectators - Renwick Gallery (3040)

No Spectators - Renwick Gallery (4544)

Penny Bear (4604)

Greg & Shep view the Penny Bear (4613)
That's Greg & Shep looking at the penny bear.

Maya Angelou bust (4589)
Maya Angelou
.

No Spectators - Renwick Gallery (1889)

The Temple at No Spectators (4586)

XO (4629)
People played around on this in pretty much the same way Burners did
.

"Truth Is Beauty" replica (7686)
"Truth is Beauty" one-third scale replica.

"Truth Is Beauty" replica shadows (4536)

No Spectators - Renwick Gallery (4580)
These people are looking up at a small version of the artwork seen at the beginning of the following video:

This complete set of photos can be seen here.

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | May 12, 2018 at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

April 13, 2018

Nixon Library

Photos from my visit to the Nixon Library a couple of weeks ago.

Nixon Museum Entryway
This video shows the corridor through which you enter the museum
with iconic images of the troubled '60s on both walls, leading to what I suppose is intended as the solution to all of the problems: Nixon. I added the music which is "Scene II: Interlude" from Orpheus by Stravinsky.

1972 Electoral Vote Map (9047)
The 1972 electoral votes
. I'd forgotten that in addition to Massachusetts, McGovern also carried the District of Columbia.

Apollo 11 Memorabilia (0028)
A moon rock and the phone Nixon used to talk to the astronauts
. I tried, but couldn't get, a clear shot of buttons attached the phone. They're for different extensions in the White House and were labeled "Haldemanm," "Ehrlichman" and so on.

Little Red Book (2609)
Can you believe it?
Right there in the Nixon Library a copy of Mao's Little Red Book.

Marine One (1826)

Nixon Birthplace & Childhood Home (0037)
Nixon birthplace and childhood home
. It is still in the exact location and with the same orientation as when Nixon's father built it.

Nixon Library (0040)
View of the library from the Nixon home.

Nixon Library Entrance Lobby (1829)

Sock It To Em button (0033)
Nixon wore this button on his Whittier College letter jacket.
I was very surprised that he was so far ahead of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. If you are old enough, you surely remember these six seconds from that show:

The 18½ Minute Gap (0031)
They had a substantial exhibit about Watergate that did not try to whitewash the scandal
. I have already listened to the 18½ minute gap, so I skipped this part of the exhibit. They had a display showing the locations of microphones used by FDR, Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, LBJ and Nixon. Nixon had WAAAAAY more than any other President and was the only President who put a recording device in the President's office at Camp David.

Casualties Report From January 1969 (0025)
Casualty report from Vietnam for January 20, 1969.
Do you recall these casualty reports being delivered to the public weekly on national news? Every time there was some number of Americans killed, then the number of ARVN (south Vietnam) soldiers killed would be something much larger than the American number, and finally the number of Viet Cong and NVA (North Vietnam) would be a astronomically higher than either of the other two. For example, for the current week shown in this photo there were 185 Americans killed, 336 ARVN and 2,742 VC and NVA. I think if you add up all the reported numbers killed for the VC and NVA throughout the entire war it would indicate every resident of North Vietnam had died at least twice.

Bob Dole Quote (1286)
Everybody's entitled to their opinion.

A Turning Point In History (0032)
How might history be different if someone had bought him some train tickets?

The complete set of photos can be seen here.

Filed under California,History | April 13, 2018 at 08:47 PM | Comments (0)

April 9, 2018

Low Clearance On New York Parkways Results In Bus Crash

Here's the news story about a bus striking a low clearance bridge on the Southern State Parkway on Long Island. "Major David Candelaria of the New York State Police...estimated the height of the clearance to be less than 10 feet." The article says it was an 8-foot clearance, but the signs say 7' 7". I'm really surprised the state police are so far off estimating the bridge height. The parkways in NY state were intended for passenger vehicles only, so designers intentionally made the bridge clearances low in order to discourage any future legislature from opening up the parkways to trucks and buses. Here's an interesting article that discusses the motivations of Robert Moses, who designed this particular parkway, to make these bridge clearances even lower than they are on other New York parkways. The primary accusation made against Moses was that he was rabidly racist (apparently a proven fact) and he didn't want low-income people (who he assumed would be mostly black or Puerto Rican) to come by the busload to the parks and beaches that are connected by the parkways. The author identifies one beach that was obviously designed for bus access, so he thinks the racism story may not be true.

