February 25, 2019

Mission Springs Water District Board Meetings, February 14 & 19, 2019

This is my summary of the meetings of the Mission Springs Water District Board of Directors on February 14 and 19, 2019.

Public Input

Jeff Bowman spoke first.

President and board members, Jeff Bowman, Living Waters Spa. I apologize up front, I'm recovering from pneumonia.

Steve Grasha, last month I revealed that you were a liar and that your campaign was built on lies. That if the voters knew the liar that you are, they would never have voted for you. The pinnacle of your lie was when you called me a child molester both on Facebook and an email blast to the voters. But as I pointed out last month, your lies did not start with that. They started with your campaign statement "Technical Water Systems Engineer."

This month I want to unravel the truth about you being the chairman of the Riverside County Leadership Forum. Just like with your false claim of being a Technical Water Systems Engineer, your chairman of the Riverside County Leadership Forum is a lie, because the forum is just you. You made it up several years ago. Steve, a real leadership forum would be based somewhere. They'd have an office. They'd have a registered organization either as profit or not for profit with the authorities. They'd have regular meetings and an agenda. Yet you did make a Facebook page for your fake organization. However, dude, you've gotta make it current. The phone number you give fails. Your stated website domain name has lapsed and is for sale. But the real interesting thing to me is that the picture you have is that of the beautiful County of Riverside's county administration center. How more official can you get than that building as your main picture? This shows everybody your forum is real. All right? Yet, you don't hold meetings or anything there. You just make it look like you do with the picture. Then I discovered that you didn't even take the picture. You pulled it from a person's personal Flickr account. Steve, you could not even take your own picture for your own fake organization. You are a fraud. Yet, you use this official sounding, made-up organization to promote yourself. In many of your email blasts and Facebook posts you quoted the forum as supporting you, backing you, recommending you. Talk about having a self-aggrandizing, egotistical, maniac ego.

Last month I outed you on the Leadership County Forum. That must have touched a nerve, because on 1/20 you created a post where you go deeper into your previous libelous and delusional statements. I have handed out that post today because you deleted it less than a day later. If the voters knew the real Steve Grasha, they would not have voted for you. Thank you, Mr. President.

Riverside County Administrative Center
The photo in question, on Flickr
. Photographer: theDarkHalo.

Russell Betts spoke next. He wants the board to take some steps to open up their meetings. He mentioned the fact that they meet in the afternoon and that they don't make the audio recordings of the meetings readily available on the district website. He cited a Riverside County Grand Jury report "2012-2013 Grand Jury Report, Riverside County Water and Sanitation Districts, Compensation and Transparency Report" which makes this recommendation: "Water and sanitation district Boards of Directors shall conduct board meetings after 6 pm to ensure maximum participation by ratepayers, and generate maximum public attendance." Mr. Betts asked the board to make the audio recordings available on the website and to shift their meetings to 6 o'clock.

Karl Baker came up next. He said he was a little disappointed that complete budget information is not available on the district's website. He said that what is there is cursory. He urged them to be more thorough. He then talked about DWA's decision to go to district elections. The population of Desert Hot Springs should give it 1½ board members. Each district should have about 17,000 residents. He said he was having trouble generating enthusiasm for DWA's second hearing on district elections, which would be a the Lozano Community Center the following Tuesday. He thinks that DWA should divide itself into two boards, one for its retail operations in Palm Springs, the other for its more widespread wholesale operations. We should resist laying out the districts in such a way that each district includes some retail territory in Palm Springs.

Pamela Edmondson had some questions: Would her water bill come on time this month? Is there any way to get less hard water? They just put all new plumbing in their house, but even after a week, the water still smells like paint. A plumber said it was due to their trap. A staff person was directed to speak to her at the end of the meeting.


Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck Contract Renewal

MSWD has been using Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck for lobbying services for almost two years, specifically to deal with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. The contract is for $10,000 per month.

Approved 4-0-1 with Director Grasha abstaining. He did not say why he abstained.


TKE Contract Renewal

TKE provides engineering services to the district. The contract is not-to-exceed $250,000. The budgeted amount for them this fiscal year is $79,400, and they've actually used $38,600 of that. Approved 5-0.


Water & Sewer Standby Assessments

These are assessments levied on undeveloped properties that are not hooked up to water or sewer, but have a water or sewer line running in front of the property. The water standby assessment is $26.80 for parcels less than one acre. The sewer standby assessment is $10 for parcels less than one acre. The item before the board now is a resolution to direct the engineer to prepare the list of parcels subject to either standby assessment.

Both resolutions in one fell swoop, approved 5-0.


Strategic Plan

You would think a document called "Strategic Plan" would be something that could be found on the district's website (MSWD.ORG), wouldn't you. Go ahead. Try it. The few hits I got all turned up 404. But I did manage to find it, buried in the agenda packet for the June 2017 board meetings. Unfortunately, MSWD scans its agenda packet with the OCR setting turned OFF, so the resulting PDFs are only pictures of the pages. The text within the agenda packets is not searchable. MSWD is just about the last place still doing it this way. The only way to find something in an agenda packet is to open it and read it with your eyes. I extracted the strategic plan and saved it as a PDF on my Google drive, so you could access it much more easily here: the 2017 MSWD Strategic Plan.

Maybe the problem is explained in the third item listed under "Purpose of the Strategic Plan." "3. Communicate this information to employees, board members, partner agencies and key stakeholders affected by the District." Did you notice which group is missing from that sentence? Customers or ratepayers, unless they are subsumed under the category of "key stakeholders."

Finance Director Matt McCue presented the report. The priority codes (A, B or C) refer to time frames. A = two years or less, B = two to five years, C = beyond five years.

The five goals are

  1. Water Supply - three of the A-priority projects are now either complete or in process. The other three A-priority are contingent upon the outcome of the SGMA (Sustainable Groundwater Management Act) process or the litigation with DWA.
  2. Infrastructure - of the eight A-priority projects, five are in process or complete. The ones that are not underway are planning related. One of those is "Develop a Technology Plan that incorporates all aspects of the District's internal and external technology, including field operational technology."
  3. Financial Management - there are eight A-priority projects. Six of them are complete or in process. The other two have been discussed and are "on the horizon."
  4. Public and Political Outreach - all seven projects are A-priority. Five are complete or in process. The two that are not started are board-related. Those two are:
    • "Develop a Board Handbook or Guidelines. Components to consider include: role, relationship and responsibility of the Board of Directors and staff, standards of performance and expectations of public office."
    • "Develop a strategy to position the Board of Directors as regional water leaders including elevating their public and professional profiles within the region. The Board of Directors is a resource for the District and the water industry."
  5. Organizational Development - all six projects are A-priority and all are complete or in process.

Mr. McCue mentioned a report on the Strategic Plan that had been distributed to the Directors via Dropbox. I don't know if it was different from what I found in the June 2017 agenda packet.

Director Wright asked if the Strategic Plan is on the website. "It's in the packet. It's got to be accessible to the public, right?" "Correct," was Mr. McCue's technically correct answer. But it was not in this month's packet. It was distributed to the Directors only via Dropbox. And damn me if I could find it on the district's website by any means other than tediously reading document after document. Director Sewell asked which of the Infrastructure projects had not been started. One is described above. The other one is "Conduct an evaluation of alternative energy opportunities including cost and feasibility for each alternative."

President Duncan asked if Mr. McCue had a checklist of which specific projects had been completed or started. Mr. McCue said he had them in his notes and could provide that to the directors on Tuesday. I wish I had been able to share that with you.


New Wastewater Treatment Plant

The Notice of Preparation for the EIR is going out to the public on Friday the 15th of February. There will be a scoping review March 6. The scoping review will take place at MSWD headquarters, 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm.


I-10/Indian Sewer Financing District

The district is trying to secure a date when it can make a presentation to the Palm Springs City Council on this matter. The same presentation will be given to the Desert Hot Springs City Council, probably in March.


Consent Agenda

Three items: approval of the minutes for January 2019, the register of demands and board compensation. Approved 5-0.


Financial Report

Residential consumption of water is running a little higher than expected. Operating expenses are running about half a million under budget because there have been fewer emergency repairs than anticipated. In addition, the district has about half a million in investment income from CalTrust where the district has more than $30 million invested. CalTrust is not permitted to invest in the stock market. Most of its investments are U.S. Treasury-related.


Counsel Comments

It had been mentioned that the DWA Board would be holding a public hearing on district elections on Tuesday evening at the Lozano Community Center, which generated a little not-agendized discussion of the subject, again. Attorney Pinkney reminded them, again, that it was not agendized, but that if they wanted to discuss it, they only needed to indicate that they want it agendized at the next meeting. As he was saying this, President Duncan made a quick informal poll of the board and got four affirmative nods. Director Grasha's attention was elsewhere. When President Duncan told the attorney that at least four Directors wanted it agendized, Mr. Grasha objected, insisting that it should be a formal roll call vote so that the record would indicate the support was 5-0. Mr. Duncan said there would be no roll call vote. Mr. Grasha, completely failing to understand that he had just voiced his affirmative opinion as loudly (louder, actually) as any other director, continued to insist, but Mr. Duncan wisely ignored him. Consider it a unanimous request, four directors plus one child.


Director Comments

President Duncan had a comment:

Intentionally disseminating or dispersing false information is unethical. In virtually all cultures around the world it is considered lying. The Mission Springs Water District Board of Directors has not voted to establish districts. At last week's study session, we directed staff to add the possibility of districting to a future agenda for discussion or possibly for future action, should we decide to pursue it further. Before we can district, first it must be brought to the Board of Directors for consideration as an agenda item. Secondly, if it is decided to go forward with districting, we must either decide on our own boundaries or hire a demographer, a demographer's firm, to establish district boundaries. Thirdly, we must hold I believe it's up to about five total public hearings on the topic and take public input before we can district. Then and only then can it be brought to the board for a vote. Along with transparency, we must be accurate and honest in our dealings with the public at all times.

permalink | February 25, 2019 at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2019

Desert Water Agency Hearing On District Elections - February 19, 2019

This is a report on the public hearing held by the Desert Water Agency on the subject of "Transition to Elections by Division," i.e., district elections. The meeting was in the Lozano Community Center in Tedesco Park on Tuesday, February 19, 2019, and marks the first time in the history of its existence (well, actually first time in the memory of Nancy Wright, which is probably just as good) that the Desert Water Agency board has visited Desert Hot Springs. All five DWA directors were present.

In the audience, directors from Mission Springs Water District were present, along with Yvonne Parks and Karl Baker who ran for the DWA board in 2018 and lost. No Desert Hot Springs City Council members were present, but this hearing was at 5:30 on Tuesday and the city council meeting was scheduled to begin at 6 o'clock, so they all had a good excuse to be elsewhere.


Intro

You can download the PDF version of the Powerpoint presentation here.

General Manager Krause spoke first, providing some background on aquifers and water districts in the Coachella Valley. Below is a map of Desert Water Agency. You can see they haven't updated it to show the current boundaries of DHS. Desert Water Agency covers almost all of Palm Springs and extends into Cathedral City (about 6,000 people there) and even a tiny segment of Rancho Mirage where 19 people live.

DWA District Boundary

The map below shows Mission Springs Water District. There are small areas of MSWD that lie outside DWA, and there are areas within MSWD that are not actually part of MSWD, but might be covered by DWA. But to oversimplify a little, you can think of MSWD as lying within DWA.

MSWD Boundary Map

In the 2010 census, the population residing in DWA was 89,317. Divide that by five (there are five directors) and each district, if impossibly perfect, would contain 17,863.4 people. Naturally, after each census, the districts would have to be re-apportioned, just as every population-based district in the U.S. does.

DWA Population Map

Below is the map showing the percentage of the population identified as Latino. On the map was this note: "Asian-Americans and African-Americans are not concentrated in large numbers anywhere in the [district]."

DWA Latino Population Map


The Legal Stuff

Next, Desert Water Agency's Attorney Riddell spoke. The DWA was founded in 1961 by an act of the legislature called "Desert Water Agency Law." This particular law seems not to have been entered into the conveniently searchable online database that one would usually use to delve into California statutes. But I did find a Google Books version that you can read.

Attorney Riddell explained the California Voting Rights Act, including recent amendments that created this system that is pushing many agencies and cities to go to district elections. I covered this briefly in my report on the January MSWD meeting. The essential difference is that Desert Water Agency has received notification from an attorney representing the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project, which is why the DWA is actively involved in the process of switching to district elections.

