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April 3, 2014

DHS Planning Commission - March 11, 2014


Commissioner Gray sought to add an urgency item to the agenda. Attorney Mizrahi explained the two basic requirements for an urgency item...in addition to the body voting to add it, making a total of three requirements. First, the item must have come to the attention of someone after the agenda was posted. Second, action on that item must be taken prior to the body's next meeting.

I have been trying to think of an example of something - anything - that might qualify as an urgency item for the Planning Commission and I have come up with nothing. The issues they deal with are all a long time coming. Nobody pops up on a Friday suddenly realizing they need a zoning variance stat.

Chair Gerardi asked if it could be added as a discussion item only. The attorney said no, because that's not action. Action must be required before the next meeting in order for an urgency item to be added to the agenda.

When the attorney asked what urgency item Mr. Gray sought to add to the agenda he said he wanted to discuss the process of information and documents made available to the Planning Commissioners and the public. The attorney clarified that he was referring to public records requests. Attorney Mizrahi said that could not be added as an urgency item, but it certainly could be added to the next meeting's agenda. She said it didn't meet either of the basic requirements for an urgency item. The Commissioner did not just become aware of the public records law in the previous four days, and there is no action the Planning Commission could take on it.

Commissioner Parker said that at a future meeting he would like the Commission to discuss maintaining and improving the parks.

General Plan/MSHCP/Comprehensive Zoning Update

Martín Magaña led this discussion. In 2009 Hogle-Ireland was retained to update the city's General Plan. The previous update was in 2000.

The single biggest item delaying adoption of the General Plan has been waiting for the final approval for Desert Hot Springs to completely join the MSHCP.

Existing DHS General Plan Use Designations
Current land use map adopted inn 2000
. The colors pink to red to violet indicate commercial or "visitor serving" areas. Check the key for precise colors. The differences are pretty subtle on this reproduction.

Proposed DHS General Plan Preferred Land Use Map
Preferred land use map
. Red is commercial. Pink is spa/resort commercial.

MSHCP Areas In Proposed DHS General Plan Preferred Land Use Map
Preferred land use map with MSHCP areas in color
. This is showing the entire sphere of influence. Some of this MSHCP land is still outside our city limits. Areas in our sphere of influence but outside the actual city limits are not subject to city taxation.

Mr. Gray said "When we were told about the MSHCP area we were informed that it was going to take away a huge amount of the area. What I'm looking at, it takes away very little of the developable land. It covers most of the foothills and there's this little sliver that comes down through the wash. Is that correct?"

Mr. Magaña confirmed that was correct.

Mr. Gray continued, "So the information that we were told before that it would take away this huge amount of area of developable land was inaccurate."

Mr. Magaña said he didn't know who said that. When he came to the city in 2009, the MSHCP was already a going thing.

Mr. Gray explained "The general word was at the time that this was detrimental to the city. This was why we opted out of the plan. And now I'm looking at it and it looks like it's this very thin little sliver of land rather than this big deal that was...this is why it cost a million dollars to get us back in the plan because we were out of the plan. This took two years? Is that correct?"

Mr. Magaña that that was his understanding. When he came to Desert Hot Springs the city had already opted out. He said, "Then when Rick Daniels came on board he convinced the Council to...'You've got to get back into this plan.'" Then the Council voted to reverse themselves and get into the plan. It cost a million dollars to re-do and recirculate the plan with DHS taken out.

[The DHS City Council rejected the MSHCP plan in June 2006. In July 2007 the DHS City Council had reversed its position and sought to join the MSHCP. Ann Marie Gallan was City Manager in July 2007. It was only this month, March 2014, that CVAG approved that. Now it must go to the other cities and the county for approval.]

Mr. Gray said, "I'm offended that you say that Rick Daniels convinced the Council. There was one member of the Council who was for this and the other four were against it."

