DAILY BRIEFING: November 15, 2021

Good morning. It’s Monday, November 15. Expect sunny skies and a high near 91 degrees today. First, some news you need to know …

Council to talk reparations, COD campus, homeless center, Orchid Tree this week

Multiple hot button issues are on the agenda for the Palm Springs City Council when it meets Thursday evening.

Among the items the Council will discuss:

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  • What reparations for the city’s African-American and Black community would look like and who might qualify to benefit from them;
  • How to deal with an apparent lack of communication between College of the Desert (COD) officials and city leaders over a planned COD campus in Palm Springs that appears to be stalled;
  • A potential update on the city’s plan to take over the purchase of a property in the northern part of the city that could be used for a homeless services center; and
  • Amendments to agreements between the city and developers of the Orchid Tree Hotel project that could help the project move forward.

Reparations have been part of discussions and decisions surrounding an apology for the city’s actions in Section 14 and the removal of a statue of a former mayor from in front of City Hall. Details of any such program are not being discussed on Thursday. Rather, the topic of a “broad conceptual framework” for a reparations program is on the agenda.

The College of the Desert campus issue is coming before the Council following comments from Palm Springs Mayor Christy Holstege in front of the Desert Community College District Board of Trustees last week. Holstege is among a growing number of city leaders and West Valley residents who have yet to hear whether COD’s new leadership plans to move forward with building a promised college campus in the city with bond monies approved by voters in 2016. The college’s former president, in a video viewed Thursday by The Post, has alleged, “College of the Desert is now a tool or a pawn or a device to further the political interest of some of the elected officials in the Coachella Valley.”

The Council will consider sending a letter to the college on Thursday. A draft of that letter can be found in a staff report here.

The city’s plan for a homeless services center on property in the north end has proven controversial, as the decision upset neighbors in that part of the city who for years have pleaded with the city to focus on bringing basic services and shopping to the area instead of allowing cannabis shops and liquor stores. It has also shown to be complicated, as questions arose about how and why the potential buyer would be offering for the city to assume the purchase contract he negotiated.

In an email earlier this week, City Manager Justin Clifton said many details about the purchase of the property still need to be worked out, but that the city is committed to working in a timely manner in order not to lose the opportunity.

“I would say one concern is escalating costs,” he wrote when asked about the fact industrial real estate prices have been escalating and how that factored in the city’s decision to pursue the deal. “[A] far greater concern is simply losing the opportunity altogether.

“If this were a purchase of vacant land, losing one opportunity would not be as impactful because there are other vacant land sites available. But a parcel that already has existing structures that are the right size and ready for retrofit and sufficient space to develop the site for a reasonable price is a very unique opportunity.”

The Orchid Tree project, at 261 Belardo Rd., is one of four hotel developments that had stalled in the city, drawing the ire of residents and city officials alike. In March, the city notified the hotel developers — including the Orchid Tree, Dream Hotel, Andaz (now a Thompson Hotel), and TOVA hotels — of its intent to seek judicial relief if the developments were not re-commenced or their nuisances otherwise abated.

The TOVA hotel was subsequently abated by its owner through the demolition of the hotel project’s shell. The Andaz, now a Thompson Hotel, has recently re-commenced construction and is expected to open in late 2022 or early 2023. And, the owners of the Dream Hotel have recently met with city staff and the City Attorney’s Office to submit revised project plans in order to move forward with that hotel project.

An agreement appears to be in place for forward progress on The Orchid Tree project, according to documents found here.

More information: A complete agenda and participation instructions for the City Council meeting, held at 5:30 PM, can be found here.


Visitors to the new Downtown Park walk past its waterfall feature last week but found no water flowing.

PARK PROBLEM: Less than a month after the unveiling of the city’s new Downtown Park, a major feature has experienced a malfunction. Visitors to the park last week found water turned off on the waterfall feature. A city spokesperson said Friday the water feature, made to mimic the Tahquitz Canyon waterfall, experienced a mechanical difficulty recently. It is hoped that the issue will be resolved before the end of the month.Palm Springs officially cut the ribbon on the park October 21, inviting the community to enjoy the 1.5-acre facility two years after breaking ground near Belardo Road and Museum Way.

STUDENT VACCINES: The Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) will offer free COVID-19 vaccination clinics for students age 5 and older and their families at multiple locations this week. In Palm Springs, first doses of vaccines will be available on Tuesday from 3 PM until 7 PM at the Palm Springs High School theater. The school is located at 2401 E. Baristo Rd. Clinics are also planned for Cathedral City, Desert Hot Springs, and Rancho Mirage high schools this week, in addition to one at the District Service Center, 150 District Center Dr., December 1 from 3 PM until 7 PM.

Paisley Ramstead was recently brought on as the first staff member at Oswit Land Trust. Ramstead will serve as staff biologist and executive assistant.

OSWIT CELEBRATION, NEW STAFF: The organization that rallied to purchase Oswit Canyon from a developer celebrated its accomplishment during an event Saturday in Palm Springs. Save Oswit Canyon, formed in 2016 by Jane Garrison, is now know as Oswit Land Trust. Its leaders invited donors and volunteers to gather at the William Holden Estate to celebrate not only the final steps in the canyon’s purchase, but the birth of the land trust in the Coachella Valley, and to inform the community of future projects. The organization had more reason to celebrate recently after hiring its first staff member. Paisley Ramstead started last month as staff biologist and executive assistant. Ramstead brings extensive experience to the organization and is one of the most knowledgeable snake and reptile experts in the Coachella Valley. She leads interpretive hikes once a month at Whitewater and conducts field surveys for a local university, and is also the founder of the Palm Springs Reptile Appreciation group.