The process first requires two public hearings (this meeting was the second of those), then draft map options are prepared (by a demographer hired for the purpose), then two public hearings on the maps (this is where the real fighting will be), and then a final public hearing where the DWA board will adopt a map of districts.


Yet More Info

Outreach & Conservation Manager Metzger spoke next. The demographer will be the same one used by the cities of Palm Springs, Cathedral City and the Desert Healthcare District.

Ms. Metzger estimated the adoption of the final map would come near the end of summer. [If I were inclined to be paranoid, I'd say they were going to try to slip it by while I'm at Burning Man, but I don't think I actually figure that highly in the local political scene.]

She showed us district maps of some jurisdictions that meet legal and constitutional requirements. The City of Compton and Glendale Unified School District based their districts solely on population.

Compton and Glendale Unified District Maps

Pasadena drew their districts so that every one touched Colorado Boulevard, thereby giving every council member some responsibility for the downtown area. Central Unified School District drew their districts so that every high school district was in the districts of two board members, so that all parents would have two board members they could go to if they had concerns.

Pasadena and Central Unified District Maps

DWA is sharing district election information on their website at DWA.org/divisions, including the maps I've posted here. In the future, that will be where they post the proposed district maps. You can send comments to divisions@DWA.org or contact any DWA Director.


Public Input

This was regular public comments where you could comment on anything DWA-related (or not related, for that matter). The Public Hearing would follow, where comments were to pertain solely to district elections. This simple concept was explained by DWA Board President Joe Stuart in such a way that it left experienced politicians like Karl Baker and Nancy Wright wondering what exactly he had just said. What it boiled down to was that you could get two separate 3-minute comment periods, if you wanted.

Karl Baker spoke first. He said he was long-winded so he would take advantage of both comment opportunities, if he understood President Stuart correctly. He said that drawing the districts did not have to be solely on racial lines, but that communities of interest could be considered as well [as was shown in Pasadena]. He said potential growth should be considered. The Desert Hot Springs area has great potential for growth, while Palm Springs and other cities south of the 10 freeway are pretty well built up. Mr. Baker estimated that the 2020 census might show the population north of the 10 equal in size to the population south of it (within the Desert Water Agency, of course). He encouraged the DWA board to draw the lines so that the area north of the 10 would get two districts, the other three being south of the 10.

Nancy Wright spoke next. She said she agreed with a lot of what Mr. Baker said. She said that based on the volume of wastewater being treated at MSWD's Horton wastewater treatment plant and based on the number of connections and amount of water being sold, MSWD has a sense that the population north of the 10 has grown tremendously since 2010. She also wondered if DWA had tried to reach out to the unincorporated areas around Desert Hot Springs to inform them of this districting process. She wanted also to confirm that after draft maps are drawn, people will be able to comment on them at public hearings.

Ms. Wright thanked the DWA board for being present, saying that it's the first time she is aware that they have been on this side of the 10 in the past 30 years.

A resident of Desert Hot Springs (I couldn't catch her name) spoke next. She expressed her opinion that there should be two districts north of the 10.


Public Hearing

Now the public hearing was open. Yvonne Parks spoke first. She said she had been looking at DWA's Latino population map. She saw that east of Desert Hot Springs there were large areas of purple, indicating a Latino population lower than 25%. Moving west, she saw more pink areas indicating a Latino population of 75% to 100%. Around those were more areas of yellow (65% to 75% Latino) and green (50% to 65% Latino). So her suggestion was to create two districts, one easterly that would include Desert Edge, the other district more westerly with a higher Latino population.

Karl Baker returned to the podium. He suggested Palm Drive be the line between Ms. Parks' suggested east and west districts, but north of Pierson he suggested the line should "take a jog over east" to include an area "that's different than the Hacienda Heights portion of our city." He then spoke of a coming development out along highway 62 that will include 8,500 homes. He said 2,200 of those homes are "active." Then he spoke of the future development at the east end of Pierson which will be about 1,200 homes. There is also an approved condo development that will have about 300 units at Palm Drive and Camino Campañero, he said.

[But the chances of any of these homes being completed, sold and occupied before the 2020 census is very slim, IMO. Those people will have to wait until the redistricting based on the 2030 census.]

Mr. Baker also spoke about the substantial industrial development going on in Desert Hot Springs that would require water. [But would not include any residences, so no population, so it's not very relevant to districting, IMO.]

Nancy Wright came to the podium to say that MSWD's urban water master plan, sewer master plan and the district's water infrastructure master plan would be good references to anticipate areas of expected growth.

President Stuart closed the public hearing and reminded people to follow their website (DWA.org) and social media (Facebook at www.facebook.com/dwawater/) for more information about this districting process.

permalink | February 19, 2019 at 10:14 PM | Comments (5)

February 12, 2019

Mission Springs Water District Board Meetings, January 17 & 22, 2019

This is a summary of the board meetings of January 17 and January 22, 2019. On the 17th, all five board members were present. On the 22nd, President Duncan was absent.


Public Comments

Jeff Bowman came to the podium.

Jeff Bowman, owner of Living Waters Spa. The office of Director for Mission Springs Water District is critical to the people of the district. They depend on their directors to be smart, honest, caring and, above all, truthful. Steve Grasha, you are not a truthful person. You are liar. You won the seat on this board by lying. The pinnacle of your lies was when you called me a child molester, both on Facebook and in an email blast to the voters. It was so outrageous that even the Desert Hot Springs chief of police wrote an email where he said, I quote, "Mr. Bowman, you are not nor have you ever been linked to child pornography or any type of sexual exploitation of a minor. I have never even heard a whisper of impropriety about you."

But, Steve, you are a liar and you made that up. You started out with a campaign statement that has lies and fabrications in every paragraph. Let me start with the very first. "Technical Water Systems Engineer for 34 years." Doing an internet research on this occupation reveals that a water engineer is someone who deals with the provision of clean water, disposal of waste water and sewage, and the prevention of flood damage. How does one get this very specific title? Well, water engineers must have a Bachelor of Science or a Master of Science degree in either civil engineering, geology, environmental sciences, or mechanical engineering.

So, Steve Grasha, where did you get your BS or MS engineering degree? As it turns out, you don't have one. So you lied and deceived the voters about your education. You presented yourself to the voters and told them that you are a "water systems engineer." And by calling yourself an engineer, you're insulting all those who have earned degrees and you deceived the voters. Then you spun your lie even further and you said "I have designed technologically advanced and sophisticated water projects worldwide. Steve, you've never designed technologically advanced or sophisticated water projects. I cannot find your name associated with any such projects. You've never worked for a company as an engineer because you're not an engineer. Last month when you were sworn into office at the end of the meeting you were served a lawsuit we saw. You've been sued many times. What is the reason you're served now. I'm sure we'll find out.

You, Steve Grasha, are a liar, a fraud and deceived your way into public office. Thus, your election is really a sham. It came about by lies. For a fact, if the voters knew these things they would not have voted for you. I'm calling you to resign as you're an embarrassment to the district.

Thank you, Mr. President.

Bob Thiery with People Over Pollution spoke next. He's also on the SSMP long term committee for the Salton Sea. He came to speak about an MOU that he said would be coming before the board soon. It is being circulated by the Salton Sea Authority. The MOU does not include ocean water importation. He asked the board to add an additional "whereas" to the MOU expressing support for including ocean water importation in the long-term plans for the Salton Sea. The City of Desert Hot Springs has already done so, he said.

Dotty Wilder wanted to know if within her park are the water and sewer pipes privately owned by the HOA or by the district? The Finance Director was directed to meet with Ms. Wilder to answer her question.

Dick Cromwell thanked the maintenance department for taking care of the CNG station. During the heavy rains, mud washed across the road and into the CNG station. MSWD staffers cleaned the mud away.


California Voting Rights Act

This was an informational presentation made by the attorney. Voters who are a member of a race, color or language minority group are said to be in a protected class. When there is racially polarized voting, members of a protected class are unable to elect their candidate(s). To determine if there is racially polarized voting, election results are examined. Proof of intent to discriminate is not required.

An agency with at-large elections would be served with a demand letter from a potential plaintiff to force them to comply with the voting rights act. The agency then has four months in which to enact district elections. The attorney then said she believed that 91 days is about four months (obviously a student of Russell Betts). 91 days is about three months. The agency can negotiate with the potential plaintiffs for more time. At the end of the process, the agency would pay the potential plaintiffs $30,000.

A few political entities have refused to comply and have fought back. All have lost and ended up paying far more than that token $30,000. The population of Mission Springs Water District is about half white, half people of color. An agency does not have to wait for a demand letter, but could switch to district elections on its own and be spared the $30,000 payment.

The attorney said many of the demand letters have come from "Southwest Voters and Outreach Project." Google can turn up neither hide nor hair of an organization with that name, but there is the Southwest Voter Registration Education Project which sent just such a demand letter to the City of Palm Springs. Director Grasha asked if they were all lawyers, but without waiting for a complete answer from the attorney, he said he had looked them up and "they're all lawyers." Actually, the President of that organization graduated with a history degree and the vice president with a bachelor's degree in sociology, so there are at least two of them who aren't lawyers.

Mr. Grasha complained that the district had paid an attorney $75,000 last month and there had been no explanation. He said that if the district acts to conform to the California Voting Rights Act it will have to pay more money to attorneys.


Spicer Consulting Group

The district is putting together an assessment district (Assessment District 18) that will allow residents to install sewers to replace septic tanks. This item is for a $39,000 contract with Spicer Consulting Group as assessment engineer. Forming an assessment district is a process that will require a vote of the property owners in the proposed district to form that district. Before that vote, the district will engage in a neutral education effort.

Below is a map showing the several non-contiguous areas that will make up AD 18, the biggest of which is Mission Lakes Country Club. MSWD will seek grants, as it has in the past, that will greatly reduce the cost of building sewers for the property owners.

Assessment District 18

Approved 4-0.


San Gorgonio Pass Subbasin Rules of Conduct

The district is part of the San Gorgonio Pass Subbasin Groundwater Sustainability Plan. Other members are the Desert Water Agency, Banning Heights Mutual Water Company, City of Banning, Cabazon Water District and San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency. This item is only to approve or disapprove the rules of conduct. An example from the agreement:

The GSP Working Group members agree to work together to create a problem-solving environment and agree to the following ground rules:
  • Use common courtesy
  • All ideas and points of view have value and will be respected
  • Be honest, fair and candid
  • Avoid editorials
  • Honor time and be concise
  • Think innovatively and welcome new ideas
  • Invite humor and good will

They have received a grant of $1 million towards the cost of establishing a groundwater sustainability plan for the San Gorgonio Pass.


Mid-year Budget Adjustments

Operating Budget Increases:
 Replenishment of other budget items
Meter Postage3,500
Returned Check Charges1,000
Smart Meter Pilot Program79,000
83,500
 
Mid-Year Increases to budget
 Legal500,000
Water Prod. Spvsr. Interim75,000
SOMA Annual Report7,000
Credit Card Processing60,000
Valve Maintenance Pilot Program40,000
Wastewater Outside Services15,000
Supplies (warehouse)2,800
699,800
783,300
 
Increases related to changes in Classification Plan3,868
 
Total Operating Budget Increases$ 787,168
% of Total Operating expenses5.0%
 
Capital Budget Increases;
Production Meters50,000
Hydrological Study for Indio Subbasin125,000
Total Capital Budget Increases$ 175,000

The additional legal expenses are for the lawsuit against the Desert Water Agency.

Approved 3-1 with Director Grasha voting against. He did not explain his vote.


Federal Advocacy Services

To renew the annual contract with the district's lobbying service at $48.000 per year.

Approved 3-1 with Director Grasha voting against. He did not explain his vote.


Coachillin' Reimbursement Agreement

Coachillin', the big marijuana cultivation site being developed on the east side of Indian Canyon between 18th and 19th Avenues, will construct sewer and water lines. This 10-year agreement allows Coachillin' to be reimbursed for its expenses as new property owners develop their sites.

Director Grasha asked if water would be supplied to Coachillin' at agricultural prices. The answer is that MSWD does not offer an agricultural rate. Customers in the Coachillin' development will pay the non-residential rate for water. Mr. Grasha then asked if it was going to be an outdoor grow. [FYI, no one has proposed any outdoor grows in the Coachella Valley]. Coachillin' is the industrial property developer that will sell sites to individual cultivators. So far, all are indoors. Mr. Grasha asked what the enforcement mechanism is to ensure that cultivators are not simply dumping their sewage out onto the desert. There are three operating cultivators there now. Two are already connected to sewer. The Regional Water Quality Control Board regulates the sewage that is flowing to a septic system.

