A much-anticipated but delayed meeting between the Palm Springs City Council and officials with College of the Desert (COD) provided no new revelations Thursday evening. Leaders from both the city and the college further solidified commitments to work together to see a satellite campus built here.
“It is remarkable the level of support in the Coachella Valley for College of the Desert,” Mayor Lisa Middleton said during a meeting that lasted more than two hours. “Many of us are concerned that that support is at risk. We want to assure that not only is the West Valley Campus built, but that we restore the level of support that COD has historically had in our community.”
At issue for the Council and dozens in the community who spoke Thursday evening, including representatives of the hospitality industry that would benefit from programs at the campus, was the feeling that COD officials were trying to back out of a commitment to build here. The campus, paid for with a portion of $924 million in bond money approved by voters throughout the Valley dating back to 2004, is currently planned at the site of a former mall off Tahquitz Canyon Way.
The campus was previously planned for land in northern Palm Springs that is now the target of a developer who hopes to build housing on the property. First, the developer must purchase the 119 acres from the college, which was gifted the land by the city a decade ago.
Councilmembers received assurances Thursday that portions of the sale of the land would be used to construct the campus in Palm Springs, returning value to city taxpayers. They were also informed that there was never a consideration of canceling the project, despite accusations by community members who continue to question why the project hasn’t broken ground after years of planning.
Instead, COD President Dr. Martha Garcia said that she requested a reevaluation of all the college’s capital projects that were not in advanced stages when she took over as president last year. Construction of the initial stages of the Palm Springs campus should be headed out to bid by this summer, Councilmembers were told, with construction finished no later than Spring of 2027.
“It is important that I communicate to the community that recommendation came from me,” Garcia said. “When I realized that we needed additional input from faculty in order to be ready to submit a final plan to (the state), that came from me and was communicated to the Board of Trustees.”
Communication between the city and COD leadership is vital as the project moves forward, all agreed. They also agreed with a proposal from Palm Springs City Manager Justin Clifton that a coalition of community members, elected officials, and COD representatives should be formed to help guide what gets built in the city.
“We’re committed to working with you,” Middleton said. “If there is something that you need from us you just get on the phone with us and we will work with you on it.”