A proposed increase in fees paid by the city’s cannabis dispensary businesses will be phased in instead of hitting business owners all at once this year, the Palm Springs City Council decided Thursday evening.
In a 5-0 vote to approve increases in several city fees starting in July, council members elected to split a nearly $10,000 increase in cannabis licensing fees evenly over the next three years. The hikes are necessary, city staff explained, to pay for two additional code enforcement officers who will monitor both retail cannabis stores and grow operations in the city.
“I am concerned that we are moving forward a bit too drastically …,” said District 1 Councilmember Grace Garner during Council debate on the fees following a public hearing. “I am concerned for some of those businesses on the smaller side. They are not the businesses that came into town with millions of dollars already. We have quite a diverse group of cannabis businesses in the city right now.”
The issue came to a head earlier this week, when dispensary owners met with elected officials at a Cannabis Task Force meeting, sharing many of the same concerns Garner outlined Thursday evening. Some dispensary owners who spoke Thursday called for an increase in fines for businesses who violate city cannabis ordinances instead of an increase in fees businesses pay.
“It is an awful lot to pay,” said Joy Brown Meredith, owner of Joy of Life Wellness Center, 142 W. Oasis Rd. “A lot of people might not realize that the cannabis business is hurting right along with everybody else. You might hear different stories from others because they don’t want investors to know about their business being off.”
City staff, however, countered that there has been no slowing in the tax revenue from dispensaries. Palm Springs collected $2.8 million in sales tax revenue from dispensaries in the last fiscal year and expects to collect $3.3 million next fiscal year.
“Cannabis sales are booming and have boomed throughout the pandemic,” Assistant City Manager Marcus Fuller told the Council. “We have an obligation to do site inspections and monitor a whole host of regulations.
“If you don’t add staff to address growing cannabis operations throughout the city you will be pulling code enforcement officers form other citywide issues.”
Council members voiced support for providing money for those enforcement officers in next year’s budget without paying for them directly with the proposed large fee hikes.
“The cannabis industry, like some others, clearly needs regulation,” said Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton, who represents District 5. “The potential for problematic activity is something we know. We’ve encountered it in our community.
“But a fee increase on the order of magnitude of more than doubling and coming close to tripling certainly calls for the need of phasing. I can certainly support spreading out this very significant increase in fees over a longer period of time.”
Also during the Council meeting:
- City Manager Justin Clifton announced the city has secured a laser light show for July 4, and is planning multiple events at various locations throughout the city to celebrate the holiday
- Middleton instructed city staff to examine a rule change for City Council meetings that would prevent what happened when the Council voted 3-2 to cancel the city’s annual fireworks show on May 6. At that meeting, approval of funding for the fireworks was placed on the consent agenda (used to approve multiple items at once), but pulled by District 3 Councilmember Geoff Kors for further discussion by councilmembers, but not the public. After that discussion, the Council voted against the funds, putting an end to a show held for the past five decades. Middleton proposed Thursday evening that any item pulled from the consent agenda in the future be set for a vote at a later meeting, “at which time everyone in our community would be fully aware of the debate that was emerging and be able to speak in a timely fashion.”
- The Council gave the go-ahead for VillageFest to begin again on July 1. That story was last covered in The Post here
- The Council approved seeking bids to demolish an abandoned hotel project at 1875 N. Palm Canyon Dr. The former Garden Vista Hotel was supposed to become Tova Hotel and Beach Club, but the developer failed to move forward with the project, then declared bankruptcy. That story was reported in The Post here on Thursday
- Clifton made the formal announcement that Assistant City Manager Marcus Fuller (quoted above) has been named the next city manager of Rialto. Fuller’s last day is expected to be June 17. Clifton also made the formal announcement that Police Chief Bryan Reyes will retire in August. That story was reported in The Post here on May 21.
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POLICE PROMOTIONS: The Palm Springs Police Department announced three new sergeant promotions Thursday. They were:
- Sgt. Cherie Miller, who came to the department 2018 after eight years with the Azusa Police Department where she was a patrol corporal. Sgt. Miller was the first Palm Springs PD officer serving as the Tobacco Grant School Resource Officer where she emphasized to school aged children the dangers of smoking and vaping. Sgt. Miller is now assigned to the patrol division.
- Sgt. Mike Delaney, who started in February 2006 as a dispatcher with the department, then became a police officer in July 2006. Sgt. Delaney has served as patrol officer, field training officer and motor officer. Sgt. Delaney is now assigned to the patrol division.
- Sgt. Pedro Nanez, who initially started with the department in 2005, then moved to the Escondido Police Department where he earned several awards including Officer of the Year. Sgt. Nanez returned to PSPD in 2016 and served as a patrol officer and field training officer. Sgt. Nanez is now assigned to the patrol division.
NEW BANNERS ON ORDER: Banners hanging in Downtown Palm Springs that have languished for years are getting renewed, thanks to the efforts of local business owners. Jeffrey Bernstein, owner of Destination PSP, reported Thursday that final designs have been submitted and 240 new banners will be printed after a fundraising effort. There are six different designs by Palm Springs artist Josh Agle, who goes by Shag, and has a shop 745 N. Palm Canyon Dr.
LISTENING SESSIONS: The Palm Springs Planning Department is inviting residents to participate in a series of four neighborhood community listening sessions conducted in English and Spanish to obtain input related to the future of Palm Springs via the city’s General Plan through the year 2040. The sessions will be held at community centers and an elementary school on four dates, from June 15-28, starting at 5:30 PM. Due to capacity limitations, pre-registration is required. To learn more about the sessions, or to register, turn here.
MORE OPENINGS: With COVID-19 cases decreasing and more than 80 percent of Palm Springs residents over the age of 12 now fully vaccinated, the city announced Thursday that City Hall and other facilities, including the lobbies at the Police and Fire departments, will re-open to the public for business again on June 1. Hours of operation are as follows:
- City Hall, 3200 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, 8AM–6PM Monday–Thursday
- The lobby at the Palm Springs Police Department, 200 S. Civic Drive, 8AM–5PM Monday–Thursday
The lobby at Palm Springs Fire Department, 300 El Cielo Road, 8AM–6PM Monday – Thursday
BIRD MISSING: Neighbors in the Tahquitz River Estates neighborhood are searching for their cockatiel, last seen on May 21. Cindy Diaz is asking anyone who may have seen Buddy to please call her at 760-668-9167. “To us he’s another member of our family and we miss him terribly,” Diaz said in a Facebook post Wednesday.
- MIZELL MUSIC: The Mizell House Band plays live music at The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, starting at 10:30 AM. The performance is usually streamed live on the Center’s Facebook page. More information is available here.
- VACCINES: Anyone 12 and older now qualifies for a COVID-19 vaccine in Riverside County. If you qualify, you can get one at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 North Avenida Caballeros, from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, and from 8:30 AM until 7 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Appointments are not required, and those age 12-17 need to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. You can also find a list of community providers such as pharmacies here.
- COPA REOPENING: Copa Nightclub announced that it is re-opening this weekend, starting tonight at 9 PM.
- FLEA MARKET: A flea market and food fest is held today through Sunday at 675 Crossley Rd. The venue will be open from 5PM-10PM all weekend and continue those hours every Friday and Saturday through September. Information can be found here.
- BRUNCH: Multiple venues offer drag brunch, champagne brunch, and more on weekends. View a complete list here.
- LIVE MUSIC: Many live music events are posted on this Facebook page, maintained by two Palm Springs residents since 2015.
Want to know about city and other municipal events? Road construction in your neighborhood? Building activity? Have something to report? The following links should help: