What to watch for at the Feb. 10 Palm Springs City Council meeting

Several issues that have been subject of heated discussions are on the agenda when the Palm Springs City Council meets next week, but one item likely to be met with no controversy may be the most interesting.

Several issues that have been subject of heated discussions are on the agenda when the Palm Springs City Council meets next week, but one item likely to be met with no controversy may be the most interesting.

A public hearing is scheduled on the designation of a half dozen sites in the Araby Cove neighborhood as Class 1 historic properties. They include homes and structures that have been the subject of local lore for decades, as detailed in a 150-page staff report here that is well worth a read if you’re interested in Palm Springs history.

While the architects and builders of two of the homes — located at 2275 and 2350 South Araby Dr. and known as “El Dumpo Adobe” and “The Giannini Residence” — are unknown, the other structures have a known history, though it does contain gaps.

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The four homes built as “Hopi Village” as they look today.

In the late 1920s, R. Lee Miller — builder of 22 hidden homes above Andreas Canyon — set out to construct “Hopi Village” on 20 hillside acres in Araby Cove, eventually completing the last of four squat, rock structures in 1933. The story of the project, and Miller, is chronicled here, and includes mention of the “various Lilliputian legends that are passed down in Palm Springs high schools.”

“Why did Lee Miller build a Hopi-hobbit colony of Araby rock?” asks author Ann Japenga. “Because he left so few clues, we simply don’t know.”

This home in Araby Cove, pictured in 1953, is part of “Hopi Village” and believed to have been occupied by its builder, R. Lee Miller. It has been maintained and is currently available as a vacation rental. (Photo Courtesy of Palm Springs Historical Society)

The city is seeking the the Class 1 historical designation for the properties. That process was kicked off in 2019 when the Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) identified the sites as part of its annual work plan for 2019-2020. Last November, the HSPB asked city staff to study and schedule site visits as well as a public hearing on the designation.

A report prepared for the city makes the case for protecting the properties under the historical designation, concluding that, “The adobe and the five rock houses are rare surviving examples of the type of early rustic development that occurred in Palm Springs between World War I and II, which often utilized native stone and other locally found materials.”

Also on the Council’s agenda:

  • College of the Desert Superintendent/President Dr. Martha Garcia and COD staff are scheduled to address the Council and provide an update on plans to construct a satellite campus in the city. Garcia, who took over as president at COD last summer, has been accused of failing to be transparent after she would not engage with city leaders and offer a guarantee that the project would be completed on 29 acres COD purchased off Tahquitz Canyon Way. The issue has led to repeated calls from city leaders and citizens, including a recently-formed watchdog group, to outline exactly how college officials plan to spend nearly $600 million in bond money approved by voters for the Palm Springs project and others in the western Coachella Valley.
  • A public hearing will be held on the new lines being proposed for the five City Council districts. The redistricting process, covered here in an earlier story, is required every 10 years following completion of the U.S. Census.
  • The Council will discuss COVID-19 restrictions currently in place in the city. Palm Springs officials have taken a stricter stance than other communities in the Coachella Valley, including requiring proof of vaccination for dining indoors at city restaurants. In a report prepared for the meeting, city staff outline three options for the Council to consider, including delaying any changes to the restrictions, aligning restrictions with state guidelines, or eliminating restrictions when certain conditions are met. 

More information: The complete agenda and related staff reports, as well as instructions for how to participate or tune in to the City Council meeting on Feb. 10 at 5:30 p.m., can be viewed here.


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