PELOSI PASSES THROUGH: Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi and more than a dozen members of Congress were the guests at a dinner hosted by Palm Springs City Councilmember Geoff Kors and his husband James Williamson on Saturday. The event was a fundraiser for the Equality Political Action Committee (Equality PAC), which serves as a political arm of the Congressional LGBTQ Equality Caucus and is dedicated to the full legal and societal equality for LGBTQ Americans. Tickets for the event ranged from $250 general admission to $5,000 for host recognition. 

STRUT NOMINATIONS: Nominations are still being accepted but will close soon for the STRUT Awards, slated to be handed out next month in Palm Springs, organizers said last week. The STRUT Awards are a people’s choice voting event designed to honor members of the local LGBTQ+ industry.  Nominations are accepted in more than two dozen categories, followed by online voting. Winners will be announced and celebrated on December 12 during an event at Margaritaville Palm Springs beginning at 6 PM. Tickets for the STRUT Awards Gala, Presented by OutAt.TV, range from $35 to $80 for individuals, and $260 to $600 for tables of eight. They can be purchased here.


COVID CARING: A weekly, peer-led Zoom space sponsored by the LBGTQ Center of the Desert is open at 11 AM to anyone who wishes to discuss what it means to care for ourselves and others in the times of the global COVID health crisis. Discussions range from the light and fun to the deep and moving. Pre-registration is required, and can be done at this site.

MIZELL EVENTS: The Mizell Center offers a widows and widowers program, chair yoga, bridge, and other classes and programs today, starting at 8 AM. The center is located at 480 South Sunrise Way. A complete list of today’s events can be found here.

ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW: The city’s Architectural Review Committee meets at 5:30 PM via Zoom. Details about viewing or participating in the meeting can be found here.

NOMINATIONS OPEN: The Palm Springs Human Rights Commission continues to accept nominations today for its annual Community Service Awards that recognize individuals and organizations for “Promoting Universal Human Rights Close to Home.” Information about how to nominate a person or organization can be found here. The deadline for submitting nominations is Wednesday, December 1.


TALK OF THE TOWN: The next installment of the popular Talk of the Town series, presented by ONE-PS, is coming up on Tuesday. ONE-PS invites the community to join Julie Warren and David Gray, co-founders of The LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert, as they speak about the rich and deep fabric of our shared LGBTQ+ history. Also joining during the discussion will be Palm Springs Pride President & CEO Ron De Harte, who will share news about the establishment of an LGBTQ+ Wall Of Honor and monument. More information is available at the Facebook event page here.

SPEAKER SERIES: The next event in the 3rd Wednesday Speakers Series is Wednesday at 5:30 PM at Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way. A screening of L.A. A Queer History – Where It All Began, a film by Gregorio Davila, will precede a moderated talk with the filmmaker. The screening is afree event. More information is available here.

TURKEYS AVAILABLE: Erkies Electrical Heating and Air Conditioning owner Dane Feldman is once again providing free turkeys for those in need in the community. This year, 400 Thanksgiving dinner tables throughout greater Palm Springs will have a turkey, thanks to Feldman. The giveaway will be held on Thursday in the parking lot of the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, beginning at 3 PM.

NEXT PLAY AT PALM CANYON: The Del Shores and Palm Springs love affair continues with the Palm Springs premiere of This Side of Crazy, slated for this weekend at Palm Canyon Theatre, starting Thursday. The performance follows the successful run of Shores’ Sordid Lives in September. Tickets are $29.50, and $15.00 for students. They can be purchased online at PalmCanyonTheatre.org, via phone at 760-323-5123, or at the box office, open Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM until 4 PM. A complete preview of the play can be found in The Post here.

SINATRA CELEBRATION: Palm Springs Point of View, a YouTube channel that covers “Eats, Art and Culture” in Palm Springs and elsewhere in the Coachella Valley, is holding its next Martinis and Moxie event on Friday at the Palm Springs Cultural Center, 2300 E. Baristo Rd., at 6 PM. Tickets for that event are available here.

DESERT WINDS OPENS SEASON: Desert Winds Freedom Band presents its Fall Concert titled A Night on Broadway on Saturday, November 20 at 7 PM. Tickets for the performance, held at Temple Isaiah, 332 West Alejo Rd., can be purchased here. The band returned to in-person rehearsals in September and is embarking on its 20th Anniversary concert season under the leadership of Artistic Director Dean McDowell. You can learn more about the band and listen to recent virtual performances at its website here

BENEFIT RUNS: Registration for the city’s annual Wild Turkey Trot 5K is open now at runpalmsprings.com, as well as active.com and racewire.com. The event is held on Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 25, at 8 AM, and offers entrants a chance to get in some exercise before Thanksgiving dinner. It starts at 100 North Palm Canyon Drive. Registrants for the event receive a T-shirt, a medal, and more. The run benefits local charities. Questions? Feel free to contact Molly Thorpe, the race director, at 760-413-6508. Another Thanksgiving Day run, which benefits Martha’s Village and Kitchen, is being held virtually this year. More information on that event, sponsored by Fortem Financial, can be found here

DESERT JAM: The annual benefit for Palm Springs-based Well in the Desert — Desert Jam 2021: Jammin’ for the Well — is slated for Monday, December 6 at the Agua Caliente Resort Casino ballroom in Rancho Mirage at 6 PM. All proceeds benefit The Well’s work to feed and provide for those experiencing homelessness in our community. More information, including how to purchase tickets for the event can be found here or by calling 760-285-7297.

POLICE AND FIRE EVENT: The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce is taking reservations for its annual Police & Fire Appreciation Luncheon, held Tuesday, December 7, from 11:30 AM until 1 PM at the Palm Springs Convention Center. More information about tickets and sponsorship opportunities is available here.

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