COD president promises Palm Springs campus will happen, offers no details; city prepares to hire outside legal firm
College of the Desert (COD) President Martha Garcia confirmed Wednesday morning there will be a campus built in Palm Springs, but she stopped short of being able to provide details, claiming further studies are needed.
“We are going to move forward,” she told a gathering of area business and community leaders at the Hyatt Palm Springs. “There will be a Palm Springs campus site built.”
That announcement drew applause from the audience, but also skepticism due to the fact Garcia, who was appointed to the role in August, has so far not responded to questions from city leaders and others about what, exactly, would happen to 29 acres COD purchased off Tahquitz Canyon Way with the intent of building a satellite campus.
During a question and answer session that followed her presentation to the Desert Roundtable, audience members asked Garcia for specifics about COD’s Palm Springs plans. They were seeking confirmation that the project, as touted during a 2016 campaign to approve the sale of nearly $600 million in bonds, would move forward as conceived. They also wanted to know what, exactly, COD had done to date after purchasing the property for $22 million.
“There’s a PR problem or some other problem going on here,” said J.R. Roberts, a former Palm Springs City Councilmember and current planning commissioner. “The community came together and fully embraced this project. We’re writing big checks every year, but we need specifics.
“There’s a major credibility problem with COD in this valley that has never existed before.”
Roberts was referring to reports in The Post last week that some current and former faculty at the college believe the college is being used as “a pawn or a device to further the political interest of some of the elected officials in the Coachella Valley.”
Garcia apologized for not being more communicative, and promised full transparency moving forward. Still, she said any specifics will have to wait. She said a “feasibility study” is needed to determine exactly what the cost to build the campus in Palm Springs would be prior to sending any architectural plans to the state for approval.
“It will be built where the old mall is at,” Garcia confirmed. “Will it be to the same size and scale as was previously shown? That I cannot promise.”
At issue for Garcia and others in leadership at COD, she said, is the need to examine all capital projects undertaken by the school. Yes, the money was approved by voters for the Palm Springs campus and other projects, she said, but it would not be prudent to move forward with any of them without doing studies on actual costs before showing renderings. A planned automotive campus in Cathedral City, which was cancelled to the surprise of city leaders there, was found to cost 70 percent more than originally thought, she said.
“I understand it’s disappointing,” she said of the news that the Cathedral City project was cancelled in the planned location. “But the elevation of that site increased the costs 70 percent. I’m responsible for the dollars you’ve entrusted us with. I didn’t feel that it should be built at that site.”
Garcia was able to confirm that educational programs discussed for the Palm Springs campus, including opportunities for students to study architecture, would be included in any project built here. Details of those plans will not be known, however, until she involves others in the discussions.
“Yes, the dream is gorgeous,” she said of campus renderings that have been produced so far. “But there are a lot of additional details needed.”
“There is an opportunity for us to rethink what additional features we will have here,” she added. “In doing the feasibility study we will be including faculty at a much greater level.”
Garcia also promised to make all documentation regarding a campus in the city available to Palm Springs elected officials and staff. She said she would try to make that happen prior to this evening, when the City Council is scheduled to consider authorizing up to $500,000 to pay an outside legal firm, “In order for the city to fully engage with COD and the community in discussions about the West End Campus.”
“It is vital that we collaborate, that we talk,” Garcia told the audience Wednesday morning. “Yes, I’m busy. But I’m open to talk to anyone.”
NEXT PROJECT FOR TURCO: Tracy Turco, an artist, designer, author, hotelier, entrepreneur and self-described style icon who has opened a number of boutique hotels in the city, has her next project in mind. Turco announced Wednesday she is planning to open a combination modernism museum, roller rink, bowling alley, and “disco pizza spot” in a building with two storefronts located at 370 and 380 North Palm Canyon Drive. “My imagination runs wild,” she wrote in a social media post, adding that she hopes to “bring the town the most fun spot for family, tourists, lovers, and the community.” Turco recently cut the ribbon on her latest project, the Tiki Hotel, adding to multiple other unique properties in town. No timeline for the project has been established.
BOGERT STATUE TO BE APPRAISED: The hot potato issue of removing a statue of former mayor Frank Bogert from city property fell into the lap of the city’s Public Arts Commission Wednesday evening, which voted to move forward with an appraisal of the statue but nothing else. The Commission was not debating whether the removal was appropriate. That decision was made by the Palm Springs City Council when it voted in September to start the legal process for removing and relocating the monument. Still, a handful of speakers who have opposed the statue’s removal from the outset spoke during the Commission’s public comment period, again urging that the statue remain in place. Read the complete story here.
POLICE BLOTTER: Curious about crime in Palm Springs? Our weekly Police Blotter tracks dozens of reports of felonies and misdemeanors in the city. Our latest report, for the week ending November 14, is available here.
FILM FEST AWARD: Jane Campion will be honored with the Director of the Year award at the Palm Springs International Film Awards for her film The Power of the Dog, festival organizers announced Wednesday. The awards will take place in person on Jan. 6 at the Palm Springs Convention Center and will kick off the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which will run until January 17. Campion is best known for her debut film The Piano, which saw her nominated for an Academy Award for best director — an honor bestowed on only seven women.