Councilmember Matas handed out some specific numbers at the March 18 City Council meeting that show how much land will be in the MSHCP zone after everything is finalized. This was part of a discussion about the parcel tax, but the numbers are the same whether the subject is taxes or lizards:

Total acres in MSHCP area within city limits:8,580 acres
Privately owned land in MSHCP area within city limits:2,365 acres
Land actually conserved within city limits since 1996:1,400 acres
Vacant land outside MSHCP area and within city limits:10,465 acres

Mr. Gray asked if the roadway along the wash is what is being considered for inclusion in the golf cart path. Mr. Magaña said it was not being considered for that path. It's a Riverside County Flood Control access path. The goal is to work with Flood Control and the MSHCP people so that road can be used as a multi-use trail for hiking, biking, etc.

Vice Chair Sobotta said the MSHCP areas within Desert Hot Springs were reduced from the original proposal.

Mr. Gray asked if the Planning Commission can suggest small changes for, some tweaks. He pointed out the Village Shopping Center at Little Morongo and Mission Lakes. The preferred plan doesn't allow for any commercial development in the area around it.

Mr. Magaña said the preferred land use plan was approved by the Council which authorized the staff to move ahead with the environmental analysis. Any changes would need to be approved by the Council and if it were a significant change, then some of the environmental analysis would have to be re-done. Traffic and air quality, for example, might be affected. Mr. Gray said that if the city has to pay somebody to take a pen and re-draw a few lines then that should not hold us back. Mr. Magaña said it would not be so easy.

Mr. Sobotta said that originally the Village Shopping Center was proposed to be about 22 acres and the idea to have a Walmart there was entertained, but rejected because the roads there would not support a store that large.

Mr. Gray suggested that some of the vacant land on the east side of Little Morongo could be zoned for commercial development. Mr. Gerardi said he thought additional residential construction around that shopping center would help more.

Mr. Gray said the problem we've had is that we haven't interacted with the school district, college district, water district or any other public agency. We could cooperate with a common idea of where the future is, he said. He talked about how the PSUSD put the two new schools on Jalisco without consulting with the city. "It doesn't have to be that way," he said.

Commissioner Romero asked how school districts determine locations for schools and what is the interplay with the city. Mr. Magaña said these two schools used the state's eminent domain powers to get the land. There was no cooperation with the city. There is some new policy where the State Architect will "consider" city planning departments and the city's general plan when locating new schools.

He said that the city is first notified that a school is going to be located at a particular site when it receives a request to comment on the EIR. The city can comment and the school district must respond to the comment.

Commissioner Gray said that the city should engage in a conversation with other agencies like the school district and water district and share the preferred land use map with them. He made a motion that "we have an outreach to these other public agencies, and that we set up a meeting, maybe one at a time, to go over these things." There was no second.

Commissioner Parker said that more important than having the city involved in decisions like those of the school district, the community at large should be involved in the decision process.

Mr. Parker said that the commission might as well not get maps like these because they are totally illegible.

The maps shown above came right out of the agenda packet and when viewed at full resolution are very readable. The Commissioners get the same agenda packet as the public. But when printed out on an 8½x11 piece of paper they probably lose a lot.

That discussion we've heard before at Planning Commission regarding the size of the paperwork the Commissioners receive was repeated. Staff has made it clear that they will deliver to each Commissioner whatever format they prefer.

Mr. Parker asked which color on the map indicated areas where schools could be located. Chair Gerardi answered that there is no color like that on the map. [Because they can put a school any damn place they want...except probably the MSHCP area.]

Mr. Parker said parks should be where the people are. And parks should be "real parks." "Veterans Park is not really a real park," he said. "They used to have a little piece of land right next to Builder's Supply they called a park."

[The RDA owned that former site of the Bank of America and many people considered it a park, but the city did not.]

"That was all some kind of shell game just to satisfy some federal requirement," Mr. Parker said. He said we should be serious and not make a joke of this.

Mr. Gray made a motion that the Commissioners be provided large maps made on a plotter "and if you have to fix the plotter, fix the plotter or go down to Staples and have the city spend $15 or $20 to make map." There was no second. Chair Gerardi said he didn't think a motion was necessary. Attorney Mizrahi said there was no need for a motion at all. The will of the Commission can simply be expressed by talking among themselves and with staff.

Ms. Romero suggested it could be done informally like this: "Can I please have a larger map?" or "I'd like a larger map please."

Mr. Sobotta said that he thought the MSHCP might restrict the widening of Little Morongo where it goes through an MSHCP area. [I don't think it works that way. My impression is that part of the process of joining the MSHCP is designating where infrastructure construction, like road-widening, is to occur in the MSHCP area. Then that construction will be permitted when the time comes to build it.]

