City pushes ahead with north end homeless services center despite pleas of neighbors, their Council representative
The Palm Springs City Council elected Thursday evening to pursue the purchase of a north Palm Springs property for use as a campus for homeless services. The decision came despite testimony from most public speakers against the location and passionate arguments by the councilmember who represents them.
The property, located at 3589 McCarthy Rd., was one of two under consideration. It sits on 3.6 acres of industrial land and contains three buildings with 47,000-square-feet of usable space. It is currently in escrow for $5.9 million, but the owner has offered to allow the city to assume the purchase.
Council members decided that the other property, located at 4775 E. Ramon Road would provide for fewer services at a higher cost.
The 4-1 vote followed more than three dozen public comments. The majority of those who spoke supported the city building such a facility — commonly referred to as a navigation center — but asked that it not be built in the isolated north end.
Several of those who spoke said that members of the homeless community were already causing issues in their neighborhoods and that prior homeless services in the area led to negative impacts. Many had expressed a similar sentiment during a District 1 listening session on October 25 hosted by Councilwoman Grace Garner.
Garner, the lone no vote Thursday, pushed back against the process during Council discussion on the properties, arguing that, “We are continuing to leave out certain communities from conversations.”
“Suddenly, we forgot how things are done in Palm Springs,” Garner said. “Part of the community has been left out of the conversation over and over again, and that’s why they’re mad.”
Almost two dozen speakers Thursday were members of the community Garner said had been left out of the conversation. One by one, they pleaded their case to the Council, asking its members to stop using their neighborhoods as a “dumping ground.”
“We are already dealing with homeless sleeping on the patios and bathing in our pools,” said one resident of the Palm Springs Villas condominium development Thursday evening. “They are stealing whatever they can fit in their backpacks from our patios.”
“Our neighborhood is up and coming,” added Don Stevens, a resident of the Desert Highland Gateway Estates neighborhood. “We do not encourage anything that is going to downgrade our neighborhood. We already have crime. We already have break-ins. We already have people trying to steal our vehicles. We do not need this in north Palm Springs.”
Proponents of the McCarthy Road site, including many from the Community Partnership on Homelessness (CPOH), said choosing the McCarthy Road property would be the fastest route to opening the much-needed navigation center. They disagreed that its presence in north Palm Springs would make the community less safe.
“Speed to open a navigation center is paramount,” CPOH’s David Murphy told the Council. “That location is fully fenced with a generous buffer between the buildings and the main gate to the outside. It can be easily managed, especially if the city provides the same rigor as it has to the access center.”
Navigation centers have proven effective in other communities struggling to solve the problem of homelessness. Typically they have limited barriers to entry and offer temporary room and board with direct access to case managers who work to connect homeless individuals and families to income, public benefits, health services, permanent housing, and other shelters.
At a Council meeting last week, city staff was directed to focus on comparing the purchase and remodeling costs of both properties, as well as the overall ability to offer the most services for the city’s growing homeless population. On Thursday, they reported that the McCarthy site would offer space for more services at a lower cost. A planned medical clinic and child development center, for example, would not fit inside the Ramon Road location.
Staff members have been reviewing potential navigation center locations for months. Some of the properties they examined were vacant land and would have required two years to build out, compared to an estimated one year for renovating the properties discussed Thursday.
Funding for the project would come from a variety of sources, including both the city and Riverside County. The county could commit to using as much as $7 million of the nearly $480 million it receives from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) for the project. Exactly who would run the facility and how much that would cost annually is still to be determined.
Mayor Christy Holstege recused herself from parts of the discussion Thursday due to the fact her husband, Adam Gilbert, owns a commercial real estate firm that had listed the Ramon Road property. City Attorney Jeffrey Ballinger informed the Council that Gilbert had agreed not to receive a commission on the sale if the city purchased the property.
In other action Thursday evening:
- The Council held a public hearing to introduce and explain a required redistricting process that is currently underway. A city attorney showed data indicating that there will be some need to redraw City Council district boundaries, first adopted as the city transitioned to district-based elections in 2018, based on 2020 Census data. The next public hearing is slated for December 9. More information can be found here.
- Councilmembers recognized Filipino American History Month and honored local members of the Palm Springs Filipino-American community, presenting a proclamation declaring October 25 every year as Larry Itliong Day in the city.
- The Council, on its consent agenda, approved spending $3,500 to determine whether the south wall of the James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center can support what could be more than 1,100 five-pound tiles. The hand-glazed ceramic tiles would be painted to replicate and replace a fading mural on the wall.
CHIEF’S START DATE: Santa Cruz’s police chief will take over the same position in Palm Springs starting next week, city officials announced Thursday. Andrew Mills will begin at his new position as the Palm Springs Police Department chief starting November 8, but will not be officially sworn-in until the November 18 City Council meeting. Mills has been involved in law enforcement since 1983, when he started as a patrol officer with the San Diego Police Department. He later served four years as police chief in Eureka before becoming chief in Santa Cruz in 2017. Turn here for the complete story.
AIDS WALK RECORD: A record $400,786 was raised during the recently-completed Desert AIDS Walk, organizers announced Thursday. The previous record was $350,000, which was the event’s goal for this year. The event returned for its first in-person event since before the pandemic. All the funds go to support DAP Health. It was DAP Health’s first in-person event since the 2019 Steve Chase Humanitarian Awards. Turn here for the complete story.
CREATIVE WRITING: David Wallace, a nationally published author of nine non-fiction books, three novels, and co-author of several additional book, is hosting a creative writing workshop at the Mizell Center, 480 South Sunrise Way, starting Saturday and running through December 18. More details are available here. You can register for the workshop here. the class is designed for those with or without previous writing experience who want to write their memoirs, embark on a novel, a group of short stories, a play, poetry, or anything else.
