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February 16, 2018

Desert Hot Springs Planning Commission - 2/13/2018

Commissioners Sworn In

All five commissioners were sworn in for this term. Four of them were familiar incumbents, and the new one (taking Cathy Romero's seat) was Gary Gardner who was appointed by Yvonne Parks. The members of the Planning Commission for this year are: Dirk Voss (Chair), Jan Pye, Scot De La Torre, Gary Gardner and Larry Buchanan.

Cultivation: Cabot Road

First item was a CUP for a cultivation development (33,200 s.f.) on the east side of Cabot Road (map). It will be a 2-story building. The Planning Commission had already approved an identical proposal for the parcel next door, so this one was even more of a slam dunk than the usual cultivation CPU. Approved 5-0. Construction will start in June, the developer said.

Cultivation: Desert Land Ventures

This is the third Really Big Cultivation proposal in DHS that I'm aware of. Really Big as in 123.4 acres, 13 parcels, 1.9 million s.f. of development, some streets, all infrastructure (estimated $30 million - just infrastructure), and it's all going into that blank space along I-10, west of Palm, east of Indian. The proposal is for more than marijuana. The developer plans a 150-room hotel, along with the usual sorts of commercial projects you see around a hotel along the interstate. The approximate location is shown in the aerial view below:
Desert Land Ventures aerial view

As a Really Big Project, it includes a specific plan, a vesting tentative tract map, and a development agreement.

They want to put a dispensary there too. The city has a list of 16 parties who have been approved to get (or try to get) a CUP for a dispensary. I believe we have 8 dispensaries open. One dispensary has been permitted behind the AM/PM station at Palm and I-10. There is some site preparation there, and I believe at least some of the roads have been paved. That leaves 7 parties who have not started any development and may not yet have gotten a CUP. The Desert Land Ventures developer (he's owned the site since 2006) did not want to have to get in bed with some dispensary owner that he doesn't know. No one suggested the alternative. He could buy out the CUP rights from one of those parties.

The specific plan is flexible so that the developer can determine which parts will be industrial and which commercial. City staff and the commissioners expressed the desire that there be no cultivation on the parcels that are adjacent to I-10. The developer who, BTW, is also developing the new San Diego airport that will be over by Otay Mesa (!!) says he understands and he wants his development to be top notch, so he wouldn't have put cultivation. Those parcels need to have businesses that attract people from the highway. Some of it could be ancillary marijuana businesses, like a bakery, a testing lab, whatever else I can't think of right now.

The Commissioners, recognizing the value of the site, said it would be a window onto Desert Hot Springs, so it needs to look really good. The developer agreed, saying it's in his interests to do just that.

The developer said this development will extend over years and nobody knows what's going to happen to cannabis in the future, and that's one reason for the flexibility in the specific plan.

The part of the site that is north of Varner Road extends into the MSHCP area, but it was said that development of 10% of the area within the MSHCP is permitted! I had never heard that before, and I'm sure there are more strings to it than simply wanting to build in the MSHCP. The developer said they might put solar or wind power there.

Varner Road, which goes through the project, is supposed to be paved to a width of six (6!) lanes. Both the developer and the commission agreed this was excessive to start with, since it just deadends and it will be years before six lanes are needed, so they're going to start with something less (to be negotiated with staff, unless the city council says different). Comparisons were drawn with the "Bridge To Nowhere" (the Alaska one, not the Los Angeles one). Some day (after your prince comes) 20th Avenue will also be paved coming east from Indian. It would make sense, IMO, to connect that with Varner.

Approved 5-0.

Cultivation: Collective Solutions

This is a CUP for a cultivation site of 22,176 s.f. total, in three buildings on 1.26 acres. It will be on currently unpaved 15th Avenue, between Little Morongo and Cabot Road. This will include two 10,000 s.f. greenhouses. There will be a temporary trailer, but that has to be out of there before August 13.

Approved 5-0.

Dispensaries: Special Dispensary Entitlements

Currently, our city ordinances define a dispensary (which must be located in a commercial zone) and cultivation (which must be located in an industrial zone). But what about baking? Tasting rooms? And very small scale dispensing, such as at a hotel? This ordinance attempts to address some of those issues.

It would define light manufacturing as any kind of production of cannabis products using only "chemical synthesis," by which they mean baking or infusing, but absolutely not any extraction.

A Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit would be created for light manufacturing, hotels that want to dispense cannabis, and cultivators who want to have a tasting room in their facility.

A cultivator's tasting room would be limited to offering samples of products produced on that site only. There can be no on-site sales and consumption; i.e., the tasting is free. Any sales must be "off-site," that is you carry it away with you...like a liquor store, where you can buy alcohol but can't consume it on premises. For existing cultivation facilities, the Director of Community Development would be able to approve the Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit in most cases.

Hotels could get a Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit if they want to dispense marijuana. Note that any hotel that serves alcohol cannot also dispense marijuana under California state law. Any sales at a hotel must be for on-site consumption only. No off-site sales. Just like a bar that serves alcohol. You can buy it and drink it, but you can't walk out the door with the glass in your hand (except in New Orleans). No cultivation or manufacturing would be permitted at a hotel.

A Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit would also allow light manufacturing in a commercial zone. The simple reason for this is that light manufacturing is not nearly as profitable as cultivation and light manufacturers cannot now afford the price of land in our industrial zones. Light manufacturing facilities that already have a CUP (there are some at the cultivation sites) can get a Special Dispensary Conditional Use Permit with approval just by the Director of Community Development in most cases.

Gretta Carter, who represents some cultivators and other cannabis businesses, made a public comment. She said this ordinance is "about 90% there." She suggested that the commercial zone also accept lab testing facilities.

Ryan Fingerhut asked that the ordinance be delayed so that small improvements can be made in it.

Andrew Milks of Brown Dog dispensary said there are safe extraction methods that don't use flammable solvents. He would like "light extraction" to be permitted in commercial zones. He thinks dispensaries should have the right to some light manufacturing.

The Commissioners discussed the issue of intoxicated driving that might result from tasting rooms.

Approved 5-0 with some clarifications of the language in the ordinance.

Filed under Coachella Valley,Desert Hot Springs,Marijuana | permalink | February 16, 2018 at 09:48 PM


So your name is dot. Last name isn't Reed, is it?

Posted by: Ron at Jul 2, 2018 8:24:53 PM

Please don't call me anonymous, it's rather clear I presented that my name is ..

What am I afraid of? The sky falling.

When are you anonymous online? Comon' Ron, think, don't mislead people. You created a separate identity here even though you use your name there is more to you online you don't want associated with your public identity. Do I need to spell it out? You would delete the post if I did due to your concerns about privacy and fear of how you would be perceived. It appears your concern may be that I might be a competing developer otherwise why would I want to be anonymous you say. That could be possible or not. One of the traps people like you get into is that if they find out it's a competing developer, they immediately put up a wall. It's really the words that matter most in any discussion. Judge the discussion not the speculation as to who might be behind the anonymous identity.

There are many reasons people do not want to be public, it doesn't have to be that they are hiding or afraid of and even if they are afraid so what, people are afraid of a lot of things for good reason and bad, like how you hide your identity in other places online because you are afraid of how that would be associated with your professionally presented blog and have a certain reputation in the community that could be marred like how Baker's was at the end. You often try to deflect as you have here in this discussion. You often seem to go down this path of pretentiousness and it's not necessary.

Getting back to the project and comments you stated "The developer said this development will extend over years and nobody knows what's going to happen to cannabis in the future, and that's one reason for the flexibility in the specific plan".

That is my main point, the future of cannabis is uncertain so the city should look at this a lot like that music festival gamble, primarily in the sense of being vigilantly careful which they did not do back then. Yes I know that is not the exact same thing, spare us your standard nit pick critique, it's similar at it's core in being speculative.

In calling attention to these comparisons I am hoping council will be very careful with this very risky venture in how it would drain any of the city's resources.

Posted by: . at Jul 2, 2018 7:59:33 PM

I didn't ask "What are you hiding." I asked what you are afraid of. No accusation there. I ask because this is hardly the sort of issue that calls for anonymity, unless you're a competing developer, for example.

When am I ever anonymous online? People in this town know my full name and know my face. Lots know exactly where I live. Look, my name is in the title. I'm Ron Gilbert. I said all these things.

Posted by: Ron at Jun 28, 2018 11:36:37 AM

Ron you offer so much good with your analysis and detailed presentations yet when you seek identity it takes away from it. A change in your arrogant "what are you hiding" approach would be a welcome improvement to your blog. Keeping one's identity private is something many people do for many good reasons. You also choose to do it online so don't be questioning others when they do it. That stinks.

Posted by: . at Jun 28, 2018 9:40:19 AM

This image was the specific one I was referring to in that blog entry. The Vortex Plan is a specific plan. The image shows the Vortex Plan, not the General Plan. There may have been PR stuff put out by Jerry What-Was-His-Last-Name or by Rick Daniels. But the specific plan that was adopted by the city is the plan shown in that illustration.

There was also, at the time, an artist's rendering going around that showed a grand city hall in that quadrant northeast of Palm & Pierson, but an artist's rendering is not a specific plan adopted by the city, so I'm not sitting here pining away for a grand city hall to appear there.

Posted by: Ron at Jun 20, 2018 7:16:28 PM

Hi Ron,
Yes, that was the general plan. What I was talking about was the Vortex plan, or something like that. It was more glitz and glam than a general plan, included the halo and had the proposed elevations for downtown. It was much less practical than a general plan, which is why all the money spent on it was so silly, but it made the council critters feel good...

Posted by: CharlieE at Jun 20, 2018 4:50:37 PM

The plan adopted by the city can be seen here. All the city ever adopted was zoning and there isn't a zone for "big hotel." There is one for visitor serving, however. But in the plan adopted by the city that area is labeled "MXD," which I'm taking to mean "mixed." The anonymous poster seems to still be waiting for a hotel at that location, even though there was no commitment to a hotel.

And, yes, MSWD is paying for unused capacity, but it was not my mission to explain every issue in the city to the anonymous commenter. I just wanted to show him which of his accusations were simply wrong. He probably doesn't even have a concept of unused capacity.

Posted by: Ron at Jun 20, 2018 4:19:06 PM

Hi Ron,
Just a couple of comments: The 'big hotel' was on the grand master plan that they spent 100 grand on 10 years ago, to much hoopla and celebration. On it, it showed a big on the NE corner of Palm and Pierson. I asked the designers if he realized that, under this plot, there was the main office of both MSWD and the local telephone central office. I reminded him that moving a central office is a non-trivial exercise with costs running in the millions of dollars, but he seemed nonplussed about it. Obviously, he was a 'design' expert, and budget and execution were someone else's problem...

And remember, while Skyborne paid for the construction of the sewers out there, MSWD is still saddled with the maintenance of all that excess capacity which is costing us a pretty penny...

Posted by: CharlieE at Jun 20, 2018 3:56:24 PM

You initially made a comparison to the failed Health & Wellness concert which the city sank at least $250,000 into. So again I must ask, how does any of this compare. Or is it just the fact that it's in DHS and you don't like it?

The city never paid for the sewer out to Skyborne. Skyborne paid for the sewer and built it under the supervision of MSWD and then dedicated it over to the MSWD when it was complete and met the district's standards. The city had no involvement whatsoever. BTW, Skyborne is not a failed project. Rather, it is the only big pre-2007 project that built houses and did NOT go bankrupt. Those big empty scars you see elsewhere in the city, THOSE are failed projects.

There were never any plans to build a "fabulous hotel" at the site of the Save-A-Lot. Where do you get this stuff? The bonds were to buy up small parcels and then merge them into larger parcels, making them more attractive for investors. That all died when the state did away with RDA. The properties that the RDA acquired are still there and are being sold off under supervision from the state. We're probably losing money on that, but blame Sacramento for that.

You think that the site where Desert Land Ventures wants to develop is undevelopable. And this reflects on the city council how? The people behind Desert Land Ventures are in the business of making money...or losing it. But it's their own money. Where are you putting your millions, BTW. That would be more helpful to know than listening to your complaints.

What does it matter that the building on the Palm Springs side "look like they are vacant?" It's not a profit making business, but a tiny branch of the College of the Desert. Do you base a lot of your real estate investment decisions on how busy small gov't-owned buildings look?

"I see that same kind of behavior with some of these new marijuana projects." What kind of behavior? Desert Land Ventures is a marijuana project. Are you saying you see some marijuana projects behaving like the College of the Desert building? Huh?

"Cultivation is going national." Okay, now I know for sure you're just spewing nonsense. Besides the fact that legal cultivation is still fractured and spotty, the product still cannot be shipped across state lines.