TURKEYS AVAILABLE TODAY: Erkies Electrical Heating and Air Conditioning owner Dane Feldman are 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 today in the Palm Springs Air Museum parking lot, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail, beginning at 3 PM.
FILL THE BUS: The 14th annual Fill The Bus Food Drive sponsored by SunLine Transit Agency is today at Ralph’s in Smoke Tree Village, 1733 East Palm Canyon Dr., from 7 AM to 7 PM. The event benefits FIND Food Bank and the Community Food Bank. Donations of canned goods and non-perishable food help support families and individuals across the Coachella Valley who are experiencing food insecurity.
MIZELL EVENTS: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers walking aerobics, jewelry making, Tai Chi, and more, starting at 8 AM. A complete list of everything offered can be found online here.
WOMEN’S CHAT: The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert offers a chat group for all women — no matter how you identify — to discuss topics of interest and find connections every Thursday at 10:30 AM. You can find information about the event here.
BOOK CLUB: The Cover to Cover Book Club meets today via Zoom at 10:30 AM. today they are discussing The Kitchen Front by Jennifer Ryan. More information on participating in the book club can be found here.
STORY TIME: Librarian Nancy Valdivia reads stories, sings songs and shows early learning concepts (Wednesdays in Spanish and Thursdays in English) at 10:30 AM. You can watch the videos on YouTube here.
NOT TEEN TALK: The Palm Springs Public Library’s teen librarian hosts an Instagram Live session each Thursday at 3:30 PM. To follow along, follow @psplteenzone on Instagram here.
FOOD AVAILABLE: FIND Food Bank distributes food in the city today at a community food bank, 610 S. Belardo Rd., between 5 PM and 7 PM, and at the James O. Jessie Desert Highland Unity Center, 480 West Tramview Rd., from 4 PM until 5:30 PM. A complete calendar of food distribution in the community this month is available here.
FREE MUSEUM ADMISSION: The Palm Springs Art Museum offers free admission from 5 PM to 7 PM. Tickets are required and can be obtained here.
CITY COUNCIL: The Palm Springs City Council meets in closed session at 3:30 PM, and then in regular session at 5:30 PM. Instructions for participating or viewing the regular meeting, as well as an agenda for both meetings, can be found here.
VILLAGEFEST: The city’s weekly outdoor street fair takes place at 6 PM on Palm Canyon Drive downtown. The event includes vendor booths on both sides of the street, which is closed to vehicular traffic.
PLAY OPENS: The Palm Springs premiere of This Side of Crazy at Palm Canyon Theatre is tonight at 7 PM. The performance, which starts at 8 PM Friday and Saturday and 2 PM on Sunday, follows the successful run of Shores’ Sordid Lives in September. Tickets are $29.50 ($15.00 for students) and 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. You can find a complete preview of the play in The Post here.
STRUT AWARDS VOTING: Voting has started for the STRUT Awards, slated to be handed out next month in Palm Springs. The STRUT Awards are a people’s choice voting event designed to honor members of the local LGBTQ+ industry. Nominations were accepted in more than two dozen categories, and now it’s time to vote. You can do that by going here. Winners will be announced and celebrated on December 12 during an event at Margaritaville Palm Springs beginning at 6 PM. Tickets for the event can be purchased here.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
DAY OF REMEMBRANCE: Queer Works is putting on a Coachella Valley Transgender Day of Remembrance on Saturday, November 20th, from 5:30 PM until 7:30 PM at Oscar’s Palm Springs, 125 East Tahquitz Canyon Way. The evening program will include light refreshments, a welcome from Palm Springs Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton, a keynote from Miss Nevada USA Kataluna Enriquez, and the traditional reading of the names. The event is open to anyone and everyone, regardless of gender identity. Allies are especially welcome to attend. The Transgender Day of Remembrance (TDOR) is observed annually on November 20 as a day to memorialize those who have been murdered because of transphobia and hate and draw attention to the continued violence endured by transgender and nonbinary individuals.
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.
TAHQUITZ CREEK CLEANING: The Tahquitz Creek Yacht Club meets to clean up a portion of Tahquitz Creek Channel at 8 AM Saturday. Volunteers gather at the south end of the footbridge at South Camino Real and South Riverside Drive. You can find the club’s Facebook page here and contact the club via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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.
CABARET SHOW: Douglas Graham, featured in The Post’s Palm Springs Profiles recently, makes his sixth appearance for Les Michael’s “Cabaret On Sundays Series” Sunday, November 21, at The Joslyn Center’s Arthur Newman Theater, 73750 Catalina Way in Palm Desert. Graham will feature some songs, dances and stories from his Broadway & touring company productions over his long career during the performance. Doors open at 2 PM and the performance begins at 3 PM. Tickets are $15 and may be purchased at the door. For more information, or to make reservations, call 760-202-1111.
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 helps 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.