Citing public health issues, city to temporarily close Baristo Park
City leaders announced Tuesday they will temporarily close Baristo Park after deeming it “detrimental to the health and safety of the public.”
The park, which has earned the nickname “Heroin Park” due to an ever-increasing amount of drug use among members of the homeless community who camp there, has been the subject of public outrage for years. Residents who live in the surrounding neighborhoods have voiced concerns about not only drug use, but incidents of indecent exposure, destruction of public property, and the frequent discovery of needles and human feces on park grounds and the surrounding streets and sidewalks.
Public safety data supplied by the city shows problem are escalating. Police and fire calls for service at Baristo Park have increased from 558 between 2017 and 2019 to more than 1,245 from 2019 to the present.
The park, located at 296 S. Calle Encilia, is expected to temporarily close to the public within the next few weeks for about six weeks while the city addresses the ongoing issues. Among work planned for the park will be a safety inspection, security camera installation, and a complete cleaning and overseeding of the lawn.
“In order to protect public health and safety, the City is taking this step to address persistent issues in the park related to a small group of transient individuals,” said City Manager Justin Clifton, in a written statement.
The park closure is just one of several steps the city is now taking to address the crisis of homelessness in Palm Springs. In August, the city partnered with Martha’s Village and Kitchen to open a new daytime drop-in center with wraparound services for unhoused individuals near the airport. City leaders are also exploring sites for a campus that would provide transitional housing and services for those experiencing homelessness in Palm Springs.
“The City of Palm Springs is committed to compassionately managing the impacts of homelessness while finding solutions in order to help our unhoused population obtain permanent and supportive housing,” said Clifton. “Building a new navigation center provides a unique opportunity to make a real impact and greatly expand our ability to serve our unhoused population while reducing secondary impacts that can affect quality of life.”
“This intervention is long overdue,” organizers wrote in an email announcing the petition. “We believe this action will ultimately benefit both the current park occupants and the community at large. It is neither humane nor in the public interest to enable this behavior in a public space. This petition asks the city to secure the park and then reopen it as a youth-focused park that is accessible to local residents and their children.”
DEATH RULED HOMICIDE: Palm Springs Police said Tuesday the suspicious death of a 38-year-old woman in the city Monday is being investigated as a homicide and that no suspects have been arrested at this time. According to a police report, officers responded just after midnight Monday to the area of Cherokee Way and East Palm Canyon Drive after reports of gunfire in the area. Upon arrival, they found the woman dead in the driver’s seat of a parked vehicle. She had suffered an apparent gunshot wound to the head while she was seated in the parked vehicle. As police detectives work to investigate the apparent homicide, they are asking for the public’s help. Anyone who witnessed or has information related to this incident can contact Detective Ben Ryan at 760-323-8145. Anonymous information can be provided to Crime Stoppers at 760-341-7867. The homicide is the seventh reported in the city this year — two more than reported in all of 2020. One other death is currently being investigated by Palm Springs police, but they have not ruled it a homicide. In that incident, a 44-year-old Rancho Mirage doctor died at Desert Regional Medical Center on September 17. A GoFundMe page set up to help his family reports only that the man died of “unfortunate and unexpected circumstances.”
WEEKLY POLICE REPORT: Curious about crime in Palm Springs? The Post has begun a weekly police blotter as part of its mission of community service journalism in our city. This week’s blotter, for the week ending October 24, can be found here. Police blotters were a staple of local newspapers for decades until those newspapers began to close as corporations purchased them, began laying off their staff, and shrunk the number of pages that were printed.
RAIL PROGRESS: Riverside County supervisors voted Tuesday to submit a request to the federal government seeking funding to complete environmental studies associated with a 144-mile commuter rail project linking the Coachella Valley to San Bernardino, Orange and Los Angeles counties. The route includes a stop in Palm Springs. “This has been an ongoing desire for decades — connecting the Coachella Valley to Los Angeles,” Board of Supervisors Chair Karen Spiegel said. “This money would really start this to see it take its course.” Spiegel joined Fourth District Supervisor Manuel Perez, who represents Palm Springs and the surrounding area, in asking for the full board’s backing for grant funds to move the Coachella Valley-San Gorgonio Pass Rail Corridor Project forward. The vote was 4-0, with Supervisor Jeff Hewitt absent due to illness. Turn here for the complete story.