Mr. Gray suggested the issue of widening Little Morongo should be addressed by the Planning Commission before the whole plan goes to the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission. He also suggested that the power lines going through the conservation area be undergrounded.

Mr. Sobotta said he thought there was a limit on which lines could be undergrounded. Above a certain kilovoltage the lines could not be undergrounded. Mr. Magaña said that is correct. The limit is 92KV. Anything above that cannot be undergrounded. The lines along Little Morongo are 133KV. [This was briefly discussed at the City Council study session on February 13, 2012. During a discussing with an Edison representative on the subject of undergrounding power lines Scott Matas asked about the lines along Little Morongo. The Edison rep said they are 115KV and could not be undergrounded.]

Mr. Magaña said Little Morongo is included in CVAG's regional roadway network. The city has coordinated with CVAG on plans to widen Little Morongo. It's already been included in their environmental analysis.

Mr. Sobotta said he did not think Mission Lakes Boulevard could be widened and he didn't think it could be extended west of Indian. Mr. Magaña confirmed the latter. The new General Plan does not show Mission Lakes going any further west than Indian.

Mr. Gray said he didn't see the gerrymandered sliver of county land that comes in to include the Sentinel power plant.

Garnet Project Area
This is a map from 2008 that shows the area Mr. Gray is talking about.
The brownish-orange indicates areas that Riverside County planned to include in their redevelopment area. The westernmost chunk labeled "Proposed Project Area" includes the location where the CPV Sentinel power plant would be built. That chunk is connected to the other chunks by a sliver running down what I think is Karen Road to Dillon and along Dillon east to North Palm Springs. This area is in the city's sphere of influence, but if the city had annexed it while redevelopment was a going thing, those would have remained county redevelopment areas even thought they were entirely part of the city.

But, as we all know so well, redevelopment is gone and that goes for Riverside County too. CPV Sentinel remains in the county and in our sphere of influence, so it should be annexed into the city some day.

Mr. Parker said he understood part of the reason for having commercial nodes in various places around the city is to reduce greenhouse gases. But, he asked, wouldn't construction of a shopping center increase greenhouse gas emissions because, for example, of the truck deliveries. He wanted to know if there was any scientific support for the idea that this would reduce greenhouse gases. Chair Gerardi and Commissioner Romero (sort of simultaneously) explained that it was also because people prefer living near the services they need. Ms. Romero pointed out that some cities with very high property values such as Marina Del Ray are also very walkable. It also creates a sense of neighborhood.

Mr. Parker said it seemed to him that the area around Dillon and Indian should be zoned for commercial development. At that intersection the only red on the map are where there is existing commercial on the south side of Dillon and east side of Indian. There is a residential zone (which is already residential) and everything else is industrial. Mr. Gray said there is a sign on the northeast corner of Indian and Dillon saying a shopping center would be built there.

The Commission requested a study session for more discussion on the whole subject of land use and the General Plan.

Mr. Magaña said that after the General Plan is adopted, the next step is to update the zoning code to coordinate with the General Plan.

Rich Malacoff said our current zoning code has inconsistencies and includes a lot of outdated info. They have broken these down into long-term and short-term projects. The short-term project will handle issues that need to be addressed right away. One is streamlining the development process so projects can go through more efficiently. Other short-term projects to be considered include fences and parking in residential areas especially RVs.

The long-term goal, after putting out the fires [so to speak] will be to have consistent development standards for all zones. The current code is very "Euclidean," dealing with new development but doesn't address re-uses of older buildings. "Form-based zoning" is non-Euclidean [although I'm sure it still permits parallel lines and does not violate the Pythagorean theorem].

"Form-based codes create a predictable public realm by controlling physical form primarily, with a lesser focus on land use, through municipal regulations" is what it says in Wikipedia.

Commissioner Gray asked Mr. Malacoff is he was coming up with a plan to permit some wooden fences.

Mr. Magaña said no, they are not working on that right now. Mr. Gray asked if it would be something they could consider. Mr. Magaña said that if the Commission would like to look at that as an option, staff could definitely bring it before them. Mr. Malacoff asked to have a meeting with Mr. Gray to get his ideas on the subject.