The comments are very interesting. The ones from locals are like "Driver's fault, everyone knows about NY parkways," "Driver's fault, everyone in the northeast knows about NY parkways," or "Driver's fault, there were warning signs." I've been on NY parkways just a few times (when I lived in the northeast), and while I greatly appreciated their aesthetics, I wasn't consciously aware of the bridge heights, so I think there's just a lot of New Yorkers who think everyone knows all about New York.

The article says the bus passengers were returning home from Europe. I assume, therefore, that they were coming from one of the NYC area airports and heading east (the accident site is east of any airports). In fact, it seems most likely they were coming from JFK airport because from JFK you can get on the Belt Parkway from either I-678 or the JFK Expressway. The Belt Parkway then takes you to the Southern State Parkway.

I used Google Streetview to search for warning signs and the photo below shows the first (and only) warning sign that the parkway is for passenger cars only. This is coming from I-678. I could find no similar sign for those coming from the JFK Expressway.
First Warning Sign Entering Belt Parkway From I-678 Leaving JFK Airport
First (and apparently only) warning signs entering Belt Parkway from I-678 leaving JFK Airport
.

I used the New York State database of bridge heights that the Post author referenced. You've got to zoom in a lot before it becomes useful. I would expect a state department of transportation database of bridge heights to have both the highest and lowest clearance heights from both directions, a total of four heights. But the NYDOT only lists one height (the lowest) for each bridge. They only distinguish the different heights for either direction if the bridge has two arches. One arch bridges get only one height. IOW, inadequate.

Searching for info on the typical height of intercity buses, I found that the limit is 12 feet, but I didn't find any particular bus models taller than 133 inches (11' 1'). The extra 11 inches is probably a safety margin to allow for heavy snow on the road surface or changes in the height of the road due to repaving. I found a couple of trucker forums where drivers claimed that posted clearances in New York State are 12 inches lower than the real clearance. If those claims are true, then an 11' 1" bus ought to fit under any New York bridge with a labeled clearance of 10' 2", giving a tight one-inch safety margin.

Using that state database and following the route of the bus, the first bridge that appears too low for them is where the Belt Parkway passes under 130th Avenue. The photo below shows that underpass.
NB Belt Parkway Under 130th Avenue
NB Belt Parkway under 130th Avenue.
The 9' 8" warning sign is the lowest clearance in the right or left lane. If the bus had been in the center lane at this point, the clearance there might have been a nominal 10' 2" or more (11' 2" in reality, if we trust the alleged 12-inch safety margin) and the bus would have cleared it with an inch to spare.

As the bus transitioned from the Belt Parkway to the Southern State Parkway, it would go under the nominally 8' 6" bridge shown below.
First warning sign on EB Southern State Parkway coming from Belt Parkway
First warning sign on EB Southern State Parkway coming from Belt Parkway
. If 8' 6" means 9' 6", the clearance over the leftmost lane would need to be at least 17 inches higher than that over the right lane. It's possible.

BTW, the only height clearance warning signs I could find on the parkways were the single signs mounted on each bridge, small and usually white, although some were yellow as shown in the photo above. On entrance ramps I could usually find one standard "No Trucks" sign and two diamond signs showing the clearance of the first bridge to be encountered. The sign on I-678 is the biggest, flashiest warning I could find and even that one says nothing about low clearances. There were no "No Trucks" signs on the parkways, other than a single one at each entrance ramp. There were no "Trucks/Buses Must Exit" signs at any exit.

The next underpass has a nominal clearance of 8' 11", but that sign (white) is obscured by vegetation, as you can see below.
EB Southern State Parkway under Elmont Road
EB Southern State Parkway under Elmont Road.
An additional 15 inches of clearance would be needed for an 11' 1" bus (again, assuming the NYDOT actually deducts a 12-inch safety margin from their signs). There might be 15 inches difference between the righthand edge of the road and lanes number 2 or 3 (counting from left to right).

Then we come to Fletcher Avenue where the nominal clearance is 7' 8" which is only one inch higher than the underpass at Eagle Road where the bus accident happened.
EB Southern State Parkway at Fletcher Avenue
EB Southern State Parkway at Fletcher Avenue.
Google Streetview sometimes pixelates the height signs because they appear to be similar to license plates, which Streetview routinely pixelates, but the NYDOT database says this one is 7' 8", and that does not appear to be inconsistent with the pixelated sign. There would need to be a whopping 28 inches of additional clearance in lanes 1 or 2 (left to right) for the bus to pass under it, but pass under it the bus did.

