Additional work ordered by the city to identify protections for a rare beetle at the site of a proposed 80-unit housing project off East Palm Canyon Drive has been completed, a representative for the developer said Monday evening, but additional delays in the project are expected.
Speaking via video to board members of the Rimrock Neighborhood Organization, David Hardy, vice president of Encore Capital Management, said the developer is ready to break ground on the Canyon View project that was first approved in 2017. However, a related Riverside County project to control floodwater is delayed while contractors wait for supplies.
Although the county’s planned flood control channel and associated pipes will not go through the housing project’s 13.5 acres at the southwest corner of East Palm Canyon Drive and Matthew Drive, the two projects will both impact the nearby neighborhoods, leading the city to ask that they coincide.
“Our schedule is kind of tied to theirs,” Hardy said. “The city asked us to use the county storm system that they’re building. But the pipe is backordered.”
Revised plans for project received unanimous Planning Commission approval in June, but not without further requirements to assure habitat vital to the endangered Casey’s June beetle would be protected. Those conditions had been requested by Oswit Land Trust, which argued that non-native landscaping planned for the project would endanger the beetle, which is found only in Palm Springs. The City Council voted a month later to allow the project to move forward, but not unanimously.
Among the conditions was a requirement to work with a city-hired biologist to identify changes to landscaping using materials that are indigenous to the area instead of materials commonly used in projects outside the Coachella Valley. As he showed meeting attendees revised landscaping plans Monday, Hardy said that work has now been completed.
“The street trees will be desert willow and blue palo verde,” he said. “The total tree count will be over 300. Along the retention basin will be smoke trees, palo verdes, and acacia. We’re really trying to replicate the desert environment.”
Carlene Hart, who heads the neighborhood group that shared concerns about the non-native landscaping, said afterward those concerns appear to have been addressed.
“I feel like with us speaking up we had several wins out of this,” Hart said. “We were going to be like Orange County, sticking out like a sore thumb, by not using desert landscaping. Looking at the design tonight, they’ve cleaned it up.”
Additional concerns from neighbors about speeding along Matthew Drive, which runs along the project’s south side, could also be eased, those in attendance learned Monday, with a planned three-way stop that will occur at the same time the housing development is constructed.
Exactly when construction might begin, however, is unknown. Hardy said he had hoped to get final sign-off for the landscaping plans from the Planning Commission and the city’s Architectural Review Committee next month, but that time is tight. Most city commissions and committees meet only once in December.
“I was hoping we would start in the Spring of 2018,” Hardy joked. “But here we are today. Given that we’ve gone through the final [approval] for the project itself back in June, things are looking up that we can start sooner rather than later. I would hope for Spring of 2022.”