What to watch for at this week’s Palm Springs City Council meeting
The Palm Springs City Council will meet in closed session starting at 3:30 p.m. and regular session starting at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday. It’s the second and final meeting this month and takes place virtually. Following are some highlights and brief explanations of what’s on the agenda, broken down by topic. The agenda, participation instructions, and how to view the meeting can be viewed here.
The biggest item on the Council’s agenda in weeks will likely take center stage as details of the future navigation center — a campus for homeless services in the north part of the city detailed here in November — are discussed under new business.
As approved by the Council last year in a 4-1 vote, the city will purchase an existing 47,000-square-foot facility along McCarthy Road for $5.9 million and then build temporary housing and services for those experiencing homelessness. Homeless advocates have been pleading with the city to create such a facility for years.
Councilmembers will be asked to approve a handful of requests surrounding the navigation center, including:
- A memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the city and Riverside County for some of the funding needed for the facility. The MOU serves as a basic framework for how both entities will bring the navigation center to life.
- An agreement with Martha’s Village and Kitchen to operate the services inside the navigation center. Martha’s has been at work in the city for years. Last year, the organization and the city established a smaller homeless services facility — called an access center — at the former Boxing Club.
- Authorization for City Manager Justin Clifton to execute any and all work needed to get the navigation center running and operational going forward.
City staff prepared a 37-page document with all the details of what the Council is discussing. You can view that document here.
HOUSING AND DEVELOPMENT
The second reading of changes to the city’s zoning rules that will aid developers of fulfillment centers is on the Council’s consent agenda — where several items are approved with one motion — and expected to be approved. The Council voted earlier this month to allow changes to the building requirements on land north of Interstate 10 that developers requested. The changes are primarily designed to allow taller buildings used for fulfilling retail orders or storing goods that will be distributed to area stores. Fulfillment centers have proven to be massive revenue generators for communities. If one opens in Palm Springs, it could double the city’s annual tax revenue.
A public hearing about an ordinance allowing for lot splits is scheduled. An urgent version of the ordinance was approved earlier this month to bring the city into compliance with a new state law — SB9. A regular ordinance is now on the table. If you’re interested in the details, The Post reported on the issue here.
Also on the consent agenda are two items allowing for the return of “subdivision improvement securities” to developers of two housing projects in the city. Municipalities usually keep the funds to assure developers complete needed improvements in or near their developments, such as streets and sewers. Developers of both the Vibe and Icon projects had earlier had most of those funds returned. Having satisfied all the requirements, they get the rest of their money back.
Authorization for work, studies, and equipment at Palm Springs International Airport — a majority paid for by the Federal Aviation Administration — is up for the Council’s approval. Among the items the Council is expected to authorize funds for are:
- A required “hot spot study” will identify runway locations with a history or risk of potential collision or incursion.
- The purchase of a new runway sweeper since the current sweeper, a 2004 Elgin Sterling SC8000, has reached the end of its useful life and must be replaced.
- Completion of a required “wildlife hazard assessment” — where a qualified biologist assesses how much risk there is that birds will strike airplanes at the airport.
The city is also looking to improve Rim Road in the Araby Cove neighborhood (you can read the staff report here), hoping to appease neighbors who voiced concerns about a proposed Araby Drive Bridge project a decade ago. The Council is expected to approve around $300,000 to explore widening the road instead of building a bridge, even though widening the road would be problematic.
There are still 22 homes of an 87-home tract — known as the Arnico Tract — located south of East Via Escuela, between North Whitewater Club Drive and Gene Autry Trail, that need to be disconnected from their septic systems and added to the city sewer system. Doing that starts with a city consultant’s design, bid phase services, and construction phase services. Authorization for funding that initial work is on the Council agenda.
Naming rights for parts of the city’s historic Plaza Theatre are mentioned in a staff report for an MOU between the city and the organization raising funds for the project expected to be approved on the consent agenda. The Palm Springs Plaza Theatre Foundation is spearheading the fundraising. The agreement under consideration on the agenda would see the city release some funds to help the organization in its efforts and contribute additional funds in the years to come. It would also grant some naming rights to help raise funds — such as allowing donors to have their names on seats or have the stage named after somebody — but not without the approval of either the city manager or City Council.
ALSO OF NOTE
A public hearing is scheduled to allow comments on proposed redistricting for City Council seats. The process was kicked off following the completion of the 2020 Census, as required by law. You can find more details in this earlier report.
Guide Dogs of the Desert (GDOD) routinely trains dogs in the city and transports them in vans equipped with specialized remote temperature monitoring systems. Those vans have been inspected by the Palm Springs Police Department, which found the monitoring system “meets or exceeds the rigorous standards required for K-9 police vehicles.” The organization has asked the city to amend its rules around keeping pets in parked vehicles to allow their dogs to be kept in the vans when parked in the city. The Council is expected to approve amendments to city regulations that allow for unattended animals in GDOD vans.