HALLOWEEN EVENT: The Palm Springs Public Library is hosting a fun, free community event called Spooktacular Drive-Thru from 4 PM until 6 PM today. Several community organizations will have stations located in the parking lot in front of the library, 300 S. Sunrise Way, and will hand out candy and treats as participants drive through. Participants are invited to wear costumes ( and face coverings) and drive through to pick up treats from the Library, Palm Springs Power Baseball, The city’s Parks & Recreation Department, and Mizell Center. You can also enter to win one of four $25 Amazon gift cards. Those who show a library card are in for for an extra treat.
POLICE IN SCHOOLS: The Palm Springs Unified School District (PSUSD) Board of Education gave final approval Tuesday evening to an amended contract that will see police return to Palm Springs High School. The contract had been delayed while the district re-evaluated the Safety Resource Officer (SRO) program, leading to confusion fueled by reports that the district had abandoned the program. In August, the district finalized its part of the agreement, but needed approval from city officials before officers could return to the campus. The city’s approval was delayed when members of the City Council asked for more information on the program in September. On October 14, the Council voted 4-1 to approve an amended agreement that will see the city pay $100,000 of the $182,000 cost for the program. The District intended to pay the entire cost, but some Council members balked at using $100,000 in Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) funds. Those funds are intended to provide services for students in need, not necessarily for the SRO program. Superintendent Mike Swize, who appeared before the Council at its October 14 meeting, told Board members Tuesday it was a “new experience” to have a city turn down money.
MIZELL EVENTS: Today, October 27, is the day that marks the official Fall celebration for the 2021 National Senior Health & Fitness Day at The Mizell Center. The celebration of active older adults will be marked with a dance at 12 PM. The Mizell Center is located at 480 S. Sunrise Way. To attend the free classes, simply sign up at the ticket window.
MOBILE HEALTH: A mobile health clinic will be parked at the James O. Jesse Desert Highland Unity Center, 480 W. Tramview Rd., from 9 AM until 4 PM. Operated and staffed by Borrego Health, the mobile unit will provide a variety of medical services for residents.
HORA DE CUENTOS: La bibliotecaria Nancy Valdivia lee cuentos, canta canciones y enseña conceptos de aprendizaje temprano (miércoles en español y jueves en inglés) para estudiantes de preescolar de 10:30 a.m. a 11:30 a.m. Puedes ver los videos en YouTube aquí.
APPEALS BOARD: The city’s Administrative Appeals Board, which, among other business, weighs appeals to vacation rental fines and license bans, meets at 5:30 PM via Zoom. Information about the meeting, including how to participate, can be found here.
PLANNING COMMISSION: The city’s Planning Commission meets virtually at 5:30 PM. More information about that meeting can be found here.
ONGOING & UPCOMING
MUSICAL STARTS: Girlfriend, a production of Palm Springs-based Dezart Performs, will be staged at 7:30 PM today through Saturday, at the Rancho Mirage Amphitheater, 71560 San Jacinto Dr., in Rancho Mirage. General admission is $45 in advance; tables for 6 PM. dinner seating is also available. For tickets or more information, call 760-322-0179, or visit dezartperforms.org. Find the complete story here.
LEATHER PRIDE: Palm Springs Leather Pride runs Thursday through Sunday at multiple locations in the city and surrounding area. Events include the Mr. Palm Springs Leather 2021 Contest, the Formal Leather Dinner, clothing-optional pool parties at Canyon Club, a hosted Cigar Social at Barracks, as well as an evening Cruise Party and Vendor Mart at Tool Shed. Tickets for all of the events are available here.
SHREK PERFORMANCES: Palm Canyon Theatre’s production of Shrek The Musical continues this week and next, running through November 7. Showtimes are 7 PM on Thursdays, 8 PM on Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 PM on Sundays. 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.
AIDS WALK: The community’s largest gathering of HIV advocates comes together on Saturday, October 30, to walk toward ending the HIV and AIDS epidemics in the Coachella Valley. The 2021 Desert AIDS Walk, presented by Desert Care Network, will be an in-person event beginning at Ruth Hardy Park and following a route through downtown Palm Springs. This family and pet-friendly event includes a Health and Wellness Festival presented by Walgreens. Complete details, including registration information, is available here.
