DAILY BRIEFING: January 27, 2022

Good morning. It’s Thursday, January 27. Expect sunny skies today and a high of 74 degrees. First, some news you need to know …

‘Driveway extension’ on city hillside is actually a road that would threaten sheep, disrupt lives: Opponents

When is a driveway not a driveway? When it’s a request to grade 775 feet of unfinished roadway in the hills above the city on land that may be critical habitat for peninsular bighorn sheep.

That was the issue before the Palm Springs Planning Commission Wednesday evening. Commissioners ultimately elected to punt consideration of the request to an “unspecified date” in the future.

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“We have very serious letters from the Oswit Land Trust, the Bighorn Institute, and state Fish and Wildlife,” said Kathy Weremiuk, who chairs the Commission. “I think we can assume that staff will take appropriate measures to address them before this matter comes back to us.”

Exactly when the proposal comes back for Planning Commission consideration is unknown. City staff will likely need months to explore whether the roadway on private land off South Camino Monte, first permitted in the 1960s, is on land deemed critical to sheep in the 197os.

For neighbors who spoke Wednesday evening and dozens of environmental activists who wrote letters or took to social media to alert the community about the proposal, it’s safe to say that if it never came back up for Planning Commission approval, it would be too soon.

Neighbors of the proposed “driveway extension” claimed it was disguised as road construction aimed at making access to future hillside homes easier and that allowing it would disrupt the quality of life in the neighborhood known as The Mesa. Oswit Land Trust members, state officials, and Bighorn Institute representatives pointed to the fact the land could actually be part of an area deemed critical habitat for the endangered sheep.

“This would result in years of construction noise, dust, and uncertainty,” said Daniel Caldwell, a South Camino Monte resident. “That’s just unacceptable. I believe the neighborhood we love and call The Mesa will simply call it unacceptable.”

Also raising eyebrows was the person asking to do the grading. John Wessman, one of two developers accused in a bribery case involving former Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet, is the owner of the property. The roughly 18 acres that contain the roadway was plotted for three homes in 1969 but never developed. Wessman was indicted in 2019 but had charges dropped in 2020.

Wessman did not address the Planning Commission Wednesday evening, but city staff did initially recommend approval of the permit in a 33-page report reviewed by Commission members. In the report, they acknowledged that the roadway would be used to access future hillside homes but said the permit is allowed since Wessman is only seeking to improve the “eroded and deteriorated” roadway at this time.

However, some who spoke during public comments Wednesday evening said the permit should not be granted without an environmental review that considers not only the sheep habitat but the entirety of what was originally proposed as a development known as Camino Del Monte.

“Why would you separate building homes and building driveways?” asked Scott Connelly, a Palm Springs resident who said he hikes in the area. “If the homes are not built, for whatever reason, then you have a road to nowhere. That’s poor planning.”



PERFORMANCE CANCELED:  The upcoming performance of Les Miserables, scheduled to begin its run at Palm Canyon Theatre Friday evening, has been canceled, and it has nothing to do with COVID-19. Se Layne, managing director of the theater, said in a letter to the community that the royalty company that holds rights to the performance is restricting a large number of shows in its catalog, including Les Miserables. That means the curtain cannot go up on the local performance. “We are storing all the custom-built costumes, sets, and props, and all the cast is on board when the royalties become available again,” Layne wrote. “We are all proud and excited for you to see and hear this beautiful production.” Ticketholders are encouraged to call the box office at 760-323-5123 to discuss their options.

PEEPING TOM REPORTS: Palm Springs police are looking for information regarding a suspected peeping tom reported in the area of East Palm Canyon Drive and South Sunrise Way. Police said Wednesday that, “In the recent days, PSPD has investigated a few incidents of a reported peeping tom in the area… This individual has been seen peering into windows in what is believed to be an attempt to catch a glimpse of his unsuspecting victims.” Police described the suspect white male adult, between 65 and 75 years old, who is approximately 5-feet-5- inches tall and between 150 and 180 pounds. He is said to have short bushy blonde and white hair, with a blonde mustache and thin white beard. The suspect’s vehicle has been described as a black, two-door sports car, with black and red seats, and black and chrome rims. Investigators are looking for any information that could lead to the identity of the suspect and are asking the public’s help in reporting suspicious behavior immediately. Anyone who witnesses suspicious behavior or believes they know who the suspect can call the non-emergency number at 760-327-1441.

