Housing development inches forward with additional conditions to protect endangered beetle

An 80-home development planned for South Palm Springs took another step forward Wednesday night after the Palm Springs Planning Commission approved additional measures to prevent potential damage to the habitat of a rare beetle.

Among the measures approved by the Commission, the developer, EHOF Canyon View LLC, and an environmental group, Oswit Land Trust, must work with a city-hired biologist to identify and protect habitat vital to the endangered Casey’s June beetle prior to construction. Where the habitat will be disturbed, the parties are required to identify replacement materials that are indigenous to the area.

The Canyon View Courts project — situated on 13.5 acres at the southwest corner of East Palm Canyon Drive and Matthew Drive — had been denied by the Planning Commission twice before. In 2016 and 2017 its members voted against the development before the Palm Springs City Council finally approved it on appeal, as long as mitigations were made. Those mitigations were at the center of the discussion Wednesday as the current Planning Commission considered approving final plans for the development.

“We can’t hold the applicant back for months on end,” Commissioner J.R. Roberts said during discussion prior to a unanimous vote on the additional mitigations. “We can trust this to a biologist and then send it off to staff.”

Opponents said earlier this week they were not opposed to the project. Instead, they simply wanted protections for native plants and trees vital to the beetle and other wildlife on the property. The beetle, found only in Palm Springs, lives in a wash that currently exists in a required setback for the project. That wash was at one point slated to be replaced with a concrete storm channel, but the channel is no longer needed since Riverside County plans to build underground pipes to divert potential flood water away from the land.

Members of the land trust, including its president, Jane Garrison, were among a half dozen people to speak out against grading of the wash during public testimony Wednesday evening. Their comments followed those from representatives of the developer, who reminded Commission members the developer was not seeking approval for anything new, but simply hoping for approval of plans and mitigations that have worked their way through City Hall for years.

“This is not an opportunity to renegotiate the project,” said attorney Sarah Kleinberg. “There are no new or increased impacts, and no new information. Development of the entire site … has all been known for years. This has all been analyzed and approved.”

Garrison told Commission members it had been challenging to work with the developer during a city-requested meeting earlier this month. Still, she was hopeful for a positive outcome for both sides with further protective measures in place.

“If we all work together and come up with a plan and then bring it back to the Planning Commission, then we come up with something that everyone walks away and we feel like it’s a win-win,” she said. “Let’s look at every single option.”

Also at Wednesday’s meeting:

  • The Commission heard from developers of a stalled hotel project at 400 N. Palm Canyon Dr. The developer, Hall Group, had provided financing for the Andaz Hotel project, then acquired it after the previous developer defaulted on the loan in October 2019. Hall Group’s president told Commission members construction should start again this fall, with a grand opening slated for December 2022. The project is one of four stalled hotels in the city frustrating both city officials and residents.
  • The Commission approved construction of the first phase of what is planned as a 172,785-square-foot commercial marijuana greenhouse on city property on the east side of Interstate 10.


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