Mr. Grasha said he never noticed anything on the site until just a few months ago, even though development of that site has been going on much longer than that. He said he didn't know it was going on, that he doesn't read the newspaper or go to city council meetings. Mr. Grasha said there are some holding tanks on the site. "What are they doing with that...at night?" he asked. A staff member began to reply, but Mr. Grasha didn't wait for the answer and spoke over him saying "'Cause I know what goes on over there." Director Wright who is on the Regional Water Quality Control Board said they know what's going on there. Staff explained that the City of DHS is working out an arrangement to verify that cultivators there are using legitimate haulers to take their waste to treatment facilities that will accept it. MSWD is working with the city on that. Mr. Grasha said that if they are growing hydroponically, then their waste water is toxic. Staff said no one is growing hydroponically there now. Every facility is using reverse osmosis to filter their recirculated water. The two operating cultivators are discharging about 1,000 gallons every three months. There are places in Orange and Los Angeles Counties that will accept their waste.

Mr. Grasha said the cultivators are going to provide a paper trail only for what they admit to. Someone told Mr. Grasha that two police officers keep an eye on this. President Duncan explained that regulations are in place for all businesses governing their disposal of wastewater and no district can micro-manage the businesses in its purview. Ms. Wright explained there are big fines for violating the rules on the dumping of wastewater.

Approved 4-0.


Liens In Assessment District 12, Area J-1-2

Upon completion of the new sewers in AD12, Area J-1-2, the district notified all property owners that they were required to connect to the sewer. The district files a lien against any property that doesn't connect so that they are forced to connect when they want to sell the property. There are only 12 properties being affected by this.

Approved 4-0.


Committee Appointments

The board president gets to appoint the committees. They are...

  • Executive committee: Randy Duncan, Chair, and Russ Martin.
  • Engineering: Ivan Sewell, Chair, and Steve Grasha.
  • Finance: Russ Martin, Chair, and Nancy Wright.
  • Human Resources: Steve Grasha, Chair, and Ivan Sewell.
  • Public Affairs: Nancy Wright, Chair, and Randy Duncan.


Affiliations

The first name listed is the one with primary responsibility for attending meetings of the affiliated entities; the second name is backup.

  • CSDA - Russ Martin
  • CVWD - Randy Duncan, Russ Martin
  • DHS City Council - Russ Martin, Nancy Wright
  • Hoteliers - Ivan Sewell, Nancy Wright
  • RDA Oversight - Russ Martin
  • Groundwater Guardians - Ivan Sewell, Nancy Wright
  • San Gorgonio Pass - Russ Martin, Nancy Wright
  • Greater Coachella Valley Chamber of Commerce - Ivan Sewell, Russ Martin
  • Riverside County Flood Control - Ivan Sewell

Director Grasha asked if the city still had a redevelopment agency. Russ Martin explained to him the process by which RDAs were dismantled statewide.

Mr. Grasha said there seemed to be lot of work outside of the district. He said the district has a built-in plan for failure. President Duncan had offered him an affiliation with the Groundwater Guardians, but he had turned it down. Mr. Grasha said there is only one meeting a month and there are so many things on the agenda it's like "you're trying to keep us out of the building."

There are at least two meetings a month, a study session and a business session. In addition, there is often a monthly workshop to focus on one subject. Also, IMO, we don't elect directors to sit in the MSWD headquarters building. The building is for staff. The directors are supposed to be making contact with the public and then voting.

Mr. Grasha said the directors should focus on district business. And they should be able to do that without having to go to a Chamber of Commerce meeting in order to receive the per diem. President Duncan explained directors go to other meetings in order to form relationships outside the district and to gather information. Mr. Grasha said the same value was being put on two separate functions. He said young people should never get involved in public life because they would go bankrupt helping their neighbor. Mr. Grasha said the $100 per diem was not enough. Mr. Grasha said that at the business meeting they would be approving a $75,000 payment to an attorney for work "that has yet to be identified as critical."

Mr. Grasha is sadly mistaken on that point. The $75,000 was approved and paid before he came on the board. The actual payment is listed in the Register of Demands this month. The Register of Demands is essentially the checkbook statement. You might disapprove of your checking account statement, but doing so won't make those checks you wrote magically reverse direction and flow back into your account.

Mr. Grasha said the district can't identify why it's suing. He then went on to say that it has been explained to him, but he doesn't understand it.

At this point he was far enough off the agenda that the attorney stepped in and redirected the discussion who offered to discuss the case in closed session. "There's a lot of money flowing in a lot of directions..." Mr. Grasha said, trailing off. President Duncan agreed and pointed out this was only his second meeting and that with time he would learn the purpose of the lawsuit and what could be lost. Mr. Grasha continued to ask for an explanation, but President Duncan said it was not doing to be discussed at this time. Director Wright suggested that Mr. Grasha be given a copy of the lawsuit. Mr. Grasha said he had it and he had read it.

The lawsuit they are talking about is against the Desert Water Agency which is trying to take control of our aquifers.

Approved 4-0.


New Wastewater Treatment Facility

In the past month they have completed the preliminary design report, the geotechnical report, and the permitting technical memorandum. That's about 95% of the Phase 1 tasks. The survey plans are still outstanding. Developing plant specifications and estimates are part of Phase 2, which has now begun. They have completed updates to the NEPA/CEQA project description. They have completed preliminary design on the conveyance, that is, the lift station and pipe to carry wastewater from developed residential areas to the new plant.


Solar Plant

The solar power plant has been tested and is now online generating electricity.


I-10/Indian Sewers

Every property owner in that area has been contacted and "they are, frankly, just not ready to take any action." They may be considering an alternate, more expensive plan from the City of Palm Springs. The district's next task will be to talk to Palm Springs about the current status of our new wastewater treatment facility.


Register of Demands

Director Grasha pointed out two items in the Register of Demands:

Check NumberCheck DatePaid ToDescriptionOperatingCapitalTotal
998550512-20-18Slovak Baron & Empey LLPLegal Fees71,283.85 71,283.85
6688312-20-18Desert Sun Publishing CoMarketing Expense3,332.75 3,332.75

He didn't say anything about these two, but merely read them aloud.

Approved 3-1, Mr. Grasha voting against. When Vice President Martin called for the No votes, Mr. Grasha sat silently. Mr. Martin explained to him that if intended to vote No, now would be the time. Mr. Grasha said he thought that when he pulled it from the consent agenda that would register as a No vote. Mr. Martin explained to him that first the board discusses and then it votes on it. Upon hearing this, Mr. Grasha said he voted No.


Director Reports

President Duncan reported on the DWA meeting he attended where he noted that they were discussing going to district elections in closed session. Karl Baker was in attendance there also and asked the DWA board to move the discussion to the open session, but of course, they did not do that.

When Director Grasha was asked if he had a report to make he said "I do have thoughts."

President Duncan asked "Thoughts or reports?"

"I'm afraid how far afield I'll go if I start on..." On January 8 he attended the swearing in of the Riverside County Board of Supervisors. He rambled on about working on the Sheriff's election campaign four years ago. He asked the Sheriff to resign in December 2017. He said his endorsement in the Sheriff's race was "circulated on the internet more than any other endorsement in the entire 2018 cycle." He didn't share with us his means for making that measurement. The Sheriff was sworn in "just a few days ago," he explained. "I can't and will not address your allegations because of ongoing investigations. I won't do it." He did not identify who he was addressing when he said that, but President Duncan explained that this was not the part of the agenda to do that. Mr. Grasha said he would have to do it in such a way that no one would understand it.


Director Comments

Director Wright said she was very sad to hear about Greg Pettis passing away. She had worked with him many times. "God rest his soul."

Director Grasha said he was with Greg Pettis the night he got the phone call he was going to be appointed to city council. "He was a lefty! A no good lefty."

Mr. Grasha also commented on the subpoena he was served a month previously. He said that was due to Karl Baker investigating his lack of disclosure. The subpoena was from the Fair Political Practices Commission. He had not been willing to provide his bank account records without a subpoena. If he had submitted them by email, then they could have been accessed via a public records request. He used his personal bank account to finance his campaign which is not legal. He was fined $147.

Mr. Grasha said he thought he was elected to the board because the subject of the Sentinel power plant came up for discussion during his campaign and he got "a thousand likes" on that. He said he had gotten word that CVAG has "promised" that they would "go after $22 million in funding to put Desert Hot Springs back in the CVAG loop." He said he is opposed to CV-Link. He said CVAG is "laying $22 million at our doorstep as a peace offering." When Director Wright said the money had already been divided up (she's right), Mr. Grasha said this was "new funding." (He's wrong.) "This is a victory for Steve Grasha," he said, "not for Nancy." When Director Wright asked him to explain this, he said "No, it's a surprise." He said "You can read about it on the KESQ website."

You can believe that I came home and searched the KESQ website for any recent info on CVAG, Steve Grasha, $22 million, CV-Link, or Desert Hot Springs and found zilch. Repeated my searches the next day and still zilch. Fortunately, a very well-informed person told me after the meeting that Mr. Grasha doesn't know what he's talking about.

permalink | February 12, 2019 at 01:59 PM | Comments (0)

January 13, 2019

Desert Hot Springs Planning Commission - January 8, 2019

Selection of Chair and Vice-Chair

Larry Buchanan and Scott De La Torre nominated themselves to serve another year in their respective positions, Chair and Vice-Chair. Approved 4-0.


Development Permit For Five Contemporary Mediterranean Homes In Rolling Hills Estates

Recent history of proposed development by Elyon Development on these five lots:

  • At the November 2018 meeting of the Planning Commission Elyon Development presented their proposal for five mid-century modern homes for these lots. The city planning staff had given erroneous information to Elyon Development earlier, telling them that since there were only five homes, they wouldn't have to bring their proposal before the Planning Commission at all. Later, they were told that they DID have to go before the Planning Commission because it was more than four homes. At the Planning Commission meeting there was strong opposition from the current owners and residents of the incomplete Rolling Hills Estates and for that reason the Planning Commission rejected the proposal.
  • Elyon Development appealed to the City Council and their appeal was heard at the December 12, 2018, City Council meeting. At this hearing the error by city staff was given a different explanation. Now the city said the proposed development of five lots had to come before the Planning Commission because contemporary Mediterranean home designs were included in the original approvals of the tract in 2006 and these proposed mid-century homes conflicted with that. Again there was opposition from the neighbors, but now some of them admitted they opposed the Elyon proposal because the developer had not made much of an effort to contact those neighbors in advance to tell them of his plans. They said they didn't really object to the designs. Others, however, continued to insist that smaller, mid-century modern homes would pull down the value of their contemporary Mediterraneans. The developer provided testimony that his homes would be of a higher quality than the existing homes and that new homes identical to his design were selling for higher prices in Palm Springs. My gut sense is that real estate developers have a better knowledge of the market than others who are not real estate developers, but we're not going to test that here because the City Council voted to uphold the decision of the Planning Commission. They did, however, acknowledge that the error by city staff (the unnamed person they blamed was new and no longer works for the city) had cost the developer unnecessary fees and time, so they directed the City Manager to try to set that right by offsetting Elyon Development's expenses on their other projects in the city.
  • Meanwhile, at the December 11, 2018, Planning Commission, Watermarke Homes presented a proposal to build contemporary Mediterranean homes on 16 other empty lots in Rolling Hills Estates. The approval for that sailed through the Planning Commission slicker than snot.
  • Which brings us to tonight, January 8, where Elyon Development presented its proposal for five contemporary Mediterranean homes on its lots.

No one from the public had any comments on this proposal. With no discussion, the motion was made to approve. The vote to approve was 4-0.


One-Year Extension For DHS Therapeutics

This is a marijuana cultivation site proposal that would be located on Cabot Road about a block south of Two Bunch Palms. The City Council approved four CUPs for the site in February 2017.

One member of the public commented. He began by asking the Commission if any of them smoked marijuana or if any of their kids or wives [sic] smoked marijuana. Chair Buchanan interrupted him to try to explain how public comments work, but the man interrupted Chair Buchanan and said he was asking the questions. Mr. Buchanan continued to explain that none of the Commissioners could respond directly to his questions to which the man responded "Okay, I'm sure none of you smoke marijuana. Not your kids, not grandkids." He wanted to know why they would let it be grown here. Was it intended for some other "junky town," he suggested.

Mr. Buchanan explained the rules of public comments again.

The extension was approved 4-0.


Amendment To CUP For Blue Mango

This concerns a 1.15-acre parcel at 65265 San Jacinto Lane. Previously approved for marijuana cultivation, the developer wants to add manufacturing, extraction, packaging and distribution to its permitted uses.