CHILI AND CARS: Palm Springs Air Museum’s 13th Annual Chili Cook-Off and Car Show is planned for Saturday, October 30, beginning at 10 AM. During the event, Sponsored by the Desert Classic Car Association, you can view more than 200 exotic cars and hot rods while tasting chili made by volunteers. Tastings are $1, or you can buy six for $5. For more information or to enter a vehicle, call 760-774-9936 or email email@example.com. The museum is located at 745 N. Gene Autry Trail.
HALLOWEEN FESTIVAL: The Family Health & Support Network hosts a Halloween event from 4 PM until 7 PM Saturday, October 30, titled The Branch Halloween Festival. The event is open to children and families and will feature carnival games, raffles, prizes, scary escape rooms, candy, and more. The Branch Institute is located to the rear of First Baptist Church, 588 Rosa Parks Rd.
BOO BALL: The desert’s version of Met Gala returns in person this year when the third annual BOO BALL takes place on Saturday, October 30, in the Korean-Vietnam hangar at the Palm Springs Air Museum, 745 N. Gene Autry Trail. The event begins at 6 PM and benefits Boo2Bullying, a locally-based nonprofit organization founded by Dimitri Halkidis. For tickets and sponsorship opportunities, you can email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 310-435-8528. You may also purchase tickets at this link. For the complete story, turn here.
HALLOWEEN HULLABALOO: The Palm Springs Cultural Center is planning a full day of Halloween films and festivities on Sunday, October 31. Starting at 1 PM and going until 11 PM, there will be attractions for all ages, as well as exciting programming for kids during the day and adults at night. Aside from more than a dozen movies, attendees will be treated to magic shows, trunk or treating, jazz performances, adult lounges, a burlesque show, and more. Information on all events, as well as ticket information for individual events or all-day passes, can be found here.
BE A HERO BASH: The Be a Hero for Kids Halloween Bash, which benefits the Boys & Girls Club of Palm Springs, is slated for Sunday, October 31, from 4:30 PM until 7 PM. The event features costumes, cocktails, and culinary delights at the Palm Springs Hilton, 400 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way. Tickets for the event are available here.
HALLOWEEN ON ARENAS: Halloween weekend comes to an action-packed conclusion Sunday evening, October 31, as Arenas Road turns up the volume during its annual Palm Springs Halloween event starting at 4 PM. The event features bands, DJs, guest appearances, and lots of celebrating. Information about VIP tickets is available here.
PALM SPRINGS PRIDE: The city’s largest celebration kicks off on November 1 and culminates with a parade on November 7. All week long, 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. The parade will be held on Sunday, November 7, starting at 10 AM. For a complete list of all Pride events, including the musical lineup — headlined by Third Eye Blind — turn here.
PRIDE RUN: The Palm Springs Pride 5K Run & Walk takes place Saturday, November 6 at 8 AM. The event is both in-person and virtual for 2021. Registration is available here. The race is proudly hosted by Palm Springs Front Runners & Walkers, a local chapter of International Frontrunners, an informal network of LGBTQ running groups around the world. Proceeds from the Palm Springs Pride 5K Run & Walk benefit The LGBTQ Community Center of The Desert (“The Center”) and The Transgender Health and Wellness Center.
SKATER GIRLZ JAM: Lesbo Expo Presents hosts a woman-identified LGBTQIA+ skateboarding event on Saturday, November 6 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.
WELLNESS SUMMIT: Brothers of the Desert is conducting its third annual wellness summit focusing on Black gay men and their allies in the Coachella Valley and beyond in-person (and virtually) on Saturday, November 13, at Margaritaville Resort in Palm Springs, 1600 North Indian Canyon Drive. The one-day event runs from 8:30 AM until 4:30 PM. It features innovative workshops, interactive discussions, and inspiring keynote presentations on a diverse range of topics, such as spirituality, sexuality and identity, emotional health, aging considerations, examining race, physical health, social advocacy and entrepreneurship. Registration for the event is available here.
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