DAILY BRIEFING: October 8, 2021
Good morning. It’s Friday, October 8. Expect cloudy skies early today, followed by partial clearing. The high will be 79 degrees. First, some news you need to know ...
Palm Springs feels the strain as neighboring cities place more restrictions on vacation rentals
As other Coachella Valley cities enact stricter rules or outright bans on short-term vacation rentals, the pressure on Palm Springs continues to mount.
On Thursday, Rancho Mirage, which earlier banned short-term vacation rentals outside of private neighborhoods, elected to ban them entirely. That city joins many others in the Valley, including Cathedral City, Palm Desert, and La Quinta, in moving to restrict or forbid short-term rentals.
In 2018, Palm Springs voters overwhelmingly defeated Measure C, which would have phased out short-term rentals here. Since then, the number of licensed rental units has grown 26 percent. In the past year alone, despite the ongoing battle with COVID-19, the total number of registered vacation rentals in the city increased nine percent.
Palm Springs currently has no cap on vacation rental licenses, and elected officials have not proposed enacting a moratorium. City data shows that just over six percent of the 36,500 housing units here have active short-term vacation rental licenses. There is no guarantee that all of them are being offered for rent.
A map of all 2,254 active short-term vacation rental permits in the city, compiled by The Post and available here, shows only a few areas in the city without sizable clusters. Data supplied by the city also shows the following:
Some permits may have expired, but remain active in the city’s system. Therefore, it should not be assumed that each home represented by a pinpoint on the map is currently available for rent.
Of the more than three dozen individual neighborhoods listed as having active licensed short-term vacation rentals, the largest cluster — 288 homes — is in Racquet Club Estates and Racquet Club West.
The Movie Colony (179), Tahquitz River Estates (126), Sunrise Park (121), and Vista Norte (110) neighborhoods also show triple-digit vacation rental licenses.
Single-family residences comprise 83 percent of the licenses. In a city where homes available for purchase are in short supply, and the median home sale price was most recently listed as $924,000, that figure represents 1,875 homes not available for long-term rental or purchase.
Owners of short-term vacation rentals point to a need for options for a growing number of tourists eager to have sun-splashed, Instagram-worthy weekends, especially when rooms fill fast at hotels and motels. Despite costs that run into the thousands per night, the opportunity to have more space and privacy is also appealing.
“Vacation rentals have been a positive part of Palm Springs since the 1950s,” wrote David Feltman, one of the founders of Vacation Rental Owners and Neighbors of Palm Springs (VRON-PS), in a news release earlier this year touting the success of regulations in the city. “Palm Springs got it right with smart, enforceable rules that balances the needs of visitors with the economic impact on the City and with the necessary security and safety concerns of those who live, work and own homes in Palm Springs.”
However, some city residents say replacing their neighbors with weekend warriors has ruined their sense of community and made homeownership in Palm Springs an impossible dream.
That point was made clear during a series of listening sessions conducted by city planners earlier this year. The meetings were designed to seek input about the city’s General Plan. Many residents who attended those meetings urged city staff and elected officials to do something, anything, to put an end to the conversion of homes to what they labeled as “mini motels.”
“There are whole parts of the city where kids are not on those blocks,” said Naomi Soto, a Sonora Sunrise resident, explaining how homes used as vacation rentals have negatively affected Palm Springs. “It has completely changed the vibe of what our neighborhoods feel like.”
Data from the California Department of Education appears to back some of Soto’s observations. Despite little to no change in the city's population, total enrollment in the Palm Springs Unified School District schools here dropped by three percent from 2014 through 2021. The district’s overall enrollment fell seven percent during that time, from 23,332 to 21,705.
At Cahuilla Elementary, which draws students from homes in South Palm Springs, enrollment dropped by 107 students. There are currently 650 registered vacation rentals in the adjacent neighborhoods. Katherine Finchy Elementary has 45 fewer students now than it did in 2014. There are 250 registered vacation rentals in that school’s adjacent neighborhoods. Palm Springs High School and Raymond Cree Middle School each lost 200 students over the past seven years, a sign that fewer children are being raised here through their teen years.