PRIDE CONTINUES: Greater Palm Springs Pride, the city’s largest celebration, lasts through Sunday when an annual parade is held downtown. The parade will be broadcast live on PromoHomo.TV’s YouTube channel, with host Nicholas Snow. Today and all weekend, expect music, parties, and more throughout Palm Springs as the community gathers to celebrate and honor the strength, equality, and self-determination of the LGBTQ community. Find a complete list of all musical performances here.
MIZELL EVENTS: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers a Fit After Fifty class, a pastels studio, chair yoga, and more. The center is located at 480 S. Sunrise Way. A complete list of everything offered can be found online here.
MEN’S CHAT: The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert offers a chat group for all men to discuss topics of interest and find connections every Friday at 10:30 AM. Information on registering for the event can be found here.
CRWU CELEBRATION: The Come Ride With Us (CRWU) program celebrates its anniversary today with an event at James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center, 480 W. Tramview Rd., starting at 4 PM. The event will feature food, prizes, a bunny hop contest, bike races and more. The program is run by the city’s Parks & Recreation Department.
INTERFAITH KABBALAT SHABBAT: People of all faith communities and beliefs are invited to join a 2021 Pride Welcoming of the Sabbath Service in person or online tonight at 6:30 PM. The pluralistic online prayer service with a core of Jewish liturgy will include song, ancient poetry, contemporary readings, and meditation led by members of our local clergy. The in-person event is at United Methodist Church of Palm Springs, 1555 E. Alejo Rd. The online live stream can be found here on Facebook Live.
PRIDE RUN & WALK: The Palm Springs Pride 5K Run & Walk takes place Saturday at 8 AM in the Old Las Palmas neighborhood, and also virtually. Online registration for this event has closed, but you may still register at packet pickup today from 10:30 AM to 4:30 PM at The Center, 1301 North Palm Canyon Dr. Note that last minute registrations will not be available race morning.
SHREK PERFORMANCES: Palm Canyon Theatre’s production of Shrek The Musical ends this weekend. Showtimes are 8 PM tonight and Saturday, and 2 PM on Sunday. Children under 12 get in free with proof of a negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours of the performance. For tickets or other information, call the box office at 760-323-5123 or order online by visiting PalmCanyonTheatre.org. The theater is located at 538 N. Palm Canyon Dr., at the corner of Alejo Road. Box office hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10 AM until 4 PM.
LGBTQ+ ARCHIVES: The newly formed LGBTQ+ History & Archives of the Desert holds its inaugural exhibition, titled “Sharing Our Desert’s LGBTQ+ History,” for free at the Welwood Murray Memorial Library in downtown Palm Springs, located at 100 S. Palm Canyon Drive, from 10 AM until 5:30 PM through Sunday.
FARMERS’ MARKET: The Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market is held at 2300 E. Baristo Rd. (adjacent to The Camelot Theatres) from 8:30 AM until 1:30 PM. All Certified Farmers’ Markets offer a $15/$15 match to customers participating in CalFresh EBT and a $10/$10 match for WIC, SSDI, and federal unemployment. Find more details about all three Coachella Valley certified farmers’ markets here.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION: Well in the Desert distributes food every Saturday at 6 AM and 10 AM at 181 N. Indian Canyon Dr. For the early distribution, guests typically begin lining up at 5 AM and must show proof of residency (a rent receipt, utility bill, etc.). For both distributions, guests are asked to bring a box, bags or other containers to transport food items. More information is available by phoning the Well’s office at 760-656-8905. The Well also offers hot lunches Monday through Friday at 11 AM and 1 PM at various locations throughout the city.
FLEA MARKET: A flea market and food fest is held Saturdays at 675 Crossley Rd. from 8 AM until 2 PM. Information can be found here.
AIR MUSEUM ANNIVERSARY: Palm Springs Air Museum celebrates its 25th anniversary on Saturday with warbird rides for sale starting at 10 AM, a musical performance by Heatwave Band at 11 AM, and the unveiling of its newly-restored A-7 Corsair II featuring special guests who flew and maintained the fabulous machine. Following the unveiling and signing of the aircraft by these pilots, there will be free birthday cake for museum visitors
SKATER GIRLZ JAM: Lesbo Expo Presents hosts a woman-identified LGBTQIA+ skateboarding eventSaturday at Palm Springs Skate Park, 405 S. Pavilion Way. The event includes a skateboarding clinic at 2:30 PM for anyone who wishes to participate. Gates will open for ticket holders and day-of ticket sales at 4:30 PM. The main event gets underway at 5 PM. prizes will be awarded for highest Ollie, longest boardslide in transition, longest manual, dizzy lick flips, youngest ollie, and more. Tickets are available here.
MARILYN THEMED EVENT: The Palm Springs Hash House Harriers is inviting all active-duty military, veterans, their friends, and family to participate in the “Marilyn White Dress Hash” on Saturday from 2 PM until 5 PM. The event starts at Palm Springs American Legion Post 519, 400 N. Belardo Rd.
VINTAGE MARKET: The Palm Springs Vintage Market is held Sunday outside Palm Springs Cultural Center at The Camelot Theater, 2300 East Baristo Rd., from 8 AM until 2 PM. Admission is $5. The market is held the first Sunday of every month and features “the greatest collection of vintage furniture, clothing, décor and other collectibles in the Coachella Valley.” The market welcomes classic cars and vintage travel trailers, and parking is free. Well-behaved and trained dogs are also allowed on a leash.