Approved 4-0.


Vintage Trailer Resort At Aqua Soleil

Aqua Soleil is proposing to replace that rather sad RV facility on its property with a new, upscale vintage trailer resort to be called Air Heart Vintage Trailer Resort. If you've been wondering what it's like to spend a weekend in an Airstream, here's your chance. They propose to ultimately have 32 trailers there. These will function and be taxed the same as hotel rooms. At the same time, incidentally, this provides an opportunity to lock in Aqua Soleil's share of the expense of a future traffic light at Park Lane and Palm Drive.

Diane Powell, Vice President of the homeowners' association at Skys Haven, which is located across Palm Drive from the Aqua Soleil. She was concerned that the traffic created by visitors hauling trailers in and out of this development would be excessive.

It was explained to her by staff that the vintage trailers would be permanently located there, and not creating any traffic issues. In fact, there will be slightly less traffic, since the existing RV park does have trailers coming and going.

Approved 4-0.


CUP For A Health Center In The Vons Shopping Center

The location is 14238 Palm Drive in the Vons shopping center. I believe it's the storefront that used to house Liberty Tax Service. Have you noticed the lack of the Statue of Liberty promotion on Palm Drive there this year?

The applicant calls its business People's Community Clinic and they will provide "FDA approved contraceptive methods and supplies, family planning counseling and education, sexually transmitted infection testing and treatment, HIV screening, cervical cancer screening, male and female permanent contraception, and limited infertility services." City staff said that they had received one email comment asking if the clinic would provide abortion services. Staff said that the applicant had not said if they would or not. People's Clinic's website suggests they offer complete health services, not just what was listed in the city staff report.

The applicant said they had offices in Hemet, Los Angeles and West Covina. They are a non-profit. He said they would not perform abortions. Hours will be 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.

Approved 3-0-1. Vice Chair De La Torre abstained, but did not say why.


Amending Housing Ordinances To Conform To State Legislation

Subjects addressed in these amendments include:

  • Identifying a zones where emergency shelters are allowed as a permitted use without a conditional use or other discretionary permit ("by-right zone").
  • Transitional and supportive housing to be considered a residential use subject only to those restrictions that apply to other residential dwellings of the same type in the same zone.
  • Defines "family" as "a group of individuals living together in a dwelling unit as a single housekeeping unit under a common housekeeping management plan based on an internally structured relationship providing organization and stability."
  • To permit "Accessory Dwelling Units" in all residential zones. An ADU must have permanent provisions for living, sleeping, eating, cooking, and sanitation. If there's no kitchen, then it's a "Guest House." ADUs within existing structures must be allowed in all single-family residential zones. If an ADU requires an addition or new structure, then development standards (such as parking, height, lot coverage, lot size and maximum unit size) may be applied.
  • "When a developer agrees to construct the requisite percentage of affordable housing units or child care facilities, the city must grant a density bonus [and] other specified incentive or concessions to the developer." Incentives or concessions are (1) reduction in site development standards or modification of zoning code or architectural design requirements, such as a reduction in setback or minimum square footage requirements; or (2) approval of mixed use zoning; or (3) other regulatory incentives or concessions which actually result in identifiable and actual cost reductions.
  • The city cannot block manufactured homes (that meet the building code) from being erected on residential lots [imagine how that would go over in Rolling Hills Estates].

Attorney Mizrahi explained that this will all come back before the Planning Commission again in 6 to 8 months as part of the General Plan update.

Chair Buchanan moved for approval. Vice Chair De La Torre seconded "provided that we add the additional parking space" by which he meant, I believe, that the city could still require an additional off-street paved parking space when an ADU is constructed...subject to state law. Approved 4-0.

These revisions now go to the City Council for their final approval.

permalink | January 13, 2019 at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

December 29, 2018

DHS Police Officer Placed On Admin Leave

The Desert Sun story, and because the Desert Sun website is notoriously unreliable, here is the full text.

A Desert Hot Springs police officer has been put on administrative leave while the department's internal affairs office looks into exactly what took place between him and a woman struggling with a heroin addiction who associated with car thieves and drug dealers.

At the core of the internal affairs investigation is a set of text messages between the officer and the woman. They paint a picture of a relationship that went beyond friendship, and may have violated the department's policies.

The department conducted an administrative inquiry into the matter in September, but after The Desert Sun met with the city's police chief to review information about the incident, the department reopened the case in December.

The department has released little information about the case, but The Desert Sun has pieced together some of what took place using a transcript of the pair's text messages, department records obtained under California's public records law, court documents and interviews with some of the people involved.

On Nov. 12, The Desert Sun briefly interviewed Desert Hot Springs police Officer Travis Chapman, the officer involved. Neither Chapman, nor the woman, nor the department's chief of police Dale Mondary dispute that the texts are real.

The Desert Sun is not naming the woman, who is at risk for retribution because of the nature of the information she shared with police, and has omitted some identifying facts related to her story. Also, texts quoted in this article have not been corrected for grammatical mistakes or misspellings.


Early meetings

The woman, who is in her early 30s, said she met Chapman in the spring of 2018.

Chapman, during the course of a criminal investigation, had been monitoring the neighborhood where the woman was living. He stopped her on the street to ask about people who had been going in and out of where she was staying. She didn't tell him much, she said, and ended the conversation quickly.

Chapman went to the neighborhood a second time a few weeks later and again stopped her to talk. But again, she didn't say much. Chapman gave her his card and told her to stay in touch.

Several weeks later, in late May, she had another run-in with the DHS police when an officer pulled over a black sedan on Palm Drive for a busted headlight and expired registration.

The woman was in the passenger seat; the driver's license was suspended and he was on probation, police records show.

While one officer arrested the man for driving with a suspended license, another officer asked her if she had drugs, she told The Desert Sun. She told him she did, and the officer found two baggies in her purse, one containing about a half-gram of methamphetamine, the other containing about a half-gram of black tar heroin, according to police records.

Records show she was arrested on suspicion of possession of narcotics, however she and the driver were both issued citations and then released with later court dates.

Police records don't indicate Chapman was at the stop in May, and the woman said he wasn't there. But Mondary, the city's police chief, said Chapman was there.

Riverside County prosecutors filed charges against the driver about five weeks later. Charges against the woman were filed in September, after what appears to be months of provocative text conversations and late-night meetings between her and Chapman during the summer of 2018.

An intensifying text relationship
In an interview with The Desert Sun, the woman said she knows the text messages now seem inappropriate.

She said her relationship with Chapman, which is the subject of an ongoing internal affairs investigation, was friendly and flirty. She said she had a crush on him, but said they never had sex.

Chapman also told The Desert Sun they did not have sex.

"We interviewed them both and could not find evidence that they had a sexual relationship," Mondary said.

The text message transcripts, combined with DHSPD timesheet records obtained by The Desert Sun, show Chapman routinely began texting with the woman minutes after starting his shifts, and stopped when his shifts ended.

Chapman and the woman exchanged more than 1,600 texts over a two-month period.

Between the night of July 29 and the morning of July 30, during Chapman's shift, the pair exchanged more than 300 texts.

Chapman was not using a department-issued phone to text with the woman, Mondary said. The department does not issue officers cell phones. As a result, it's common for officers to have a personal phone they use only when on duty, he said.

Starting in late June, the woman texted Chapman using an online text application that could be used from a phone, tablet or computer, even without cellular service — as long as there was a Wi-Fi network available. She frequently didn't have cellular service for her phone, she said.

The application kept a record of their texts outside either of their phones, a useful feature for someone who gets a new phone frequently, like this woman, but a feature that also ensured their communications couldn't be easily erased.

The text transcripts were sent to The Desert Sun by an anonymous source who said they were concerned about Chapman's conduct. The transcripts only contain the pair's conversations between late June and mid-August.

The woman said she and Chapman began texting around the time of the traffic stop, but she said she no longer has access to the phone she was using at that time.


A partner in crime

Just before midnight on June 26, the woman texted Chapman that her phone number didn't work anymore.

"Pls answer," she texted, "I miss u."

She apologized to Chapman for being difficult to contact.

"How many dam numbers u going to switch on me," Chapman texted back and added that he could get her a phone if she needed one.

In the coming days, they arranged meetings — several at Starbucks and one on a residential street.

"Id rather have u then Starbucks anyway," she texted.

"Ur lucky ur my one and only partner in crime," Chapman texted later.

"I better be," she responded.

Their texts alternated between flirtatious – frequently sexually-charged – comments and photos and information she could provide about Chapman's criminal investigations.

Her addiction also became a point of tension. Sometimes she didn't respond to messages for hours, then texted that she had been high. Chapman became upset, but told her he didn't care that she got high, only that she didn't respond to him.

She grew up in New England with a stable family, both the woman and her mother told The Desert Sun, but as a young adult, shegot addicted to heroin.

She came to the Coachella Valley in the summer of 2015 for an in-patient drug rehabilitation program. Her mother said it was her 14th time in rehab. After seven months, she left the rehab facility and tried to restart her life in the Coachella Valley.

Her mother said she supported her daughter until she found out she was seeing a man involved in criminal activity. The woman and her boyfriend began spending time with her boyfriend's friends in Desert Hot Springs, and before long she was using heroin again.

When her boyfriend was sent to prison for forgery in October of 2017, following a string of other criminal convictions, she stayed in Desert Hot Springs with his friends.


Getting her attention

Just before 11 p.m. on July 18, she texted Chapman that someone was coming to the apartment with a stolen truck. The texts show she sent some details about the truck. Chapman spotted it, ran the plates, and texted that the vehicle was not reported stolen.

"I ran back to the station to check something on the plate," Chapman texted. "I feel like he swapped the plates or something. When did he say he got it?"

"Ugh this is stressful," she texted at 1:45 a.m.

According to DHSPD records, Chapman pulled over the truck about 90 minutes later. Records show the stop was concluded with: "Party advised," which Mondary said could mean the driver was informed that something appeared to be wrong, like an expired registration, but that a citation was not written.

"I pulled your ppl over," Chapman texted the woman at 4:25 a.m. on July 19.

"I know you did lol," she responded.

"I had to try and get Ur attention somehow," Chapman said. "I hate when you ignore me."

He asked why she had stopped responding to his texts for several hours.

"Why couldn't u answer? What were u doing," Chapman asked.

"U want me to be honest w u," she responded.

"Yup,' Chapman texted. "Always."

She texted that she had gotten high. She asked Chapman why he was so mad.

"Because u blew me off for 3 hours," he said. "And that truck left."

Throughout the texts between the two, Chapman became upset with the woman when she stopped responding to his texts. And when the two weren't texting romantic or sexually-charged comments at each other, Chapman pressured her for information about criminal activity.

"U have my word," she responded. "I'll get u a car."

"I'm not doubting u," Chapman said. "But think how I feel u chose getting high over helping."

"I got high and nodded off," she texted. "It's not an excuse."


I could get you paid
Throughout July, their texts increased in frequency, and the two met more and more often.

They followed the same pattern, going from explicit and sexual – referencing her genitals and talking about how sexually aroused they were – to Chapman pressing her for information about crimes.

He often brought her snacks and drinks. Once, when she texted that she was feeling sick, he asked her, if she was pregnant. She said no.

On July 22, she texted Chapman about another allegedly stolen vehicle.

He asked her to describe the vehicle so he could find it and run the plates.

"I wanna get her ridding dirty," he texted, referring to driving a stolen vehicle.

She texted that she couldn't get more information without raising suspicions, that she was having second thoughts about providing information and that she didn't want all her associates to get in trouble.

"If I knew the car I could call the RAID unit who deals with stolen cars and probably get u paid," Chapman texted.

The Riverside Auto Theft Interdiction Detail, RAID for short, is a multi-agency task force that investigates auto theft throughout Riverside County.

Mondary said it's possible to pay people for information that leads to an arrest, but Chapman couldn't authorize RAID payment.

She didn't need to get paid, the woman texted a few minutes later, and besides, someone quickly left with the car. Chapman asked where it was headed. They were driving to a dealer's house, she texted back, to get heroin.

"I want a pursuit lol," Chapman texted. "I need some excitment."

According to department records, Chapman conducted a vehicle check 40 minutes later, between the house where the woman was staying and the area where she said the dealer was located. The records show no action was taken.

"Well tonite will be more exciting," she texted. "I promise."

Chapman asked why.

"Umm because ill be in ur front seat," she responded. "Whats more exciting than that."


Get me another good bust

On July 24, the woman tried to discuss her mixed feelings about her relationship with Chapman, over text message, and about what would happen if they were found out. Chapman reassured her, then diverted the conversation.