Palm Springs City Manager Justin Clifton was not immediately available for comment. But in 2019, while serving as city manager in Sedona, Arizona, he appeared to sympathize with the plight of neighbors who feel a sense of loss.
“When you walk down the street, and you’re not seeing neighbors who you can establish some kind of relationship and a sense of place, that’s a real threat,” he told the Arizona Republic.
“At what point are the community’s residents so outnumbered that there’s no real community left?”
Whether that point ever comes in Palm Springs, what is left for the community by those who rent the homes is money in the form of taxes charged to them and the goods and services they consume while staying in the city.
Only part of the Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) collected in the city comes from vacation rentals. Most of that tax comes from guests staying at hotels and motels. Still, high occupancy rates at properties listed on airBNB and other vacation rental sites during the past year, especially during months when hotels and motels were closed, helped pump up the local economy.
It was predicted that TOT would plummet 61 percent, to $14.1 million, during the battle with COVID-19. Instead, figures from the city’s most recently adopted budget show an estimated $29.8 million in TOT was collected in the fiscal year that ended on June 30 — an 18 percent jump from the prior year.
Final Day of Our Founding Member Campaign
The goal of The Palm Springs Post is to foster a more connected Palm Springs and a deeper understanding of the issues facing our community. To do that, we keep our journalism free for everyone. We don’t have a paywall. Instead, we ask our community to voluntarily show its support for the quality journalism we strive to produce. Today is the end of our first ever Founding Member Campaign. We would be forever grateful if you choose to offer your support.
NEXT UP IN BRIBERY CASE: A trial-readiness conference is scheduled today in Indio for former Palm Springs Mayor Stephen Pougnet and developer Richard Meaney, who are accused in a bribery scheme connected with real estate projects brought before the City Council between 2012 and 2014. Charges were previously dismissed against John Wessman, a second real estate developer. In February 2017, the Riverside County district attorney’s office charged Pougnet and Meaney and Wessman with a combined 30 felony counts of corruption, including paying and accepting bribes, conflict of interest, and perjury and conspiracy to commit bribery. The charges came 17 months after investigators from the FBI and the county seized documents from City Hall and the mayor’s home as part of a public corruption investigation. Pougnet served as mayor for eight years before stepping down in 2015.
SHOOTING PLEA: An 18-year-old Mountain Center man who allegedly shot at a car with four people inside in Palm Springs, striking a 15-year-old boy, pleaded not guilty Thursday to attempted murder. According to the Palm Springs Police Department, Jesse Alnarldo Simpson Jr. was arrested Monday for allegedly shooting at the vehicle from his own moving car in the 3400 block of North Sunrise Way. Simpson was charged with four counts of attempted murder and one count each of shooting at a vehicle, attempting to flee from officers causing serious bodily injury, and illegally possessing a loaded firearm. During his arraignment at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, Simpson pleaded not guilty to the charges and was scheduled to appear for a hearing on October 19. He was being held at the John Benoit Detention Center in Indio on $4 million bail. Police responding to the shooting found a 15-year-old boy who had been struck while entering the vehicle, along with three other passengers who were unharmed, according to Sgt. Michael Casavan. The boy was treated at a hospital and has since been released. It was unclear what motivated the shooting, but evidence found at the scene pointed investigators toward Simpson, officials said. Patrol officers spotted Simpson at 5:30 PM Monday in the 3700 block of North Indian Canyon Drive, and he tried to flee in his vehicle, police said. He was caught on Rosa Parks Road after crashing into another vehicle and attempting to run away.
SCHOOL COVID: As of this morning, the Palm Springs Unified School District is reporting 20 cases of COVID-19 among students and staff. Schools in Palm Springs account for two of those cases, both among students. The numbers are unchanged from Thursday.
