Leaseholder hoping to convert former golf course to land for housing learns nobody welcomes his plan
More than 100 neighbors and others concerned with the future of the former Bel Air Greens golf course tuned into Zoom Wednesday evening for what was described as a “neighborhood outreach meeting.” The event turned into a virtual lashing of the land’s current leaseholder that was both emotional and comical at times.
The meeting was one of two required by the city as the leaseholder, Albert Howell, attempts to go through the steps of converting the decaying former golf course from open space to residential use. That process kicked off last November when Howell filed an intent to convert application for the 35 acres off El Cielo Road adjacent to Mesquite Golf & Country Club.
If Wednesday’s meeting indicated what lies ahead, those interested in the land’s future are in for a wild ride during what city staff said would be a process that could take more than a year to complete. Many in the audience struggled to get their points across as fellow meeting attendees failed to mute themselves, assuring the sound of personal conversations, barking dogs, chirping cell phones, and television news broadcasts playing in the background were nearly as prominent as petitioners.
At the end of 75 minutes of testimony, those who were able to have their voices heard through the din made one thing clear: No developer will have it easy building homes on some of the last remaining open space in the city. And Howell, despite his insistence otherwise, was informed he does not currently hold the lease to land zoned for housing and probably never will.
“It’s important that we all take a pause and remember that this land is designated open space,” said Jane Garrison, president of an organization that was awarded a $4 million grant to purchase the land from its owners, five members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. “It has been designated open space for years, and the applicant knew what he bought. He’s just looking to sell this land to developers, and this application doesn’t event come remotely close to meeting the requirements of the golf course conversion ordinance.”
Garrison’s organization, Oswit Land Trust (OLT), has big plans for the former golf course, as well as the Mesquite course and one of two city-owned courses that comprise Tahquitz Creek Golf Resort. OLT, with backing from the Center for Public Land, hopes to create the Mesquite Desert Preserve, a 500-acre “beautiful natural desert setting with walking paths, educational plaques, community gardens and more.”
Howell appears to have big plans as well, submitting plot maps showing the land divvied up into more than 70 10,000-square-foot lots for future homes. During the meeting he said he anticipates purchasing the land from the tribal allottees and flipping it to potential developers.
“We are not developing homes,” Howell said. “We are developing lots and plan to sell them to builders. At this point, we are simply developing single-family lots.”
Howell insisted his application was merely a formality and that future home developers would be acquiring land already zoned to allow for homes. Technically, city zoning maps show that’s true. But that zoning was applied in the 1970s, and the city has since declared the land open space, which takes precedent over the original zoning.
“Oswit Land Trust is willing to purchase this from the allottees and from Mr. Howell,” Garrison said in response to Howell’s claims. “We’re only allowed to pay fair market value for the land under terms of the grant. If this goes through it prevents us from buying it.
“We are willing to buy the property. We want to buy the property. We want to create an incredible desert preserve for our community. Mr. Howell, I would beg you from our community … please work with us and let us create this.”
Garrison’s pleas drew applause from the audience and cheers in the group chat. They also echoed the feeling in the room.
“This property has been an eyesore for the last five years,” said Rosemary Flaherty, who lives nearby and supports the preserve. “…Something needs to be done with this property to make it functional. …It’s time to move forward with this property because it’s only going to deteriorate further.”
Added Julie Salazar, who grew emotional: “We owe it to Palm Springs to stand up tall for our city and protect this land.”
Today’s Daily Briefing is brought to you in partnership with The Palm Springs Cultural Center, which invites you to celebrate swanky Palm Springs – Dino and Dinah style!
DOG RESCUE: Beau the dog may not have nine lives, but he’s got a handful of people to thank for coming to his aid Wednesday. Palm Springs police said that Beau’s owner reported him missing near a storm drain along South Palm Canyon Drive near Bogert Trail at around 10 a.m. Moments later, they received a call that someone heard the sound of a dog crying inside a drainage ditch in the 3100 block of Cody Court. Animal Control officers responded to the area and located the canine inside the concrete structure. Due to what police described as Beau’s “large size,” they called for assistance from the Palm Springs Mounted Police Search and Rescue Unit, which routinely pulls hikers off area trails. While some team members comforted Beau to keep him calm, others developed a plan and fabricated a hoist system to safely lift Beau out of the drain via a maintenance hole cover. “After a bunch of high-fives and head pats (for Beau) the group posed for a photo,” police said on social media. Beau was later released to his owner.
NEXT STAR: The Palm Springs Walk of The Stars is honoring local musician, composer, and producer Mikael Healey with its 450th star next week. Healey is a master pianist, composer, producer, and vocalist who has entertained internationally in showrooms from Las Vegas to Europe and locally across the Coachella Valley In addition to performing at Melvyn’s Sunday Jam since 2007, the longtime resident also supports new performers and fundraises for local non-profits including Angel View and SafeHouse of the Desert. The star will be unveiled at a ceremony on Monday, April 11, at 3 p.m. at 100 South Palm Canyon Drive.
HEAT, WIND ADVISORIES: The high temperatures this week aren’t going anywhere, causing the National Weather Service to issue a heat advisory that will be in place from 11 a.m. today through 6 p.m. Friday. Peak temperatures are expected through Saturday at just under 100 degrees. It’s not just going to be hot; it will be windy, too, with the Coachella Valley under a wind advisory through 8 p.m. this evening. Cooler temperatures are expected next week.
? Pet of the week
MEET LOLA: Each week, The Post partners with Animal Samaritans to feature one of the many animal companions ready for a new home at the shelter. This week we invite you to meet Lola, a 10-month-old Chihuahua/Terrier mix who arrived at the shelter with her litter of puppies. The puppies are now eating independently, and mommy Lola is now ready to relax in a loving forever home. Volunteers report she is friendly, playful, and affectionate and has a fondness for toys. If anyone is interested in Lola, they can visit the no-kill shelter, located at 72307 Ramon Rd. in Thousand Palms, for a meet-and-greet and fill out an adoption application. Shelter hours are Monday through Saturday, 10 a.m. until 12 p.m. and then 1 p.m. until 4:30 p.m.
? Today’s events
- The Palm Springs Library hosts Preschool Story Time starting at 10:30 a.m.
- Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters are meeting for a cooking class in Indian Wells at 5 p.m.
- The Palm Springs City Council meets in regular session starting at 5:30 p.m.
- VillageFest is happening Downtown, starting at 6 p.m. Also, there’s free admission at the Palm Springs Art Museum.
- The Ben Rosenblum Trio performs at Jazzville, at the Agua Caliente Casino’s Cascade Lounge, at 7 p.m.
- Dezart Performs continues its presentation of Every Brilliant Thing. It lasts through April 10.
For more events in Palm Springs, check the complete community calendar. Want your event listed? Just click here.
? What to watch for
- The Friends of the Palm Springs Library Book Sale begins Friday at 10 a.m. and continues on Saturday.
- The Palm Springs Gay Men’s Chorus performs Friday through Sunday at the Palm Springs Art Museum’s Annenberg Theater. Razzle Dazzle Shine! features songs from the stage and screen.
- The Desert Art Center‘s next show and reception is Friday, starting at 5 p.m.
- The Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards (AKA The Chase) takes place Saturday, April 9. The annual gala, which is sold out, helps raise funds for DAP Health.
- The Havurah of the Desert is now accepting reservations for a 2nd-night community Seder, planned for Saturday, April 16. Reservations are $45 and can be made by going here.
- The next Lez Out Loud comedy show is slated for April 23. Emcee and Comedian Mina Hartong is joined by two other comedians during the event at Runway Bar and Grill.