He asked for her login information for her Facebook account, to look up information about one of the victims in a case he was working. She texted him her email address and password.

Chapman then downloaded pictures off her Facebook account and texted them to her.

"Last time im giving u my pw," she texted.

The woman told The Desert Sun she later found out Chapman had read messages she sent other people from her account, which she said she found misleading in hindsight.

But at the time, the old pictures started a different kind of conversation. She asked Chapman if he was alone. He said yes and asked why.

"Well i was gonna send u some other pics," she said. "But only if ur alone"

"I'm alone now," Chapman said. "Let's see em."

She texted that she was nervous about sending sexually-explicit photos. Chapman told her not to overthink it. She responded she was afraid of the direction things were heading in, as well as of the risks that came along with their relationship.

"I just get weird still cuz u are still a cop," she said.

"What does me being a cop mean?" Chapman asked.

"Ummmm," she texted. " Idk i guess theres certain 'boundaries' i cant cross."

"Well I'll be sure to tell to U when u do. so far u haven't," Chapman texted.

According to the text transcripts, the woman started sending photos on July 25, which continued until Aug. 15.

On July 29, Chapman texted that he liked finding photos on his phone when he got to work. The woman said she liked to make him smile.

She later texted that she was thinking of committing a crime so he would come and arrest her.

"Cuz last time when u had a gun pointed at me," she said, "got ms all excited."

"Well get me another good bust and I'll do it again," Chapman responded.

On July 30, Chapman also texted about his complicated feelings toward her. He texted that he didn't like the relationships he knew she was having with other men. He said he was jealous that she called them "lover."

"I'm just over here like....." Chapman texted.

"Cuz idk how u would feel if i called u love," she said.

"Id feel better than I do seeing u call all these pieces of shit that," Chapman texted in response.

They argued about what form their relationship was taking and how different their lives were. She said he didn't understand what it was like to be an addict. Chapman said he knew people who struggled with addiction. But they ultimately changed subjects.

"Send me a pic to wake up to," he texted just after his shift ended.

Later that day, she texted him a photograph while Chapman was in a work meeting. The text transcript provided to The Desert Sun did not contain the images, only an indication that an image was sent. Chapman texted that he was afraid to open it, because he didn't know the content of the photo.

"Better be for my eyes only," he texted.

"It is," she texted. "I promise."


You're not going to get hurt

Early on the morning of Aug. 14, Chapman tried to call the woman four times, but she didn't pick up. He texted that he was worried. Later that morning, she asked him what the problem was.

Chapman texted that he felt like she didn't miss him. She responded that she did miss him, but said she needed to keep her distance.

"Ill end up wanting something or having an expectation that will never happen and I'll get hurt and that will suck," she said. "Even tho im gonna get hurt anyways."

"Youre not going to get hurt," Chapman texted.

She texted that someone had another stolen vehicle at the house and Chapman asked for a plate number.

But she stopped answering the texts. He called her six times, but got no response.

"Quit ignoring me for ur drug bf's," he texted.

"Shut up they just showed up here," she responded. "I didn't tell them to come."

"I don't care what u do ive told u that just don't blow me off that drives me nuts," Chapman texted.

They arranged to meet up after he got off work.

"Like not in my po po car," Chapman texted.

They made plans to meet shortly after his shift ended on Aug. 15.

Over the next several days, their texts became erratic and infrequent. Soon, things took an unexpected turn.


The texts come to light
On Aug. 20, Chapman texted that he had to tell the woman something. They spoke by phone.

"U sounded so upset on the phone : ( ," she texted just before 8 p.m.

"I am," he responded.

She told The Desert Sun that Chapman was upset because he thought her fingerprints might be on a stolen car that had just been found. If so, she recalled him saying, she could become a suspect in the case.

But on top of that, she said someone found their texts.

"It seems we are both having a fucked up night," Chapman texted at 9:46 p.m.

"I'm about to cry," she responded.

She said that the person found the texts on her tablet, downloaded them from the texting app and started sending them to others and posting them on social media.

"Are u done playing with fire," Chapman asked at 11:35 p.m. on Aug. 20.

"Wh at do u mean," she texted at 12:05 a.m.

"We need to talk in person," Chapman responded.

Chapman started his shift on Aug. 20 at 6 p.m. and worked until 6 a.m. the next morning.

The texts ended abruptly after they coordinated a meet up at a hotel in Desert Hot Springs at 5 a.m. the morning of Aug. 21.


The fallout

In late August, the Riverside County District Attorney's Office filed a misdemeanor complaint against the woman for one count of possession of methamphetamine and one count of possession of heroin stemming from the traffic stop in May.

Meanwhile, she was still dealing with the severe fallout over her relationship with Chapman, which had been exposed. The texts between her and Chapman had spread among her circle and the response online was fierce.

Some people directly threatened her for providing information to the police.

Others told her to leave Desert Hot Springs, and warned that she'd be injured if she stayed.

Around that same time, the woman posted on her Facebook page that someone had hacked her account.

When the texts were found, so was the login information she texted to Chapman. She said in the post that people should be aware that false information might be sent from her accounts.

She said Chapman and others told her a local gang was planning to kill her.

A few weeks after the texts were found, the woman said Chapman told her the department could get her a flight to wherever she wanted. But she said she declined the offer.

The woman currently has an outstanding bench warrant for not appearing in court on the two misdemeanor possession charges filed against her in August for the traffic stop back in May.

"I was told they might not even file the charges," she said. "I didn't even know I had a court date."

Mondary, the Desert Hot Springs chief of police, said an anonymous informant sent him the transcripts of the text messages at 3:30 a.m. on Sept. 16, with a note from the informant saying "look how this officer uses and abuses his powers."

"We have been aware of this and are investigating the officer's actions and it will be handled appropriately," Mondary said in an email to the informant on Sept. 17.

Mondary opened an administrative inquiry into Chapman's relationship with the woman on Sept. 17, he said.

"I wasn't happy one bit with what I found in the text messages," Mondary said. "Our administrative inquiry found violations of department policy, and we took what we found to be appropriate action."

On Oct. 4, Mondary said, Chapman's administrative inquiry was closed.

Mondary said he could not disclose what action the department took against Chapman because of officer privacy laws.

"We blew up with the disclosure of these texts," Mondary said. "A number of officers have been informed about how to manage developing sources in the future."

Mondary said Chapman was told to cease all communication with the woman. Following the incident, Mondary said, department policies about inappropriate relationships have been reiterated to DHS police officers.

The department's procedures manual prohibits officers from engaging in any sexual activity while on duty, establishing an inappropriate personal relationship as a result of an investigation or associating personally with people who are involved in recurring criminal activity.

The same day the inquiry was closed, Chapman was recognized as one of three officers who were awarded "2018 Desert Hot Springs Police Officers of the Year Award" by the Palm Desert Area Chamber of Commerce at the 22nd annual Peace Officer & Public Safety Awards.

The Desert Sun called Chapman on the phone number from which he texted the woman.

Chapman confirmed that the texts were actually sent between him and the woman, but said the woman was not acting as a confidential informant.

"We don't have any documented confidential informants," Chapman said. "Anybody who provides us with information is doing so as a concerned citizen."

Chapman said the texts were being sent around in an attempt to get back at the woman.

"Her friends got caught and they're upset," he said. "They're trying to get her in trouble by exposing her to the media."

Chapman said he is confident that his relationship did not violate any department policy.

"The department did not take any action against me," he said about the administrative inquiry. "They found that I did nothing wrong."


Another look

After a Dec. 17 meeting with The Desert Sun to discuss the texts, Mondary received a copy of the texts. He decided additional action was warranted.

Mondary said he did not possess a complete copy of the texts before The Desert Sun shared them with him.

"Parts of this were used in our inquiry," Mondary said. "What I was sent was on Facebook messenger and I was not able to print that out. I have a few select messages but not all of them."

Mondary wrote in an email that the department would begin a new internal affairs investigation and that Chapman would be placed on leave with pay until further notice.

"In light of new information that was reported to the department," Mondary said, "I made the determination to place the officer on administrative leave until we can conduct a more thorough investigation."

permalink | December 29, 2018 at 01:22 PM | Comments (0)

December 19, 2018

MSWD Board Meetings, December 13 & 17, 2018

This is a report on the Mission Springs Water District Board of Director meeting that took place on December 13 and 17, 2018. Same agenda both meetings.


Swearing In Of Steve Grasha

General Director Arden Wallum swore in Steve Grasha as the new director. I couldn't help but notice, since I had seen three swearings-in at the city council meeting the night before, that while City Clerk Soriano only requires the new official to say "I will" or "I do" whenever he pauses, Mr. Wallum wants a complete repetition when he does the swearing in.

Then after the swearing in was complete—crickets. Well, one staffer made a little bit of applause, but the rest of public (a pretty good number for a water district meeting) and the board remained silent. The usual round of congratulatory handshakes was dispensed with.


Public Comments

Judy Bowman came to the podium and said...

My name is Judy Bowman. For the past nine years it has been my privilege to get to know you Directors, to know the staff, pleased to know people here at Mission Springs Water District. It's also been my privilege to have a front seat watching my husband demonstrate his dedication to the community and to service. You guys have been a team that works together. You don't always agree, but you know how to work out your disagreements civilly and respect each other.

Steve Grasha, I am grateful for this opportunity to actually see you face to face, but I simply cannot stay silent. I've never seen you before. This is really rare in a political campaign. You've never been out in public. So I wanted to tell you face to face, Steve, if you would look at me, 'Shame on you.' Throughout the campaign you hid behind your keyboard, blasting out false accusations on an almost daily basis. You never came out in public. After years of running for many offices - any office - you finally came up with a political strategy to fool the electorate and to get votes. you have not demonstrated any care of what the office is. You've never demonstrated any care about Mission Springs Water District. It doesn't seem to matter to you that your campaign was full of false credentials, false accusations, fear-mongering over nonexistent issues and outright lies and slander. You do not deserve a seat on this board. It's one thing to exaggerate and outright lie about your own qualifications, but quite another to make up stories. You personally slandered me. You personally slandered my husband. You publicly accused him of felony crimes of the most heinous nature. You've never offered any proof, but somehow you managed to fool the electorate with keyboard courage. Shame on you. You are not an honorable man. And this community will not forget your lies and your [unintelligible]. Thank you.

Jeff Bowman spoke next. He has posted the video of his comment on YouTube.

I will apologize right up front, I've had several of our public yield their time to me, so I can get my full statement out, Mr. President.

The office of Director of Mission Springs Water District is critical to the people of the district. They depend on directors to represent them as you provide, protect and preserve their most valuable resource - water. My comments today are not those of a sore loser, but rather from a concerned and committed citizen to this city and district.

Steve Grasha, my first contact with you was when you were seeking to fill the vacancy left by the late John Furbee. When you came to this podium you sort of slaundered up, leaned on the podium and said 'I haven't had time to prepare for this position.' And I thought to myself, good lord, you're running for a significant place in this community in leadership and you haven't had the chance to prepare. You were not chosen that day because the public deserved better. When you supplied the information to the board for that particular office you listed an RV park as your residence. It is technically in the district boundaries, but on a master meter [one meter for the entire RV park], thus I concluded at that time that you have never paid a bill to MSWD. And I believe you still haven't to this very day. The public deserves somebody that actually pays a water bill like they do.

When you started your campaign you said typical political exaggerations, like 'we are poisoning our children because of chrome-6.' These things, as stupid as they were, are par for often campaigns. But then you went further. I've been in this community for fifteen years running my award-winning spa. I love the town and the district, having served thousands of hours in community service. Because I love my community, I have assisted many folks. One such woman was Donna Poyuzina. Donna found herself in a homeless situation and I reached out to her, offering her a place in one of my condos for rent. You took that information and you spun it 180°. You said, and I quote, 'The poorest people of Desert Hot Springs have been used and manipulated for too long with the likes of the current MSWD board that takes so many millions from us, only to redistribute that power and money back to their favorite friends and supporters and special interest golddiggers by giving them free houses at our expense.'

Shame on you, Steve, for taking my love and kindness and equating it with greed and power. Yes, I helped a friend who was in need and needed a place to stay. That's how love works. And, you know what? It also shows how a director should act with love and compassion to the community in which they live and serve.

But you didn't stop there. You not only picked on me, but also my award-winning business, Living Waters Spa. You wrote, 'Whenever he talks he creepily mentions the old widow ladies what a great masseuse he is and he invited the lonely widows to his nudist colony. He's a sick creeper that should not be allowed near children or by lonely old women.' Shame on you, Steve.