Mr. Gray said he drives up and down the streets all the time and observes code violations that are not being addressed. He said he knows we are paying "a million dollars or whatever we're paying for that code enforcement contract."

[Back at the January 2, 2014, City Council meeting Mr. Gray also said this was a million dollar contract. It was made quite clear repeatedly that the contract is for $605,000, which is 10% less than what they were originally awarded.]

Mr. Malacoff said if a Commissioner sees a code problem he could note the address and give the information to staff and they would pass it on to code enforcement. [Or he could pick up the phone and call code enforcement like ordinary people do.] Mr. Gray said he's not being paid to walk the streets and make a list. "That's what they're supposed to do."

[I had never before thought that Mr. Gray was in the group of people who thought a citizen's job is just to sit back and do nothing except complain when government doesn't meet his standards. Does he apply the same standards to the police or fire department? "I saw a house on fire, stood there doing nothing, and the fire department didn't show up fast enough to satisfy me." And fire has a much bigger contract than code enforcement.]

Commissioner Romero said she thought it was part of a Commissioner's job to bring things like this to the attention of staff because code compliance staff can't be in all places at once. When a violation is reported it becomes a matter of record and then there can be accountability [of both code compliance staff and the property owner].

Mr. Gray disagreed, saying "But isn't that what we pay them to do?"

Mr. Gerardi pointed out that we pay a Police Department but we still organize Neighborhood Watches. "We as citizens and leaders of our community do have to participate somewhat, and we do have some responsibilities."

Mr. Gray said, "I'm not abdicating responsibility, but what I'm saying the Police keep law and order for the most part."

Mr. Gerardi said, "But we have Neighborhood Watch also. Just expand it to code too. It's Neighborhood Watch, we're watching out for the city. We see something, we report it. I don't think that's a bad thing."

Mr. Gray answered, "I'm not saying it's a bad thing, but what they're paid to do."

After some more discussion Mr. Gerardi said, "Since you wanted us to tell you, I don't think we have enough shade trees in our parking lots." [Laughter all around.]

Mr. Gray asked why the water was turned off on the property just east of Builder Supply. [Simple answer: to save money.] Mr. Magaña said that it's on the asset management plan that the state Department Of Finance is considering now.

Mr. Sobotta said he thought we should have more bus stops and the shelters should be larger to provide more shade.

Mr. Parker said "I think it's probably the reason that we have such lousy bus stops is because we live in Desert Hot Springs and nobody cares about Desert Hot Springs over at the SunLine transit agency." He described the Palm Desert bus stops which are much nicer. Mr. Gerardi said that Palm Desert pays for those. "Oh, okay, I don't know about that stuff," Mr. Parker explained. Mr. Sobotta said Palm Desert has a program to encourage sponsorship and donations for things like nicer bus stops.

Mr. Parker said the bus stop by Stater Bros. is a major transfer point so this should be among the first we should work on.

Vortex Specific Plan

This specific plan was approved in 2010.
Vortex Specific Plan Land Use

The plan has seven objectives:

  1. Establish a unified vision for the project site in order to guide a cohesive, complementary mix of uses structured around a comprehensive set of circulation and infrastructure systems.
  2. Create a new mixed-use regional lifestyle destination development that stimulates a major new source of tax base for the City of Desert Hot Springs, incorporating the health and wellness industry as a theme.
  3. Plan for an appropriate mix of commercial, office, entertainment, resort, and residential uses the context of a master-planned town center, in order to meet the trade area's growing demand, and build in the flexibility to respond to changes in the market.
  4. Apply innovative planning and design solutions to create a sense of place at multiple scales.
  5. Provide new housing concepts for the community, encouraging high quality, high density residential units that appeal to residents seeking shorter commutes to jobs, restaurants, and entertainment.
  6. Take advantage of the area's location and exposure by establishing a welcoming town center within the City, characterized by distinct and attractive signage, architecture, and landscaping, both on-site and in the public right-of-way.
  7. Implement an integrated circulation concept that optimizes connectivity for both vehicular and pedestrian traffic, internalizes pedestrian activity to buffer it from the vehicular traffic along perimeter roadways, and establishes close relationships between land uses that are infused with pedestrian-friendly and walkable spaces linkages.

