City will work to move homeless services center out of Baristo Park neighborhood

Residents and business owners in a Palm Springs neighborhood calling for the relocation of a facility that provides services for the homeless will get what they want, but exactly when remains unknown.

The Palm Springs City Council voted 5-0 Thursday evening to push out a decision on the renewal of an 18-month conditional use permit for Well in the Desert, 441 S Calle Encilia, hoping to buy time for city staff to work with multiple stakeholders to find both a temporary new location for the facility and to make recommendations for a larger location that might support additional services. Those recommendations are due in late April.

“I think it’s abundantly evident that the location is not working and that we have to find a different location,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton before the vote. “The location has to change. It’s not working with the interactions with the neighbors and the interactions with downtown.”

Clients at Well in the Desert find respite from the desert climate, food, and clothing at the organization’s Palm Springs facility.

During a public hearing earlier in the evening, neighbors of the facility near Baristo Park decried a continued rise in disturbing incidents they say have turned their neighborhood into the “wild, wild west.”

“The decline in the quality of life in my neighborhood has diminished,” said one resident of the area as she addressed the City Council by phone. “I no longer feel safe in my own home.”

She told the City Council she has witnessed drug use, public sex, defecation, vandalism and thefts by individuals experiencing homelessness who gather in her neighborhood after possibly visiting Well in the Desert.

Other residents who spoke during the hearing, as well as Palm Springs Police Department Capt. Mike Kovaleff, confirmed the rise in crime and disturbing behavior since the facility moved to the neighborhood in 2017. Landlords told the Council of losing tenants, and business owners reported suffering thousands of dollars in losses to theft and declining business as customers shy away. Many pleaded with city leaders to revoke the facility’s permit or work to move it to another location.

“Palm Springs is a destination town,” said Mark Roznoski, owner of Grocery Outlet at 350 S Palm Canyon Dr, who said he has lost up to $84,000 due to shoplifting in the past year. “When we have tourists that are afraid to walk downtown and walk back to their hotels rooms they ask why we don’t do anything about it, we have to tell them our hands are tied.”

Moving the facility, which serves approximately 250 clients each day, was supported by Well In The Desert’s leadership, and among the recommendations by city staff during the first formal review of the permit since September 2019.

“We are not married to that site,” said Arlene Rosenthal, president of the Well in the Desert Board of Directors. “Our people need help, not punishment. Some in the community want our clients thrown out of the city. But we’ve been a positive resource for thousands of people every year. We’re not a hindrance to the city.”


BRIEFLY

HOMICIDE UPDATE: Palm Springs police will hold a Zoom meeting to discuss the Jan. 25 murder of a 58-year-old resident of the Racquet Club Estates neighborhood on Tuesday, March 30, at 5:30 PM. The female victim was discovered dead in her home after her wife, who was out of town, told neighbors she was not answering texts. More information on the meeting is available here.

STATUE LEGAL ACTION: A citizens’ group seeking to prevent the city from installing a 26-foot-high statue of actress Marilyn Monroe on the street leading up to the Palm Springs Art Museum is asking a judge to step in. The Committee to Relocate Marilyn (CReMa) filed a petition last week in Riverside County Superior Court, claiming the city is not within its rights to close Museum Way. The statue is slated to be installed April 25, one month before a status hearing is scheduled in the court.

NEW FIREFIGHTERS: Five new firefighters/paramedics and three promotions were celebrated Tuesday by the Palm Springs Fire Department. Brandon Rigg, Frederico Paz, Ross Laird, Brian Mushrush and Patrick McClellan are new to the department, while Josh Alvarez, Matt Hein and Dan Rowles were promoted to engineer/paramedic. All personnel were sworn in by Chief Kevin Nalder and had their badges pinned by family members.

NONSTOP TO VEGAS: Nonstop flights between Palm Springs and Las Vegas will return in May, the city and Southwest Airlines announced Thursday. The new year-round Las Vegas service will initially operate once a day on Thursdays, Fridays, Sundays, and Mondays starting May 9. In June, Southwest will expand the route and provide Coachella Valley residents with one daily non-stop flight to Las Vegas seven days a week.

STUDENTS RETURNING: In-class learning will begin in phases for students up to eighth grade immediately after the Palm Springs Unified School District’s two-week Spring break ends. Starting April 12, students in grades K-2 will return to class two days a week; beginning April 19, grades 3-6 will return; and on April 26, students in grades seven and eight come back inside district buildings. Dates for the return of high school students are yet to be determined.


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WEEKEND EVENTS

OPEN/CLOSED: Restaurants (including indoor dining), shops and services, movie theaters, gyms, parks, farmers’ markets, hiking trails, the Air Museum, and golf courses are all open with some at limited capacity. The Palm Springs Aerial Tram is also open at limited capacity, but tickets need to be purchased two weeks ahead of time. A full list of entertainment options can be found on this Facebook page.

ALL WEEKEND: Desert X art installations are on display throughout the Coachella Valley, including several within the Palm Springs city limits. The free event runs through May 16. A map of the installations can be found here. Some require reservations to view.

ALL WEEKEND: The Agua Caliente Casino downtown is open at limited capacity, with masks and social distancing required.

ALL WEEKEND: The Palm Canyon Roadhouse, 535 S. Palm Canyon Dr., has live evening entertainment in a new Backyard Rock Patio.


HELP FOR FOOD SAMARITANS

During this entire month, 20 percent of net USPS, UPS, and FedEx transactions at Postal Palm Springs will be donated to AAP – Food Samaritans. This is the first promotion of its kind to be arranged for the local nonprofit dedicated to providing nutritional support to improve the quality of the lives of low-income people living with HIV/AIDS and other chronic illnesses.


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