Then you pick on my wife. You said, 'He'll be asking you if you can bring a friend for his wife to share the experience with. He will film it and sell it to Chinese porn sites. He's a disgusting pervert.' And, you know what, Steve? That wasn't enough. You stepped over the line even further. You sent an email to the entire database of registered voters with the headline 'Child Porn Photo of MSWD Director Jeff Bowman Appears Online Followed by Massive Sex Offender Raid on Desert Hot Springs by Riverside County District Attorney and Multiple State and Federal Law Enforcement Agencies.' You wrote that. You took a picture of a wedding that was held at my spa, a very sacred event, I may say. A picture I used years ago to promote nudist weddings. You took and spun it 180° from the purity it was. You portrayed it as child porn. Everybody was appalled at this outrageous lie. Even the chief of police with whom you then chose to debate on Facebook, was blown away by your libelous statements and wrote an email - he did - wrote an email defending my integrity.

One week after the election, November 13, our local newspaper and NBC station finally documented your frequent racist, violent and angry posts that you have made on Twitter and Facebook. These were not political things. These come from a heart that's bad. They documented your involvement with the court system, how you were charged with two counts of felony stalking and one felony count of making death threats in 2013. They document some, but not all the numerous lawsuits that had been leveled against you during your adult life because of your poor character. Had the Desert Sun or NBC Palm Springs done this reporting the month you filed your paperwork, the public would have known the real Steve Grasha and you would have not fooled them into voting for you.

Steve, I'm not going anywhere. I'll continue to run my award-winning mineral spa. I'll continue to pay MSWD bills. I'll continue to volunteer in my community to make it better. And I will retire here. The character you exhibited during the campaign does not befit the office to which you were elected. Your MO has been to take innocent actions and turn them 180°, distorting the truth just like you distorted the truth of your own qualifications and experience. For a fact, the voters did not know these things or they would have not voted for you.

My comments today come from a heart of a concerned and committed citizen to the city and district. Steve, the people you have fooled are going to be the ones who will judge you in your actions. They are holding you to a standard that you've never demonstrated in your entire life.

You, Steve Grasha, are not fit for public office.

Thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me to have that extra time.

Chelsea Vivian spoke next:

I am new to this community, however, I have been coming here for five years as a client of Jeff and Judy Bowman and their Living Waters Spa. I'm not a nudist, actually. I am a woman who suffers from something called psoriatic arthritis. This causes huge sores all over my body. Sometimes covered up to 30 to 40 percent of my skin's surface when stressors trigger this. There's very expensive medications that can help remedy this. But there is one medicine given to me by God that cures my skin and that is sunlight. The transition from the sun hitting my skin to the production of vitamin D heals psoriasis. And unfortunately, the psoriasis likes to go into places where bathing suits cover. So I chronically sought places in my life where I can safely and comfortably lay out in the sun in the nude where nobody will bother me. Knowing the waters of Desert Hot Springs, knowing the mineral waters, that is another healing aspect to arthritis. As you all probably know this is a mecca for [unintelligible]. So I hit the internet and I looked for places that were clothing optional and there were a few options. A couple that I clearly wouldn't be comfortable with given my personal choices. But there was one that rose to the surface. There was one that kind of said this is a very comfortable environment. So I called up one day and I ended up speaking to Jeff and he quizzed me and I quizzed him back and I felt okay, this is a place that I can be comfortable at. So I came and we all got to know each other. They learned that I had lost about my entire family and that the stressors that were engaged in my life at that time. Since then I have not only been a client, I have become a very close friend of Jeff and Judy Bowman's. I know dozens upon dozens of their clients that come there, many of them for the same reasons. I have come to know their family. I have come to know their friends here in Desert Hot Springs and I am astounded at what upstanding and amazing human beings they are. And what they have provided, the Living Waters Spa is not a place for nudists to go hang out - I mean, yeah, it is - for me, it's a safe harbor. It was a place where I was given the opportunity to lay out, get my medicine, and not be ridiculed. Even at other gyms and other places when I go in a bathing suit I get stares when I have to show that part of my body. I've had people get uncomfortable about me going into a pool with them because they think I'm contagious because they are not educated about my condition. I experienced none of that with Jeff and Judy.

So, Steve Grasha, I am deeply offended at the smear that you put upon them. And I would like to say that you should feel ashamed of yourself, but I would like [unintelligible] on this planet to feel shame because that is only a curse that you would have to suffer that would continue and perpetuate these force of actions. But I can say in looking at you is that you already have shame if you have to take this course of action to get elected to a seat on a water board. So, congratulations, you have really shown us all how dirty and ugly people can be.

Margaret Web spoke next:

I've been a resident of California since 2007. I've been part of the political life, you may say, for thirty years with the Kennedys, with my mom growing up with [unintelligible], I got a chance to know a lot of politicians in my life. It's a dirty game. People slandering people. People making up lies, all the way up to the presidency. It's not about slander or smut, because I've had my smut in my life. I've had to deal with people looking at me not because of sores, but because of the color of my skin, thinking that my black skin's going to wipe off on them if they get in the pool after me. So I can feel you on that.

[The board President reminded her to address her remarks to the board.]

Yes, I will. I'll do that. Okay thank you, Mr. President, thank you for telling me that, Randy. This is my first time speaking here. I love Mission Springs Water District. Every time I have an event I can come here and I can get water for my babies. I feed the homeless.

You guys here, you make a part of what I do happen. So I didn't come here to talk about anybody. I came here to thank you guys for being here for our community. Because for me, that's what it's about. As long as you guys can sit there and you do your job, when I get ready to come in here and I need you or you know I'm there, if you need me, then that's what makes a beautiful community. It's not about the past. It's about us living in the future. We've got to push forward. We've got to do more. And I'm not going to take any more of your time because I've got to go run to the hospital. I've got a sick baby I've got to go visit. Y'all be blessed.

Donna Wardine spoke next:

I've lived in Desert Hot Springs for nineteen years Christmas Day. I love my city. I moved here for the water. When I came here I went to water college which MSWD used to make available to citizens. I just want to say that, understanding that one of the members of your board, Steve Grasha, has run and been elected under false pretenses, I would just like to say that I am 100% behind the Bowmans, and I did not appreciate your inattention to the speakers. I thought that was exceedingly rude. Very unbusinesslike, as well. The smirk on your face is insulting to all of us. All of us. And you, sir, are a piece of work. I don't appreciate your lies, either.

Pastor Kephyan Sheppard spoke next:

I'm a local resident here. I wasn't going to say anything. I kind of like to stay quiet in the back. I just wanted, first of all, Mr. Bowman is extremely integral in all his dealings with me, with our church community. Anytime we've had an issue, I've been able to call him, pull on his coattail and get resolution quick. To see that he lost the election was one thing, but to see the way the election was lost was another. I have no personal problems with Mr. Grasha, however the way that campaign was run with a clear lack of integrity, slander, false accusations, I just don't think that that's the type of individual that we should have representing our water board. I don't know what all the procedures are. I'm not really involved with it. But what I can say is that anyone in leadership in this capacity should show a clear pathway of integrity. And what I saw during the election just was not fair. And, for me, I think it would go a long way if you were even able to apologize to Mr. Bowman publicly, because you disrespected him publicly. I think that's the way a public official should carry themselves. Now the election was done. I don't know if anything can be done about that. But as someone who's going to represent this city going forward, it would go a long way to show just an ounce of character to say, you know what, things that I said were not true, I apologize or anything. But I think that's the way to move forward. Because right now, it's real bad. Thank you.


Annual Report From The District's Washington Lobbyist

Our Washington lobbyist used to be Thane Young who was with the firm of Van Scoyoc. From the conversation between the Directors and Laura Morgan-Kessler, I pieced together that she had worked with Mr. Young at Van Scoyoc and sometime a year or more ago Mr. Young retired. Ms. Morgan-Kessler left Van Scoyoc and MSWD followed her to her new firm, Carpi and Clay Government Relations. You can see on their website that they represent many California-based agencies, including Indio Water Authority, San Diego County Water Authority, Santa Clara Valley Water District and Long Beach Water Department.

Since 1995 MSWD has received grants from Riverside County totalling $823,000, the federal government for $11 million and the State of California for $23 million. The district's population currently is about 37,600. These grants amount to more than $926 per capita. That's $926 each district resident did NOT have to pay to MSWD.

Ms. Morgan-Kessler said that over the years MSWD has built up a very strong positive reputation on Capitol Hill and with the Army Corps of Engineers. She said there is a lot of discussion in Congress about removing the ban on earmarks in appropriations bills. For this to happen, both the House and Senate would have to agree to do so.

Director Grasha asked when and what was the last example of funding we got via earmarks. Ms. Morgan-Kessler said that would have been in 2009 when we got a grant for the septic to sewer conversion program. Mr. Grasha pointed out that Jerry Lewis was our Congressional Representative then and he was chair of the House Appropriations Committee.


Anual Report of Capacity Fees and Related Capital Expenditures

This is an annual report required by law which, I suppose, is intended to ferret out agencies who collect high fees and then do little to nothing with them. In FY 2018 the district collected $176,240 in connection fees and spent $477,932.10 in capital expenditures. From the beginning of the report (1989) the district has collected $19,255,258.11 in connection fees and spent $33,121,659.63 in capital expenditures. To summarize, you're getting more than you pay for.


Award of Contract for Horton Wastewater Treatment Plant Infiltration Pond Expansion

With fewer septic tanks and more sewer connections, sewage flow at Horton has increased sufficiently to justify construction of three new infiltration ponds there. Effluent is allowed to rest in the infiltration ponds to gradually seep into the ground, eventually making its way back to the aquifer after being cleaned the natural way.

There were three bids Tryco General Engineering for $170,669, Tri-Star Contracting for $180,775, and Jones Bros. Construction for $199,354. Staff recommended awarding the contract to Tryco. Approved 5-0.


Acceptance of Willow Hole Groundwater Monitoring Wells Project

When MSWD joined the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan the district agreed to install two monitoring wells near the mesquite hummocks that run along the Banning branch of the San Andreas fault. One of the wells is along Palm Drive, just south of 20th. The other is on Mountain View 4,100 feet south of 20th. The wells extend to a depth of about 80 feet and cost $60,699.75, total. Funding came from a grant from the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy. Today's vote was to release the final payment of $3,034.99. Approved 5-0.


West Garnet Avenue Water Line Reimbursement Agreement

When KW Palm Springs built the new FedEx facility on Garnet Avenue west of Indian, along I-10, they had to put in a larger water main 2,235 feet long from Indian. They paid $858,861.82 for it, and it passes in front of undeveloped lots. When those lots are developed and connect to the water main, MSWD will collect a fee that includes $192.14 per foot of pipe in front of that development. MSWD will then turn around reimburse KW Palm Springs 80% of that. This item on the agenda is authorize a 10-year agreement between MSWD and KW Palm Springs for this. After the agreement expires, MSWD will no longer reimburse KW Palm Springs. Approved 5-0.


Solar Plant

It's still not online. It's all in the hands of Edison now. In the coming week Edison is supposed to perform a "witness test," which should be last step before final authorization.


I-10/Indian Sewer Collection System Financing District

There are 140 parcels totaling 695.5 acres. 51 parcel owners have returned surveys. Five owners representing about $670,000 in total assessed value) are opposed. One of those five owners represents over $500,000 in assessed value. 46 owners representing about $1,200,000 are in support. But 89 property owners (almost $8 million) still have not responded to the survey. So it's 13% yes, 7% no and 80% we don't know yet.

The financing of the construction of the sewer collection system is entirely the responsibility of the property owners in that area. If they never approve it, development of their properties will be far more difficult and expensive, if they can develop at all.


Election of Officers

Director Wright nominated Director Duncan to serve another year as President. Approved 5-0. Then Director Wright nominated Director Martin to serve another year as Vice President. Approved 5-0.


General Manager's Report

A car hit a fire hydrant in Mission Lakes. Rumors abounded that it took MSWD hours to shut off the water, but this is not correct. MSWD responded and had the hydrant shut off in less than half an hour. However, in the same accident, the car also took out a Mission Lakes backflow prevention device, and it was Mission Lakes' responsibility to shut off the water flow that resulted from that. It took a lot longer.


Director Comments

Steve Grasha said, "Well, I guess I could thank the voters for their confidence. Pretty big turnout, I guess. The largest percent of votes ever received by a Director, 35%. First person to ever defeat a certain incumbent who called me 'creepy' on a Friday after, so I thought I'd react to that and let people know what creepy actually was. Just so you have that out of the way, that's what happened there. So I'm looking forward to spreading my wings a little bit on this board and doing the job people elected me to do. And I want them to know that their vote was not misplaced, regardless of what they might hear from those who weren't as successful as they would have liked to have been. Thank you."

