With both anticipation and tensions running high over a planned homeless services center in northern Palm Springs, the City Council moved methodically Thursday evening to propel the project forward.
Driving the news: Councilmembers unanimously approved an agreement with a Los Angeles-based firm to provide architectural and design services for much of the project, planned for construction on 3.6 acres along McCarthy Road.
- The firm, John Freidman Alice Kimm Architects (JFAK), was chosen through a bid process. It will be paid roughly $860,000 to help design the project and guide it during an anticipated 52-week process.
- JFAK has completed a half-dozen similar projects, including the NAVIG8 project in Los Angeles’ Council District 8. A video of its opening can be seen here.
At issue: During deliberations, Councilmember Christy Holstege asked for greater detail about what, exactly, would be included in the project; Councilmember Dennis Woods suggested the city consider forming an oversight team to guide the project above and beyond the work being done by city engineers.
- “This is too vital for us,” said Woods. “It needs to be successful. We are throwing millions of dollars at it.”
- City staff assured Woods that an oversight team did exist – consisting of representatives from the city, county, and service agencies that will run the facility. They also assured Holstege that exact plans will be made available as soon as they are finalized, allowing time for public review and comment.
Zoom in: Community & Economic Development Director Jay Virata outlined some of the initial plans for the facility, saying they are similar to other projects designed by JFAK and operated by Martha’s Village & Kitchen – the nonprofit that will partner with the city for the McCarthy Road center.
- As currently envisioned, Virata said the facility will have 80 units of housing — including five for families and 10 for youth transitioning out of foster care – as well as space for education and employment training programs, case workers, and family connection services.
Zoom out: The project has faced scrutiny from nearby residents who worry it would be a magnet that attracts more unhoused resident to their community. They have also repeatedly asked that officials focus on bringing crucial services to the area, such as a grocery store and banking and medical facilities.
Bottom line: The city has struggled for years to address the homeless epidemic that was exacerbated by the pandemic. The navigation center is seen as an opportunity to offer long-term solutions.
- “This is an incredible moment,” offered Councilmember Geoff Kors prior to the 5-0 vote.