The goal was for the RDA to buy up properties, consolidate them and re-sell them to developers.

Mr. Magaña said that some have come to the city wanting to locate in existing buildings in the Vortex area, but the city has had to turn them down because their proposals are inconsistent with this land use plan.

Staff wants to allow existing buildings within the specific plan area to be used so that some jobs can be created and some sales tax generated. But the businesses have to be consistent with the approved land uses within the specific plan, such as restaurants, retail or professional services.

Mr. Magaña said he was not proposing to throw out the plan, because (1) it cost a lot and (2) there are a lot of good ideas in it.

The request from staff was for the Commission to review the plan, discuss it, and formulate a recommendation to bring to the City Council.

Mr. Gray asked what businesses were turned away. Mr. Magaña said churches were turned away. No retail businesses were turned away.

Mr. Gray then asked "How much money was spent by the city in purchasing lands that were intended to be consolidated in the downtown core?" Mr. Magaña said he didn't have that figure available. Mr. Gray said it was $17 million. Then Mr. Gray said "Those lands that were intended to be purchased to consolidate into the downtown core where was that money spent?" He went on to say that "That was spent on purchasing lands on 8th Street, Buena Vista, streets that weren't in the downtown core."

RDA Acquired Parcels 2007-2011
This map, which was part of the agenda packet for the April 19, 2011, City Council meeting includes a table listing all RDA acquisitions as of that date
. The total funded by bonds was $10,475,302. Not all of that was in the Vortex area, though. Subtracting the purchases that are outside the Vortex area ($782,163) brings the total to $9,693,139. The map was included in that agenda packet because the Council was considering the purchase of four more parcels for a price of $375,000. City Council approved that, so add that to the total and it comes to $10,068,139. That was April 2011. Redevelopment ended June 30, 2012. I don't think any more property was bought in the Vortex area between April 2011 and July 2012. At least I can't find a record of it, and I think spending an additional $7 million would have been worthy of notice. I would say Mr. Gray has inflated the price by about 69%, remarkably similar to his 65% inflation of the cost of the code compliance contract.

Mr. Gray said we were told $17 million would be spent to purchase land downtown. "That didn't happen, did it?" Mr. Gray asked. Mr. Magaña said he did not recall because he wasn't working for the city then. Mr. Gray then asked "Do you know how much this cost us? To create this document. Do you know how much we paid Jerry Ogburn?"

Here the attorney stepped in. She reminded the Commission that it is the Planning Commission's job to deal with planning. She said it does not necessarily deal with the finances of the city. She continued, "I think at this point it's a little bit unfair to cross examine Director Magaña on some of these issues." She agreed that financial issues are very important, but she reminded them again they are a Planning Commission [using the word planning about half a dozen times in one sentence].

Then Mr. Gray asked "Is it fair for us to say that we spent a lot of money on this plan and we will probably never, ever be able to do it?"

Mr. Gerardi said that usually when redevelopment bonds were floated they were floated for the entire redevelopment area. He said he was not sure where Mr. Gray got the impression that it was all going to be spent downtown. Mr. Gray insisted that it was on record that "$11 million would be spent on roads, $4 million on the downtown storefront redevelopment of the downtown, and $17 million would be spent on purchasing properties for the purpose of consolidating the properties in the downtown core."

I do not recall any member of the City Council (which approved every one of these purchases) objecting to the fact that bond proceeds were being spent outside the downtown core. There were objections about price or whether we should be buying small residential plots scattered around the city on general principle, but no Councilmember argued against a purchase saying that there had been a commitment to spend it all downtown.

Mr. Parker asked Mr. Magaña to confirm that the Vortex Specific Plan was adopted by the City Council in 2010. Mr. Magaña said that was correct. Mr. Parker asked why this was being brought to the Planning Commission again. Mr. Magaña said that without redevelopment, a lot of the work is going to fall on private developers to carry out the Vortex Specific Plan. The minimum acreage for consolidation in the plan is 2.5 acres.

Mr. Magaña said his goal was to bring in some retail to the area so long as it is consistent with the uses permitted under the plan.