At the Monday meeting, Mr. Grasha said, "Well, I have a whole list of things I could talk about, but in the interest of decorum and good citizenship I think I will pass until maybe a future date."

Nancy Wright said the election turnout was the biggest ever for MSWD because this is the first time the district elections have coincided with the general election.


Epilogue

Immediately after the Thursday study session adjourned on Thursday, a man from the audience went up to Mr. Grasha at the dais, handed him some paper and said "You've been served." I suppose people who have been waiting to serve Mr. Grasha with papers will be pleased to be able to find him in a specific location at least twice a month.

permalink | December 19, 2018 at 05:48 PM | Comments (1)

November 21, 2018

Mission Springs Water District Board Meeting - November 15 & 19, 2018

The Board of Directors of the Mission Springs Water District meets monthly on a Thursday for a study session and again on the following Monday for the "regular" session. Same agenda for both meetings. Usually, most of study and talking takes place at the Thursday meeting while votes and ceremonial affairs usually happen at the Monday meeting. I write it up as if it all took place at one meeting.


West Valley Wastewater Reclamation Facility

Earlier, the new sewage plant was designed to handle a million gallons of waste per day (1 MGD). But one of the purposes of the WVWRF is to provide a backup for the Horton WWTP and to allow some of Horton's flow to be diverted so that routine maintenance can be performed at Horton. Diverting the flow would mean sending 0.75 MGD from Horton to the WVWRF, leaving the WVWRF able to handle only 0.25 MGD from other sources, which is not enough. Therefore, the proposal now is to increase initial capacity at the WVWRF to 1.5 MGD. That increase adds about $7 million to the initial cost of construction of the plant.

Also, inflation and the general rise in construction costs since the initial cost estimate add another $3 million. Design changes were made to get the construction cost as low as possible, but the total estimated cost now is about $28 million. This plant along with the Horton plant should be able to handle the district's wastewater for the next ten years.

The cost reductions were:

  • Go with one belt filter press rather than two;
  • Use sludge drying beds for emergency backups (as at Horton);
  • Rather than build a brick and mortar building, the district would put up a prefab metal building for sludge handling;
  • Also, the administration, lab and control buildings would be prefab instead of brick and mortar;
  • They would use gravity rather than a pump to move effluent to the spreading basins;
  • The headworks building would be modified to an open air structure; and
  • Defer the rotary drum thickeners until later.

This item was brought before the board to ask, in effect, the question, now that we have a substantially higher price, should we proceed? The board said yes, proceed.

A groundwater analysis showed that the wastewater treatment plant would have no effect on the quality of drinking water from Well 33, which is in the neighborhood. In the future, when the capacity of the WVWRF is doubled to 3.0 MGD, there are potential impacts on the well after 30 years, which is likely beyond the life of the well itself. An anti-degradation analysis was done to measure potential impacts on the groundwater basin there, which is Garnet Subbasin (not the Mission Creek subbasin). This analysis showed potential degradation of the Garnet subbasin with TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) after about 15 years.

From the Water Research Center:

"Dissolved solids" refer to any minerals, salts, metals, cations or anions dissolved in water. Total dissolved solids (TDS) comprise inorganic salts (principally calcium, magnesium, potassium, sodium, bicarbonates, chlorides, and sulfates) and some small amounts of organic matter that are dissolved in water.

The EIR and regulatory approval for the plant will potentially be completed by summer of 2019. MSWD may be eligible for up to $8 million in grants for this project. Construction could begin in the autumn of 2019 with about an 18-month construction time.

President Randy Duncan asked Matt McCue, finance director, his opinion on whether the district could take on this expense. There are variables, he answered, saying that re-doing the most recent rate study may be necessary because there are pressures both up and down. Some predicted capital expenditures that were included in the last rate study have not been made, so perhaps rates could be lower. But at the same time there are other rising costs working to push rates up. The district's debt-service ratio "couldn't be any better," he said. The district has almost zero debt.

The wastewater treatment plant in Yucca Valley that is under construction now is a 1 MGD plant (with MBR) which is costing them about $31 million. MBR is Membrane BioReactor. The WVWRF will be built withOUT MBR, but when additional capacity is needed, MBR will be installed and the capacity of our plant will go to 3 MGD.


Proposed Assessment District 18

Proposed Assessment District 17 (to build sewer lines) failed by only 8 votes to get two-thirds approval by the property owners which only means sewers for the areas that would have been included will be later and more expensive. The defeat of AD 17 was attributed to two main reasons: first, a lot of the properties in the area are owned by landlords who, apparently, are motivated only by short term profit, and, second, about 60 property owners who said they would support AD 17 when polled never returned their ballots during the actual voting.

AD 18 would include Mission Lakes Country Club plus six unsewered areas in Desert Hot Springs. This proposal will be structured so that if the full assessment district fails, any of the smaller areas that received sufficient votes could form their own assessment district.

As in the past, MSWD will search for grants to cover up to 50% of the cost of sewering these areas. If they are successful, the actual per parcel cost for the property owner will be in the range of $6,400 to $6,600. A bargain. (In 2004 this charge was $4,124.) That price does not include the property owner's expense of actually hooking up and mitigating their now useless septic tank.

They hope to have this approved by the property owners in 2019 so that in 2020 they can begin to seek grant funding.


Holiday Schedule

Christmas and New Year's Day are on Tuesdays this year, so this was a proposal to grant employees an extra day off for the Mondays preceding those two holidays. Approved by the board, 5-0.


ACWA/JPIA Captive Insurance Company

This is a proposal to be voted on at the upcoming meeting of the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA). If ACWA forms its own insurance company strictly for ACWA members, they can get lower rates. The insurance covers third party bodily injuries, employment practices liability, public officials errors and omissions, inverse condemnation, drone liability, and workers' comp. The savings come primarily from greater flexibility in investments.


Solar Plant

Even though the ribbon cutting (or switch flipping) has already taken place at the AQMD-grant-funded solar plant on Little Morongo south of Dillon, electricity is not yet flowing to the system because, you know, Edison. Staff estimated that everything would finally fall into line before the December board meeting. It is expected to save the district more than $300,000/year.


I-10/Indian Sewer Financing District

Not much activity lately. Not enough info has been received yet to put together a resolution. The property owners who will benefit from the sewer are the ones responsible to pay for it 100%, so it is up to them to support a financing district to make that possible. As with any sewer construction project, the longer they wait, the more it will cost them.


Holiday Parade

A discussion as to whether MSWD will participate in this year's Desert Hot Springs holiday parade. It will be Saturday, December 8, in the evening (for the first time in anyone's memory). Not all the Directors will be able to be there, but yes, MSWD will participate.


General Manager's Report

There are substantial leaks in the roof at MSWD headquarters on Second Street. Some drywall has been replaced, some mold has been discovered and mitigated. Bids for repair or replacement are being considered. Initial estimates are around $180,000, but staff expects to be able to lower that.


Farewell to Director Bowman

This was Director Jeff Bowman's last board meeting. President of the Board, Randy Duncan, walked around to the podium and spoke.

Director Bowman, when I saw "we," I'm referring to myself, the rest of the board, staff, and even most or all of our contractors. While we seldom disagree on issues, we have all grown to respect and value your opinions and ideas when it comes to the board, both as a director and a person. Regardless of whether we disagree or not, regardless of the direction we decide to take, we all believe you always have the district's best interests at heart. On a personal sidenote, you and I have competed for the same seat (I lost that one) but that was a clean, fair race. And I respect you for that. I think you can take comfort in knowing that the only reason, I think, you lost this seat was because of a very dirty and unethical race. So now, if I could, you would join me down here. We would like to thank you for nine years of service as a Director of the Mission Springs Water District.

A representative of the office of Senator Jeff Stone presented Director Bowman with a proclamation.

permalink | November 21, 2018 at 08:31 PM | Comments (0)

November 14, 2018

Desert Sun on Steve Grasha

Here's the article:

The Mission Springs Water District's newest board member, Steve Grasha, has tweeted at Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-South Carolina, that the senator should shoot himself in the head and that New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio should be beheaded.

These and other tweets are part of a long history of Twitter posts that include violent, sexist and racist language from a man elected to serve customers of the water district, which services most of Desert Hot Springs.

By Wednesday, after this article published online, it appeared Grasha had removed his Twitter account from public view. Iinks in this article to his tweets are no longer active.

Grasha was easily elected to the MSWD board last week with 33 percent of the vote. In an interview on Thursday, he acknowledged he uses extreme language in his posts but said he did not think it was inappropriate for a public official.

“I think people should be honest, we have a crisis of honesty in our country,” he said. “What they should be concerned about is newspapers like yours, trying to tear down the only honest person."

Grasha has written many tweets saying politicians or journalists should be executed or urging them to kill themselves. He has used terms like "lying c---" and "stupid c---" to insult women.

Grasha also has repeatedly faced judges in Riverside County Superior Court. He was charged with two counts of felony stalking and one felony count of making death threats in 2013. All the charges were either dismissed or discharged.

He said the case was falsified by former District Attorney Paul Zellerbach. Grasha said he then worked with current District Attorney Mike Hestrin to unseat Zellerbach. A representative of the DA's office said Grasha did not "formally" work for Hestrin's campaign.

“I ended his career with one email, boom,” Grasha said of Zellerbach's tenure in office.

He was also named, along with relatives, in two lawsuits brought by Rimcrest Community Association, a condo and apartment complex in Palm Springs. He was sued by the condo association for minor infractions; both cases were dismissed.

He has also been taken to small-claims court regarding debt collections at least twice; judges ruled against him and ordered him to pay both times.

Further, he was sued for libel in 1999 by Environmental Engineering Concepts after publishing a letter stating the company had its California State Contractors license revoked, which it had not. The company had been a competitor of Grasha's company, TrueFog. That suit was settled in 2000.

MSWD board member Nancy Wright, who was re-elected last week with 31 percent of the vote, said she recently became familiar with Grasha’s social media history and said it wouldn’t preclude her from being able to work with him on water district issues.

“I’m a professional and I can work with anyone,” she said, adding she did have some concerns about a lack of transparency with his campaign finances. Grasha did not file any campaign finance forms with the county this year or in 2017.

California Fair Political Practices spokesman Jay Wierenga said the agency had received a complaint against Grasha and that its enforcement division has an open case involving Grasha relating to "potential violations of the campaign disclosure provisions of the Political Reform Act," according to documents provided by the FPPC.

In a phone interview, Grasha accused The Desert Sun of poisoning children by running print advertisements from the Mission Springs Water District. He also said his constituents had no reason to be concerned about his language.

“The only people that should be concerned should be people like John Brennan,” he said of the former CIA director, whom Grasha accused of being a Muslim who wants to destroy the country.

In response to a tweet from journalist Anna Navarro in October 2017 in which she said 1,000 Puerto Ricans had died after Hurricane Maria and millions were without power, Grasha replied: “Listen you’re [sic] lying c---. Not a single Puerto Rican has died because of that f------ Hurricane. Go f--- yourself b----.”

In August of this year, officials in Puerto Rico acknowledged 3,000 people died as a result of the hurricane after the results of an independent study were released.

Grasha has tweeted at journalist and author Kurt Eichenwald to “take a bottle of pills and kill yourself,” and that former President Barack Obama was a “criminal and should be hunted down and trapped like the lowlife scum that he is.” He once responded to a tweet by conservative commentator Bill Kristol about meeting an American citizen who immigrated from Afghanistan and fought against the Soviets by saying if the man was a "hero" he would have killed Kristol.

In response to a tweet from former Arizona state Sen. Kelli Ward calling for the end of amnesty and the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, Grasha tweeted he felt threatened at a local convenience store.

“I walked into a 7-Eleven near my house the other day and it literally felt like I was in a foreign country and that I needed an armed security force to get me out of the store safely and alive,” he tweeted Jan. 5.

Other tweets have praised President Donald Trump for his relationship with porn actress Stormy Daniels.

“President banged a porn star and walked away with a $211,000 profit! Greatest. President. Ever,” Grasha tweeted on Oct. 30.

The majority of his tweets are about local or national news, retweets of the president’s tweets or retweets of statements of support for the president from other individuals.

His Facebook profile also contains frequent posts about regional and national news and politics. During the campaign, he posted a picture of MSWD board member Jeff Bowman (who was not re-elected last week) naked, with two other individuals — a man who appeared naked, and a topless woman. Bowman, who owns and operates a clothing-optional resort in Desert Hot Springs, appeared to be officiating a wedding.

