Serena Park development moves ahead with requirements for cleanup, cash

Members of the Palm Springs Planning Commission, sharing in frustrations expressed by residents of surrounding neighborhoods, voted Wednesday evening to move the proposed Serena Park development forward, but not before adding multiple new conditions in the process.

“We need a sign of goodwill,” said Commissioner J.R. Roberts during deliberation of the conditions. “What we’ve got is seven years of unfulfilled promises.”

What residents of the Whitewater Club, Gene Autry, Four Seasons, and Desert Park Estates neighborhoods have is an eyesore to look at, as 126 acres that used to be the Palm Springs Country Club has sat vacant for 14 years. Trash, weeds, and dead trees long ago overtook the manicured fairways and cart paths. More homeless camps than houses have appeared on the property since the 386-unit Serena Park development was first proposed in 2016.

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“In the past five years, they have not been a good neighbor to us,” said Denise Janssen Eager, speaking about the owners of the property during a public hearing on the development Wednesday evening. “They have made promises to our five HOAs that they would upkeep this land and stop the homeless who keep entering the property. It has only been through repeated phone calls that we have been able to force [them] to take any action.”

Under conditions approved by the Planning Commission Wednesday, Janssen Eager and others may soon get some relief. The developers, collectively known as PS Country Club LLC and represented by Eric Taylor, sought approval of a roughly 1.5-year delay in the project’s schedule and a one-year delay in the payment of $3 million in fees coming due November 1. The city would use the money to purchase new open space after housing is built on the former golf course.

Pictures taken of current conditions at the site of the former Palm Springs Country Club were shown during a Palm Springs Planning Commission meeting in July. (photo courtesy City of Palm Springs)

If approved by the Palm Springs City Council later this month, Taylor’s group would get the requested delays but be required to do the following:

  • Thoroughly clean all garbage and dead foliage from the property and secure it within 30 days;
  • Provide a copy of a contract with a security company for daily monitoring of the property to the city; and
  • Pay the city $1 million free and clear this year and $2 million in 2022.

Taylor, who announced during the meeting that his company has sold the homebuilding rights at Serena Park to another company, Williams Homes, said getting the homes built is his priority, but added that issues plaguing the property existed prior to his company’s involvement.

“We’ve had trespassing, vandalism, graffiti, tearing down of fences, and homelessness issues there,” Taylor acknowledged. “They have been with this project since before we owned it. I spent lots of time working on this property with the previous owner. They even had to tear down a building because things got so bad.

“The solution is to build houses, to create a development we’ve spent years on. That will solve the problem for the city and the residents that surround this.”

Under the revised timeline, the earliest homes would be ready for occupancy on the property would be December 2022. For some on the Planning Commission, however, that date seems far-fetched.

“They have nothing,” said Roberts. “They have submitted little to nothing to the city. To have a house up in a little over a year, I don’t see that happening in the best possible scenario.”

Residents who live near the proposed development voiced similar disbelief Wednesday evening and in written remarks submitted to the Planning Commission before Wednesday’s public hearing.

“Our neighborhood has patiently waited on the start of this development for years now, with no progress at all happening,” wrote Kevin Campbell, an Alexander Club Drive resident. “I am concerned about the developer’s financial ability to move forward, as well as the increased traffic on neighborhood streets. There have been multiple extensions on this, but the time has come to either move forward with payment and begin construction or cease the project entirely.”


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