The point that didn't become quite clear for a while was that the plan has narrowly defined zones. Notice the two areas on either side of Pierson just east of West Drive that are labeled PA 1.01 Public Facilities and PA 1.02 Public Facilities. PA 1.01 is restricted to being a transit center, like a bus terminus. PA 1.02 wouldn't be a bus terminus, but it would have to be "public facilities." We all know that there are still small buildings standing in those areas that were designed for retail use, and some sit empty. If someone wanted to go into one of those buildings with a retail business or a professional office, the Planning Department could not permit it because those are not "public facilities," even though it's obvious we are years away from building any sort of bus terminus there. The staff proposal is to allow ANY of the permitted uses in the Vortex Specific Plan (and mostly we're talking about a retail use) to go into any of the EXISTING buildings there. This would not permit the building of new retail buildings there. Any retailer in one of those buildings who is still there when that glorious day comes and money falls from heaven and we actually want to build public facilities there, the retailers could stay as an existing nonconforming use until the end of their lease...even if it was years away. All a simple, practical idea that takes a paragraph to explain.

Mr. Parker, missing the many references to parcel consolidation and the 2.5 acre minimum, asked "And isn't there also a general kind of thing there that says that they want to increase the size of the parcels so that you don't have all these little lots?" Mr. Magaña confirmed that was the idea.

In response to a question from Mr. Gray about the little empty building on the southwest corner of Pierson and West, Mr. Magaña said that is a perfect example of what he wants to do. If someone wanted to put a business or office in there now, the city would have to turn them down. Staff wants to modify the restrictions so that the building could be used for business while we wait for development.

Mr. Gray asked about storefront churches and whether they are all in violation of zoning ordinances. Mr. Magaña said no, that is not correct. They are "existing nonconforming uses" he said. The explanation went on to clarify that "existing" is an essential part of that concept. The city can't let a new business start up as a nonconforming use. Existing means existing. Mr. Magaña wants to revise what is permitted in parts of the Vortex plan.

Mr. Gray asked about the possibility of moving the area zoned for transit to the empty land between City Hall and the high school. The answer from Mr. Magaña was that it would then be outside the Vortex Specific Plan.

Mr. Gray, referring to the northeast and southeast corners of Pierson and West said "Because of that building that's sitting there for so long being unused, that could be used for an office of some sort. I'd like to see you come forward and bring something to us that we can approve. I would like to make a motion that you do something like that."

Mr. Magaña said that is his recommendation. It's in the staff report.

Mr. Parker said he thought a lot of money was wasted on the Vortex Specific Plan. He would be in favor of changing a lot of the language. The vortex plan with its four elements sounds like a big con game to him. He doesn't want the city to be seen as a bunch of dumb people who think they can pull the wool over people's eyes. He does not believe there is a vortex. He acknowledged that we do have hot water which must be protected and developed. He would recommend abolishing the Vortex Specific Plan. He said he doesn't see any possibility that any of this is going to happen. He likes Mr. Magaña's recommendation. We should use what we've got and be realistic going into the future.

The motion was made to approve the staff recommendation by opening a window for three years to allow all permitted uses (except transit )in the Vortex Specific Area in existing buildings. After three years, if this is not extended, they might become existing nonconforming uses, depending on where they are, but they wouldn't have to shut down or move.

Mr. Parker said he would vote against the motion because he thought the whole plan should be tossed out. Plus, he doesn't think churches should be restricted as to location. Chair Gerardi clarified that not permitting churches in the Vortex Specific Area is not new; they haven't been permitted since the plan was approved.

Approved 4-1. It must now be approved by the City Council before it goes into effect.

Staff & Commissioner Comments

Martín Magaña reported that he had been selected to be Acting City Manager now that Interim City Manager Bob Adams has gone. He appointed Rich Malacoff to be Acting Community Development Director.

Commissioner Gray said he had requested some information and it didn't come to him very easily. He said he has had problems in the past getting documents from the city, but now that he's a Planning Commissioner he doesn't expect to have those problems. He said they were all given copies of the Walmart EIR.

I asked about this after the meeting, since I didn't think the Walmart EIR had been released. The copy distributed to the Planning Commissioners and to the City Council members is the most recent screen-check version, which staff reviews and then returns to Walmart after noting errors, missing info, stuff like that.