"...how other cities protect themselves from development projects that are doomed to fail." I guess if a city only needs to know if a project is "doomed" to fail, they only need to ask you. But if we ignore your psychic abilities and reduce that sentence to something reasonable like "how other cities protect themselves from development projects that fail" then you've got a legitimate issue. How do other cities protect themselves? Oh, you have no idea? Every city has failed projects. The cities can get financial assurance to deal with the public infrastructure elements of a failed development, but as for the failed development itself, all a city can do is to try to make itself reasonably attractive to investors. That sometimes means the city has to give the green light to something you might not like.

Every real estate development could lead to abandonment of half-built structures, whether there is a market crash or not. This is not an argument against development.

"One thing the city should do differently is get out of their constant nit picky mode when it comes to it's poorer residents." This is the only spot where you mention poorer residents, but you don't say any more about them. Do you think that the city is turning away poor DHS residents who want to start MJ cultivation? I've seen no evidence of that.

The rest of your comment seems to contradict the first part. You want the city to approve proposals without concern for their effect on the appearance of the city? You're fine with developers "plopping" warehouses. So what's your objection then? The Coachillin' development was going to be a plopped warehouse, but there's more money in cannabis. Can you identify any of the nitpicking on that project, or any of the other cannabis developments that involve specific plans, that make it likely to fail?

Can you identify any failed or abandoned marijuana projects in DHS?

And why are you afraid to identify yourself?

Posted by: Ron at Jun 13, 2018 10:53:10 AM

No of course not, development is fine if it's solid, just concerned about repeat of history. There remain a lot of developments that were paid for "by developers" that actually all use investors money not the developers money that are still empty. The city ran sewer all the way up the west end for the failed Skyborne project and to the 100% empty failed project west of 62 which council really should not have voted for no building there ever. Another at the end of Pierson east end ruined the landscape and drainage. Then there's all the bond money owed for the city's lofty fantasy downtown vortex which was and is an insane waste of money with plans for a fabulous hotel where they bought up the Save-A-Lot and hardware store properties and the others on that corner. Is that hotel complete yet? Your taxes are paying for that multi million dollar bond. This project Desert Land Ventures so reminds me of Tresed Ventures which was a complete joke on all on council who never figured out that Tresed is desert spelled backwards. That land is such a horrible spot with wind. There are other issues that have been brought up in many a meeting as to why it's so difficult to build there regardless how many plans are drawn up. Across the freeway those buildings there look like they are vacant. It's just that I see that same kind of behavior with some of these new marijuana projects. DHS had a unique position on these at one time, now cultivation is going national which is another factor. They could suddenly pull out and leave more ugly marks on landscapes there or half built structures being even worse if we have another real estate crash. One thing the city should do differently is get out of their constant nit picky mode when it comes to it's poorer residents and in certain ways with development and focus more on actually studying in depth about how other cities protect themselves from development projects that are doomed to fail. For example the commissioners and council think that parcel is a window to Desert Hot Springs soul and that it must reflect good on the city. That's absurd, Palm Springs has forever had ugly windmills and other non-city reflecting qualities off the freeway. These things don't matter and this is the exact problem with this council and commissions that concern me of repeats of history, this ridiculously absurd nit picking on things that don't matter making no logical sense. If the developer wants to plop a warehouse there like how there are countless warehouses plopped along Los Angeles freeways let them do it. DHS will be lucky if anything actually gets put there though on the other hand any development there takes away from the natural desert landscape beauty which is a window to the city's soul seen by everyone that drives by it.

Posted by: . at Jun 13, 2018 10:03:58 AM

How does this compare? The city is not paying for the construction work, the site clearing. If developers want to come in and develop within the legal framework that exists, what's the problem with that? What do you think the city should do differently? Tell them to go away? We don't want any development?

Posted by: Ron at Jun 12, 2018 9:17:46 AM

2025 - we see all sorts of marijuana development projects empty - they rival those of home building - vacant partially started bulldozed desertscapes like so many that DHS still has - the council has gotten into that same giddy development mode they were in years ago as if they cannot be conned like they were with Backward Desert Ventures that scammed them of a cool $250k

Posted by: . at Jun 12, 2018 8:06:20 AM

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