Reparations, COD campus, homeless center, Orchid Tree project all on Council agenda

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

Among the items the Council will discuss:

  • 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.

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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 Thursday from Palm Springs Mayor Christy Holstege in front of the Desert Community College District Board of Trustees. 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 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 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 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 demolition of the hotel project’s shell. The hotel formerly known as the Andaz, now the 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.


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