Continuing east, the next bridge at Corona Avenue is nominally 9' 3". The next very low clearance bridge is at Franklin Avenue where the nominal clearance is 8' 7". After that the bus passed through four underpasses that seemed to have a nominal height sufficient for the bus to clear. And then they came to Eagle Avenue which is nominally only 7' 7", shown below.
Eagle Avenue Bridge Across Southern State Parkway Looking East
Eagle Avenue bridge across Southern State Parkway, eastbound.
.

aerial view of Southern State Parkway and Eagle Avenue
Click to go to the Google aerial view
of the interchange of Eagle Avenue and Southern State Parkway.

The photos of the wrecked bus in the Post article show much greater damage on its right side than on its left, so I think it was in the right lane and hit it at 7' 7" (or 8' 7" in reality) which would be about 23 inches lower than the top of the bus.
Bus Crash

Bus Crash

Bus Crash

The bus driver is a professional, so he should have noted the one warning sign he went under when going from I-678 to the Belt Parkway (if indeed that was his route). And he should have known that buses were prohibited from parkways. The bus company is based in New Jersey, so I think it's save to assume they do a lot of driving in New York State. In addition, the driver should have noticed his hairbreadth clearance under some of the bridges before he got to Eagle Avenue. If he'd been paying attention, that alone should have caused him to question the wisdom of his route.

The signage, however, erected by the NYDOT is all consistent with the assumption that every driver knows you can't take a bus (or truck) onto a parkway, and every driver knows there are very low clearance bridges. But that's a bit like the reasoning "but I had the right of way" as you lie dying on the pavement somewhere. Three vehicles a year strike this bridge! How many hit the other very low clearance bridges on this parkway? Construction of the Southern State Parkway began in 1926. It's been 92 years and no one has ever felt the need to upgrade the signage?! "In December [2017], Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced a $4.3 million project to install an electronic warning system that detects when oversize vehicles enter parkways." Here's what the NYDOT claims in that article: "An over-height vehicle entering would break the beam, triggering a warning message on a full color LED variable message sign display. The warning would indicate that the vehicle is over height and alerts the driver of impending bridge strikes ahead," but if you look at the photos you'll see the sign falls far short of what they claim.

Overheight Warning System
Full color LED? I don't think so. This is old technology, certainly not any color but amber. I don't think these lights are LED or I wouldn't see so many burned out elements both out on the road and in this photo. If they are truly LED, they could do a lot more with them than simply display crude dots. As for "The warning would indicate that the vehicle is over height and alerts the driver of impending bridge strikes ahead," uh, I don't think so. If the sign in the photo actually does that, it's going to have to scroll three or four message displays to do so, and the offending vehicle will have passed by the sign already. In addition, the sign is placed too late. Is the driver of the truck or bus supposed to back up or do a u-turn across the grass or just stop and call the highway patrol to assist? In the photo it appears that the detector is actually placed AFTER the warning sign, so its only real function would be to alert following drivers to get their cellphones ready to record the expected crash.

The NYDOT seems to work on the assumption there are no stupid or ignorant drivers on their roads. Most other states have learned the folly of that assumption when dealing with potentially life-endangering road hazards. In California there are generous warning signs where stupid or ignorant drivers might do the wrong thing. The bus driver is technically at fault in this case, but the NYDOT is doing less than the minimum to try to mitigate the risks of these low clearance parkway overpasses. The very least they could do is use the standard big yellow signs that are mounted on bridges directly over the roadway...and clear the damned vegetation!

There are at least a couple of low clearance bridges elsewhere in the United States that are routinely struck by high clearance vehicles. Go here to read and view videos about the infamous 11' 8" bridge in Durham, North Carolina. Note the extremely generous warning signs for the stupid or ignorant. Even so, plenty of drama still happens.

Filed under Architecture,Automotive | April 9, 2018 at 02:07 PM | Comments (0)

April 5, 2018

Arriving At Burning Man, last year

Self Upon Arrival in Black Rock City, 2017.
My shirt is clean; my tent behind me is not yet covered by my shade structure, so it's midday of my first day on the playa last year, 2017. Photo by George Post who is always there when I arrive and always still there when I leave and I'm beginning to suspect he might live out there all the time.

The umbrella hat, to my surprise, proved very practical. Kept my head well shaded, well ventilated, and the headband did not irritate me. That was what I expected to be my main objection, but, no, it's fairly comfortable. Not practical in wind, however.

If somebody wants to give me a word balloon, send it complete (not just an idea or suggestion) to me at RonsLog@RBGilbert.com

Filed under Burning Man,Photography | April 5, 2018 at 09:18 PM | Comments (0)