Mr. Gray said it took two weeks to get that EIR, but he shouldn't have to wait at all, he said. "There's just no reason for that."

I think that being short-staffed is a reason not to expect instantaneous service for all requests. Our City Hall is not McDonald's.

He also spoke about the vacant lot next to Builder's Supply that he called a "park." He said it's not a matter of "do we have the staff to maintain that little area. It's a matter of, just our responsibility is, as people of the planet Earth, to not let trees die." He said the water at that lot is not a big expense [he did not give a dollar figure]. He said we're a poor city because we made poor decisions. "The code enforcement violations, we have to do better with that." "In a few days we're going to be taking a tour of those empty storefront buildings downtown. We're going to put some businesses in there." He didn't explain who he meant by "we." He said economic development is part of the responsibility of the Planning Commission, "so we're going to get the keys from Linda Kelly, we're going to make a trip down there, and we're going to go inside those buildings, we're going to figure out how to do it."

He said that as long as he's a Planning Commissioner "we're going to be working to get those 40 acres back."

The 40 acres Mr. Gray is talking about is shown in the map below.
CC Annexation Map detail 2

It's the southeast corner of Varner and Palm. That's an area that was in the Desert Hot Springs sphere of influence, but the city supported the LAFCO decision to move it into Cathedral City's. Some time after that Cathedral City annexed it. I've said before the only way we're going to get that back is to offer Cathedral City something in return that they want. What do we have that they want that would be worth 40 acres of commercial land? If you have the answer to that, speak up.

Vice Chair Sobotta brought up the subject of the illegal payphone at Walgreens. He also talked about the use of in-lieu of parking fees in Palm Springs and Palm Desert that allow the retailers to share communal parking lots behind their businesses. This not only makes the city look better, but it also makes it possible for small businesses go onto small parcels.

Commissioner Parker asked if the parking matter could be put on the next agenda for discussion. Chair Gerardi said yes, but he didn't think they needed to discuss it. He said Vice Chair Sobotta should simply go to the City Council and tell them in public comments that this is needed.

Mr. Parker said he was concerned because the trees along one side of Wardman Park had been cut down to stumps. He wondered if the same thing would be done in Mission Springs Park. He said he spoke to Rudy Acosta, Director of Public Works, who said that staff was directed to trim the trees to height of about 10 feet. Mr. Parker is also concerned about upkeep of the parks. He said that Mr. Acosta told him there is so much vandalism of the parks they're impossible to keep up. Mr. Parker thinks that's an urban legend. [I think he needs to do a dawn ride-along with public works crews some morning]. Hal Goldenberg told Mr. Parker that the slide in Mission Springs Park was destroyed by vandals and Mr. Parker knows that's not true because he was there and saw it happen. It was just wear and tear.

Mr. Parker also said he did not think the attorney's comments toward Commissioner Gray were appropriate. He was just asking questions.

Commissioner Romero said that it was necessary to recognize that the "team" is not just the five Commissioners. That the staff is on the same team as well. "In order to be gentlemen we work within that team going forward. We know pretty certainly what has gone wrong in the past. And I think that from now on we need to just look forward. And as we look forward we see what needs to be corrected and we just deal with it. Then we don't need to have anybody stepping in and correcting someone if they feel they are out of line, because we won't be. Because we'll be respectful."

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs | permalink | April 3, 2014 at 09:59 PM


Ogburn. Jerry Ogburn. Designer. Mouthpiece. But he's not the city council.

Posted by: Ron at Jun 20, 2018 7:17:29 PM

I remember when they were presenting the Vortex plan, and I realized then that it was totally unrealizable. Take a look at the NE corner of 1st and Palm, and what do you see? You see the Verizon central office. When the consultants were here, I pointed that out to them, and told them what would be involved in moving that much underground infrastructure to a new location. The consultant looked at me with pity, as evidently I didn't understand that reality had nothing to do with his work. I guess he felt he was an 'artist', working in towns and cities instead of paint or stone. I knew then that the city had just wasted another large wad of cash...

Posted by: CharlieE at Apr 4, 2014 7:36:52 AM

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