In the post, Grasha said Bowman was with “a seemingly underage girl” and accused him in an email, provided to The Desert Sun, of child pornography. In an interview with The Desert Sun, he accused Bowman of possibly molesting or trafficking a child, based on the image he shared, which he said originated from Bowman’s website.

“The voters decided that wasn’t cool,” he said, adding that he didn’t send out the email or Facebook post to be underhanded. “That was a chance I had to take because people have a right to know what might be going on.”

Bowman vehemently denied all of Grasha's accusations. He said the wedding in the photo was from 2006 and the pair pictured were "a lovely couple" who were both of age and had a valid marriage license.

“There’s no words to describe when your life is slandered in such a way that your integrity is called into question, your business,” he said. “For something that was so sacred to be taken and spun 180 degrees and then the slander, defamation of character. I have never met a person that has done something so heinous."

Grasha said he believed the post may have led to action from the Riverside County District Attorney.

John Hall, the district attorney's office spokesperson, said the office was unaware of the photograph Grasha referenced and said the sexual assault task force, which is separate from the Gang Impact Team, conducts regular sweeps of registered sex offenders, and Bowman was neither a target of the task force nor a registered sex offender.

In an email to Bowman, Desert Hot Springs Police Chief Dale Monday said Bowman had never been implicated in any child pornography or child sexual exploitation.

Grasha dismissed that statement.

In addition to a prolific social media footprint, Grasha formerly published an online newsletter, the Palm Springs Village Voice, and is the owner of TrueFog USA, which sells the type of misting systems seen outside many Coachella Valley bars and restaurants.

Grasha made several unsuccessful bids for public office before his election to the MSWD board. In 2014, he ran for the District 1 seat on the Coachella Valley Water District board but was defeated by G. Patrick O’Dowd. He ran for a seat on the Palm Springs City Council multiple times, including a special election in 2002 and a regular election in 2013.

He said in 1999 that he had registered as a Democrat to run for the congressional seat encompassing the Coachella Valley (the 44th Congressional District, at that time). He announced in 2011 that he would run for Congress in 2012 as a Republican, challenging then-incumbent Mary Bono Mack for the 36th Congressional District seat, but did not win.

Grasha said winning an election was a "new experience" for him and said Thursday that MSWD voters had overwhelmingly voted to make a change.

He has flip-flopped between saying he was a Democrat or Republican in previous campaigns, though many local races are nominally nonpartisan, and in a 2003 interview with The Desert Sun he said he wasn’t concerned about the way those inconsistencies would look. That year, he had touted himself as a Democrat to try to get the endorsement of the Desert Stonewall Democrats, a powerful local LGBTQ political group, during the Palm Springs City Council race.

“I understand the process. I understand politics. I understand I should be kissing up to these (special interest) groups,” he said.

In interviews with The Desert Sun during his MSWD and CVWD campaigns, Grasha expressed serious concerns about the levels of chromium-6, a cancer-causing agent found at varying levels in drinking water across the county, and accused Wright and Bowman — and The Desert Sun — of poisoning children.

After his election to the MSWD board, Grasha released a statement on social media saying he was “honored” and thanking Bowman, whom he accused of poisoning children and being a child molester, “for his commitment to public service and our water district since 2009.”

Grasha said in the statement that the water district was facing challenging circumstances.

“I will work together with anyone and everyone who wants to create a better path forward for families that rely on our sacred duty to protect our most precious resource, our water supply,” he wrote. “And I will fight for all of you, each and every day to make your lives better and our entire community stronger."

Bowman was the third highest vote-getter on Election Day, netting 21 percent of the vote. Malcolm McLean finished last among the four candidates, with 15 percent of the vote.

permalink | November 14, 2018 at 11:32 AM | 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.

permalink | 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.

permalink | 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.

permalink | July 13, 2018 at 08:06 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.

permalink | May 16, 2018 at 06:24 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.

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

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.

permalink | February 16, 2018 at 09:48 PM | Comments (12)

February 13, 2018

My First Hummingbird Nest

Hummingbird nest Feb 13 2018 (7958)

Hummingbird nest Feb 13 2018 (7957)

Just spotted it today when I noticed the future mother flying in exactly the same path twice very close to my house. I'll have to get a ladder to see down into the nest.

UPDATE: I can't get high enough on my ladder to see clear to the bottom of the nest, but for now here's a photo of the mother sitting.
Hummingbird In Nest (7960)\

permalink | February 13, 2018 at 11:48 AM | Comments (0)

February 6, 2018

Miller High Life/Molotov Cocktail in DHS

Molotov Cocktail Arrest

Support Services Manager Tom Pittenger from Desert Hot Springs Police Department · 34m ago

On 02/05/2018, at approximately 1630 hours, Desert Hot Springs Police Officers were dispatched to a residence in the 66000 block of 2nd St, reference a family disturbance. The occupants of the residence refused to cooperate but after approximately 30 minutes, they exited the residence after police officers conducted a surround and call out due to circumstances noted on scene.

A probation search of the residence was conducted. During the search, Officers located two Molotov cocktails in the kitchen of the residence. Cal Fire Law Enforcement Division responded to assist in the investigation.

Bernadette Noriega (age 49), Jesus Noriega (age 28) and Mario Vigel (age 19) were arrested for PC 18715-Possession of Explosive Device, PC 148(a)-Resist or delay Law Enforcement, PC 273A(a)-Child Endangerment as well as several other related charges. All three subjects were transported and booked into RSO Banning Jail.


Bernadette Noriega, Jesus Noriega, Mario Vigel and a Molotov cocktail in a Miller High Life bottle

permalink | February 6, 2018 at 07:20 PM | Comments (0)

January 28, 2018

Fitness Trackers

Here’s the news story about Strava posting a “global heat map” of fitness tracker usage. The news concerns what it reveals about military bases, but I looked at the Strava heat map to see if it told me anything about Desert Hot Springs.
Strava Heatmap Desert Hot Springs

It seems to me that someone (or ones) in Mission Lakes Country Club are doing a lot of exercising. Some of the more heavily used routes around DHS are where cyclists ride, including the upcoming Tour De Palm Springs.

Strava global heat map.

permalink | January 28, 2018 at 03:40 PM | Comments (0)

January 19, 2018

Desert Hot Springs City Council - January 16, 2018

These are some of what I think are the important bits of the January 16, 2018, meeting of the Desert Hot Springs City Council.


Fully Staffed Police Department

Five new police officers were sworn in. Chief Mondary said the police department is fully staffed. I think the definition of fully staffed is "up to the limit authorized by the City Council," because we all know our PD has never been staffed up the level we really need.


AIPP Cut To 0.25% In Industrial Zone

Some people didn't like that the AIPP rules were being assessed fairly for all kinds of property. That is, the value of the art or the amount of the in-lieu fee in effect since the program was approved in 2009 has been 0.5% of valuation for residential property and 0.75% of valuation for commercial and industrial properties.

The proposal was to eliminate the choice of putting a piece of art on site in the industrial zone. Development in the industrial zone would have to pay the in-lieu fee. I am not sure who didn't like it that the art paid for by the industrial developers would be displayed on the property developed. I didn't hear any of the City Council members express an objection to that.

This proposal went to the Planning Commission first, and they didn't like it. I could explain just why the Planning Commission didn't like it if the city's damn website would actually play the audio of that meeting, but it doesn't and they don't upload the audio to Youtube or any of the other several easy, reliable websites that actually play recorded audio flawlessly.

The choice before the City Council seemed to be to follow the Planning Commission's recommendation (leave things unchanged) or to re-insert the language taking the choice away from industrial developers. So imagine our surprise when Mr. McKee suddenly proposed to drop the rate for industrial development from 0.75% to 0.25%! Even more surprising was that Russell Betts immediately agreed to it! Ever since this program was approved, any mention of it would trigger a story-telling by Mr. Betts, in which story he would cast himself as the lonely white knight standing against everybody else who hates art. In reality, support for the AIPP program was widespread and the only discussion was the rates. The proposed rate was an even 1%, I believe, and Mr. Betts will tell you a story about how he had to fight to keep it as high as 0.75%. But now that it is 2018, he easily agreed to a two-thirds reduction in the rate.

Yvonne Parks had said she wouldn't vote for an ordinance that retained the 0.75% rate because she thought it was too high. But when the vote came, she still voted against it, even though the rate had been lowered to 0.25%. The vote was 4-1.

Some of the cannabis developers got up and complained about the surprising costs they've run into, and seemed to think this AIPP was something recently concocted to get more money out of them. In reality, the reason the cannabis developers are running into these expensive surprises is that many of them don't do sufficient due diligence (probably due to lack of experience in real estate) to find out all the expenses before they commit themselves. One cannabis developer argued that since he was having to build a road and put in underground infrastructure he ought to be excused from paying the AIPP. Again it's probably due to inexperience in real estate, but he didn't realize every developer is responsible for all that work and all those expenses. The city didn't come up with any new ideas to get in the way of cannabis development. Quite the contrary, they've now given them a two-thirds fee reduction.

In case you thought that the super-high price of land in our industrial zone would offset this rate cut, the cost of land is not included in the valuation against which the fee is assessed. IOW, it is a percentage of the value of the building only. Once you've removed the land cost, the value of the buildings will be whatever the usual value of such buildings are. The reduction in this fee is, therefore, a genuine cut to the amount of money that we would have expected to come into our AIPP fund.

Mr. McKee said he intended this to be temporary, and the council has asked that the ordinance be brought back before them in about 6 weeks to re-examine the rates. Mr. Betts said he didn't think it needed to be brought back; he was happy with the new 0.25% rate.


Resolution Setting Forth Certain Regulations Pertaining to Dispensaries

This item was removed from the agenda to be brought back at a later meeting. The proposed text in this agenda packet would have permitted a marijuana dispensary to change location, but they would still have to get a new CUP and any other of the usual necessary paperwork. The city started with 19 people who were allowed to seek a CUP and open a dispensary. Three of those people withdrew, leaving 16. Eight of those people have, indeed, opened dispensaries in town. The remaining eight still have all their rights intact, but the resolution would have specified that the right to apply for a CUP and open a dispensary is NOT transferable. The resolution also would have set the limit for cannabis dispensaries in the city at 16.

Here is a handy table provided in the agenda packet which you can use to keep track of the players. Click it for a bigger version.
DHS Marijuana Dispensary scorecard


New (and Re-Appointed) Commissioners

 MatasParksZavalaMcKeeBetts
CCACMichael PicardiBarbara EastmanMichael BurkeUntumane TurnerDonna Poyuzina
PlanningDirk Voss[hasn't decided]Jan PyeLarry BuchananScott De La Torre
Public SafetyDonna LozanoLee EastmanNina DuarteWalt MeyerTed Mayrhofen [this is not a typo]


New Library

Riverside County has proposed to build a completely new library on the vacant land between Aqua Soleil and the new county building at Park Lane and Palm Drive, entirely at County expense. The current library is 3,500 s.f. The proposed library would be 15,000 s.f.

When the current library opened in 1972 the population of the city was less than 3,000 and half of it was senior citizens. The official population is 9 times greater now, and it's 40% kids 18 and under.

This item simply authorizes city staff to continue to work with the county on this. After construction of the new library the old library will be converted to a broom closet, but it won't be big enough to let everybody keep their brooms there.

permalink | January 19, 2018 at 11:05 PM | Comments (0)

December 9, 2017

No Smoke Here

Desert Hot Springs - December 9, 2017 (1504)
Desert Hot Springs today.

permalink | December 9, 2017 at 05:59 PM | Comments (0)

November 18, 2017

My First 4K Video

Waokiye at Cabot's Museum is the subject for my first 4K video.

I recently acquired a ThiEYE T5e which is $170 at Amazon, but just under $100 at GearBest which is in China. I know buying direct from China is a crapshoot, but a 41% discount is pretty substantial. Reviews of this camera point out that it is genuine 4K, not interpolated from 1080p.

I have a 4K display, but my Mac Mini can't do any better than 1080p, so the only way I can see this in 4K is to connect the camera directly to my monitor and play it from there. I also don't have any software that can output a 4K video, so I can only upload them exactly as shot. Can't even trim off shaky starts or ends without lowering the resolution to 720p.

The video above is on Vimeo, who claims they don't degrade videos. I've also uploaded this video to YouTube which supports 4K, but they degrade the videos somewhat. If you think you can see the difference, here's a chance to do an A/B comparison.

permalink | November 18, 2017 at 04:45 PM | Comments (0)