GARNER SEEKING RE-ELECTION: Mayor Pro Tem Grace Garner said Saturday she will seek re-election for the District 1 Palm Springs City Council seat she first won in 2019. If re-elected, she would stand to become the first Latina to serve as the city’s mayor. District 1 includes the city’s eastern edges, spanning from the Desert Highland Gateway Estates neighborhood in northern Palm Springs to Demuth Park in the south. It is a “minority-majority” district, specifically formed to bolster the voice of minority voters when the city transitioned from at-large to by-district elections starting with the 2019 election. Garner defeated three other candidates for the District 1 seat in November 2019. If re-elected, Garner said she hopes to continue making the needs of her constituents a priority, even if it means going against the Council majority. “I think the whole point of this type of system is we have not heard from the people in my district or some of the other districts,” she said. “When you change that and focus on what the community wants, you truly hear the community’s voice. I don’t always know better than them, and who am I to say I know better? I have to have them in my thoughts when I make any decision.” FOR THE COMPLETE STORY, CLICK HERE.
BERNSTEIN ENTERS RACE: Jeffrey Bernstein, owner of the Destination PSP retail shop on North Palm Canyon Drive, announced Sunday he will seek one of three Palm Springs City Council seats being contested this year. Bernstein, who is currently chair of the city’s Measure J Oversight Commission and is active in multiple civic organizations, intends to run for the District 2 Council seat. That seat is currently occupied by Councilmember Dennis Woods, who has yet to announce whether he will seek re-election. FOR THE COMPLETE STORY, CLICK HERE.
NEXT STAR: A star on the Palm Springs Walk of the Stars honoring the late local ophthalmologist and philanthropist Dr. Albert T. Milauskas will be unveiled in February, it was announced this week. Milauskas, who died in 2016, moved to Palm Springs in the 70’s and built a multi-location practice, the Milauskas Eye Institute, which served thousands of patients. After the fall of the Soviet Union, he helped introduce modern cataract surgery to Lithuania and performed charitable work with free medical services. Milauskas was known for his work in helping the visually impaired and supporting the Guide Dogs of the Desert, for which he served as president of the board of directors. Dedication of the walk’s 448th star will be held at 11 a.m. on Feb. 22 at 891 North Palm Canyon Drive. His star is sponsored by the Milauskas family.
SCHOOL CALENDAR FEEDBACK: The Palm Springs Unified School District Calendar Advisory Committee is seeking feedback from parents and members of the community on the school calendar for this year as well as input for the calendar in future years. Among the questions in the feedback form are those pertaining to the length of holiday and seasonal breaks and when to start and end school years. The feedback form is available here in English and here in Spanish.
MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers multiple classes and programs today, starting at 8 a.m.. You can find a complete list of all today’s activities online here.
PARKS AND REC: The city’s Park and Recreation Commission meets at 5:30 p.m., virtually. Complete information on the meeting, including an agenda, is available here.
Need to get tested for COVID-19 but can’t find an at-home test and don’t know where to turn? Aside from asking your regular healthcare provider (if you have one), The Post maintains a list of places in and around the city that you can check. Click the following link to see the list, and please note the information is accurate at the time this email was sent, but may change.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
JUNIOR BLACK ACHIEVERS GUEST SPEAKER: Attorney Jason Buckner will offer a glimpse into the judicial system when he speaks to the Palm Springs Unified School District’s Junior Black Achievers program during a virtual meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 25. The event begins at 4 p.m.. More information about the Junior Black Achievers program can be found here, or you can email [email protected].
HBCU TOURS: The African American Parent Advisory Council (AAPAC) of the Palm Springs Unified School District recently announced two dozen students will be able to attend a tour of Historic Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) in April completely free of charge. The deadline for application to attend the tour is Jan. 31. Selected students will fly with approved chaperones to Washington DC and visit several HBCU’s and landmarks in the surrounding area. An application form is available here, and a permission slip for the tour is available here.
‘LEZ OUT LOUD’ SHOW: Tickets remain for Mina Hartong’s next Lez Out Loud performance remain. The show, planned for Feb. 9 at Runway Bar & Restaurant, 68300 Gay Resort Dr. in Cathedral City, benefits The L-Fund, a community service organization providing emergency financial assistance to cis and trans lesbians in crisis across the Coachella Valley since 2012. Interested in tickets? Head over to this page for details and prices.
BIKE EVENT: Registration for the annual Tour de Palm Springs, planned for Feb. 12, remains open. The event features both walking and cycling routes, some as long as 100 miles, kicking off at between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. All of the routes start and finish on South Palm Canyon Drive near Tahquitz Canyon Way. More information about the event, which draws up to 10,000 cyclists annually, can be found here.