Palm Springs Mayor Christy Holstege is asking the community to help combat misinformation on social media, especially when it comes to how the city is spending $10 million it received to address homelessness in the community.
“Just because you don’t know about something without doing research or asking does not mean it does not exist, nothing is happening or there is something nefarious afoot,” she wrote in a Facebook post on her personal page Wednesday. “I’ve seen too many posts lately accusing us of corruption or criminal activity. That is not acceptable and should not be the default mode of advocacy and engaging with the city.”
At issue are claims the city is mishandling millions in Homeless Housing, Assistance and Prevention (HHAP) grant money it received from the state during the 2019-2020 fiscal year. City leaders held a public forum in January 2020 seeking input from residents before submitting plans for use of the funds. At the time, many in the audience supported long-term solutions such as permanent housing, rehabilitation, and facilities that provide both. Some residents have since asked for greater transparency, claiming the city is failing to work with many organizations that can deliver what they asked for at the forum.
In her post Wednesday, Holstege issued an 850-word statement outlining exactly what the city and its partner agencies were doing with those funds and other monies being used to address what often amounts to a losing battle in communities across the country. She provided the following timeline of events:
• August 2020: City Council approved funding commitment of $3 million to County of Riverside for the Ivy Palm Hotel Project to create 75 new permanent supportive housing units.
• December 2020: County of Riverside notified City they were not successful in purchasing Ivy Palm Hotel.
• January 2021: City Council subsequently approved funding commitments totaling $4 million for affordable housing projects, including $1.4 million to Agave on Palm Canyon for 71 affordable housing units of which 25 units will be dedicated to housing those experiencing homelessness, and $2.4 million for Vista Sunrise II to create 61 new affordable housing units which include 29 units dedicated to those experiencing homelessness.
• January 2021: Gene Autry Site RFP (request for proposals) issued to affordable and homeless housing developers. HHAP funds may be utilized to assist with creating of homeless services and housing. Proposals are anticipated this month.
“Addressing homelessness remains and has always been a priority focus for the City Council,” she wrote. “With that said, since 2016 in partnership with Desert Healthcare District, a great deal has been accomplished.”
Among the dozens of replies to the mayor’s post, most were in agreement that nobody in the city benefits when residents are only getting their information from social media.
“The mayor and council have been nothing less than consistently transparent and forthcoming about every penny,” one commenter wrote. “Facebook makes it too easy for some random peckerwood who never pays attention, and only gets info through Facebook or other indirect/unreliable sources, to squawk and try to whip others into a frenzy.”
The issue of homelessness in the city, and solutions for the problem, have been the subject of numerous public meetings in the city in the past two months, ever since Police Chief Bryan Reyes revealed in late February that the county has been housing recently-released prisoners to quarantine from COVID-19 at a city hotel without informing city officials, and that many of those people eventually live on city streets. Since that revelation, City Council members called for an explanation from the county, business leaders expressed their frustrations, and citizens proposed multiple different approaches, including temporary housing and moving homeless services out of a South Palm Springs neighborhood.
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CACA CULPRIT SOUGHT: A homeowner in the Orchid Tree area is turning to the police and public for help after recording video that he believes shows a dog walker who has been disposing of pet waste in his yard for months. The property owner posted that video to social media in hopes anyone in the community can help identify the suspected propeller of poo. “We don’t know this man or ever seen him before and he doesn’t live in our street,” the homeowner wrote. “So I don’t know what his reasons could be.” Anyone with information is encouraged to contact police and not take the matter into their own hands.
WATER ASSISTANCE: Desert Water Agency (DWA) has doubled its water bill assistance amount, it was announced Wednesday. The agency, which has been providing a $100 annual credit to customers in need is now able to offer $200 annually. That $200 credit equates to roughly 20 percent of the average DWA customer’s annual water cost. The increased amount was approved by the DWA Board of Directors in response to financial difficulties faced by many in the community during the pandemic. More than $10,000 in water bill credits have been issued to DWA customers over the past 12 months. To check if you qualify for assistance, go here. If you’d like to contribute to the assistance fund, go here.
COUPON RESULTS: A coupon promotion offered by the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce to help support city restaurants is being hailed as a success. In a statement released Wednesday, Chamber leaders said the program, which ended April 30, netted $15,000 for more than 45 local restaurants. The Chamber offered a $10 coupon to customers ordering takeout to help the local eateries. Restaurants that participated were reimbursed for the coupon discount through support from the City of Palm Springs and other local businesses. The Chamber is in the process of running the same program for retail and personal businesses in Palm Springs, such as hair and nail salons. Coupons and a list of participating retail and personal care locations can be found on the chamber’s website. The $10 coupons are good for purchases over $30.
TRAFFIC ALERT: Roadwork associated with a new Riverside County health center is continuing on North Sunrise Way near East Tahquitz Canyon Way this week and next. Through Friday, the westbound curb lane on Tahquitz will be closed for sidewalk demolition and removals. Lane closure will be begin west of Sunrise on Tahquitz. The work will be performed from 7AM-3:30PM. All traffic control will be removed at the end of each work day. Next week, Andreas Road will be closed at Sunrise Way and to the west roughly 1,500 feet for the re-construction of the existing street. This closure will be in place 24 hours a day, Monday through Friday. The contractor is hopeful the work will only take five days. Meanwhile, the new median on Sunrise Way near the project has been completed. The median will be landscaped at the same time the health center’s landscaping is installed. A complete list of city road work and street closures can be found here. When completed this summer, the new health center will be triple the size of the county’s existing facility at 1515 North Sunrise Way.
- STORY TIME: “Read-To-Me Story Time” with Nancy Valdivia, the city’s children’s librarian, takes place at 10 AM this morning on YouTube and Facebook.
- T-SHIRT TOTE: Join Palm Springs Pubic Library’s librarian, Sharon Ballard, to learn how to repurpose T-shirts on Facebook or on the Library’s YouTube channel. The event gets underway at 2 PM.
- WASTE REDUCTION: The city’s Standing Subcommittee on Waste Reduction meets at 2 PM. There is no information available about how to join the meeting online.
- FOOD AVAILABLE: FIND Food Bank distributes food in the city today at two locations. A mobile market will be set up at 277 N Avenida Caballeros, between 3PM and 6PM, where it resides the first and third Thursday of every month. Food is also available at the community food bank, 610 S. Belardo Road, between 5 PM and 7 PM. That location is open every Thursday. A complete calendar of food distribution in the community is available here.
- CITY COUNCIL: The regular meeting of the Palm Springs City Council is held starting at 5:30 PM. Information about viewing that meeting and the complete agenda can be found here. Items up for discussion include early construction start times at a city park under development downtown, an alcohol license for a dinner club in South Palm Springs, and authorization to pay for a fireworks show on July 4. In closed session prior to the meeting, city officials are set to discuss terms for relocating homeless services provider Well In The Desert to the former Palm Springs Boxing Club near the city’s airport.
- OUTDOOR ART: 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.
- TRINI LOPEZ MOVIE: An award-winning documentary on the life and times of Trini Lopez continues daily showings at the Palm Springs Cultural Center/Camelot Theater, 2100 E Tahquitz Canyon Way. Lopez, who had a home in the Vista Las Palmas neighborhood, was a singer, guitarist, and actor who passed away in August 2020 from complications of COVID-19 at the age of 83. Show times are available here.
- VACCINES: Anyone 16 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 AM-5 PM through Friday. Appointments are encouraged, but not required, and can be reserved online at www.rivcoph.org/COVID-19-Vaccine. You can also find a list of community providers such as pharmacies here.