CAMPUS SUPPORT CONFIRMED: The College of the Desert Board of Trustees has confirmed its support for building a new Palm Springs campus and automotive education facility called “Roadrunner Motors,” officials announced Wednesday. During their Jan. 21 board meeting, trustees also expressed interest in visiting city council meetings within their districts to provide updates on various projects for campuses located in Palm Desert, Cathedral City, Mecca/Thermal, Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs, COD spokeswoman Jessica Enders said, adding that members of the board will meet regularly with the college’s counsel and staff to ensure projects move forward and to check the spending of funds. The various projects, which include expansion, repair and modernization of campuses, are funded by Measure B, which was voted on in 2004, and Measure CC, which was voted on in 2016. The two measures provided the school with $924.3 million, she said. “Faculty involvement, feedback on the plans and a robust assessment of community needs are fundamental to a successful design process and will result in the best educational services to our students and community,” Superintendent Martha Garcia said.


MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers 14 classes and programs today, starting at 8 a.m.. You can find a complete list of all today’s activities online here.

WOMEN’S CHAT: The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert offers a chat group for all women — no matter how you identify — to discuss topics of interest and find connections every Thursday at 10:30 a.m. You can find information about the event here.

STORY TIME: Librarian Nancy Valdivia reads stories, sings songs and shows early learning concepts (Wednesdays in Spanish and Thursdays in English), starting at 10:30 a.m. You can watch the videos on YouTube here

SMALL HOTELS: The city’s Small Hotel Tourism Business Improvement District Advisory Board meets at 4 p.m. Complete information about the meeting, including an agenda, can be found here.

FOOD AVAILABLE: FIND Food Bank distributes food in the city today at a community food bank, 610 S. Belardo Rd., between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m., and at the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center,  480 West Tram View Rd., from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m. A complete calendar of food distribution in the community this month is available here.

FREE MUSEUM ADMISSION: The Palm Springs Art Museum offers free admission from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Tickets are required and can be obtained here.

CITY COUNCIL: The Palm Springs City Council meets in regular session starting at 5:30 p.m., following a closed session at 3:30 p.m. A complete agenda and participation instructions can be found here. A preview of the meeting can be found in The Post here.

VILLAGEFEST: The city’s weekly outdoor street fair takes place at 6 p.m. on Palm Canyon Drive downtown. The event includes vendor booths on both sides of the street, which is closed to vehicular traffic.


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 participate in 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.

NEXT ART EXHIBIT: The Desert Art Center in Palm Springs opens one of the largest shows of the season on Friday, Feb. 4, with all new works from gallery artists plus an art pop-up in the Studio Gallery featuring the work of Janis Buller and Cathy Parker. Every art lover is welcome to join on the 4th from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. for refreshments and the largest selection of local fine art in the Coachella Valley. DAC is located at 550 North Palm Canyon Dr. in Uptown Palm Springs. Community support feeds the organization’s outreach to schools with art classes and scholarships.

AWARDS GALA: Tickets are on sale now for the Palm Springs Black History Committee’s annual Black History Awards Gala, to be held at the Hilton Ballroom, 400 East Tahquitz Canyon Way, on Saturday Feb. 5. The gala is the committee’s way of recognizing individuals, groups, and local and corporate businesses contributing to the success and achievements of African Americans and our society. This year’s event begins at 6 p.m. with a silent auction and cocktail hour. Tickets start at $75 and can be purchased at this site.

BIKE EVENT: Registration for the annual Tour de Palm Springs, planned for Feb. 12, remains open. The event features walking and cycling routes, some as long as 100 miles, kicking off 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.

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