CORRECTION: A report yesterday on what would happen if Palm Springs’ mayor and mayor pro tem were elected to higher office in the middle of their terms stated they would need to first survive a Democratic primary in June 2022. In California, all candidates for voter-nominated offices are listed on one ballot, and only the top two vote-getters in the primary election – regardless of party preference - move on to the general election. This was corrected online but not in the Daily Briefing newsletter you may have received. The Post regrets the error.
MIZELL EVENTS: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers a pastels studio, chair yoga, and more, starting at 8 AM. A complete schedule of all of the day’s events can be found here.
MEN’S CHAT: The LGBTQ Community Center of the Desert offers a chat group for all men to discuss topics of interest and find connections every Friday at 10:30 AM. Information on registering for the event can be found here.
FALLEN OFFICERS HONORED: Palm Springs police officers Jose "Gil" Vega and Lesley Zerebny will be honored by family, friends, coworkers, and community members tonight during the fifth annual commemoration of their line-of-duty deaths that occurred in 2016. The ceremony will be held at 5 PM at 169 N. Indian Canyon Dr. The public is invited to attend. The ceremony, which includes the dedication of a mural honoring the fallen officers, will be held outdoors and is expected to conclude by 6 PM.
REVIVALS AFTER DARK: Palm Springs Leather Order of the Desert (PSLOD) and Revivals present Revivals After Dark tonight from 6 PM until 8 PM. The event, held in the back alley of Revivals Palm Springs store, 611 S. Palm Canyon Dr., is a charity benefit for both PSLOD and DAP Health and also an official Palm Springs Leather Pride event. Used leather gear, gay erotica, art, books, and much more will be available for purchase during the event.
FARMERS’ MARKET: The Palm Springs Certified Farmers’ Market is held at 2300 E. Baristo Rd. (adjacent to The Camelot Theatres) from 8:30 AM until 1:30 PM. All Certified Farmers’ Markets offer a $15/$15 match to customers participating in CalFresh EBT and a $10/$10 match for WIC, SSDI, and federal unemployment. The markets offer Market Buck tokens as an in-house currency/ATM alternative to all customers with a charge card or debit card, which can be used for purchases at any vendor. Find more details about all three Coachella Valley certified farmers’ markets here.
JUNIOR RANGERS: On Saturday from 10 AM until 12 PM, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians hosts the fourth annual Jr. Ranger Expo in Indian Canyons, 38520 S. Palm Canyon Dr. The event invites Tribal members, residents, and visitors with children to explore Andreas Canyon. The free event features educational booths on animals, plants, geology, safety and much more. The event includes activities, demonstrations, as well as bird singing and dancing performances and ranger-led hikes. This is one of the Tribe’s many educational outreach programs intended to introduce the community to the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the beauty of the Indian Canyons. More information is available here.
FOOD DISTRIBUTION: Well in the Desert distributes food every Saturday at 6 AM and 10 AM at 181 N. Indian Canyon Dr. For the early distribution, guests typically begin lining up at 5 AM and must show proof of residency (a rent receipt, utility bill, etc.). For both distributions, guests are asked to bring a box, bags or other containers to transport food items. More information is available by phoning the Well’s office at 760-656-8905. The Well also offers hot lunches Monday through Friday at 11 AM and 1 PM at various locations throughout the city.
FLEA MARKET: A flea market and food fest is held Saturdays at 675 Crossley Rd. from 8 AM until 2 PM. Information can be found here.
SUNSHINE SISTERS: The Palm Springs Sunshine Sisters will participate in the Paint El Paseo Pink Breast Cancer Awareness Walk on Saturday. To join their team for the event, go here. You can sign up to be part of the group, formed to help women make new connections and friendships, on Meetup here.
PSYCHIC/HEALING ARTS: Crystal Fantasy, 268 N. Palm Canyon Dr., offers a psychic/healing arts fair this weekend, featuring card readers, psychics, crystal readers, and more. On both Saturday and Sunday the event gets underway at 11 AM. For more information, turn here.
MOVIE TIMES: The Regal Theater, 789 E. Tahquitz Canyon Way, and Camelot Theatres, 2300 E. Baristo Rd., offer first-run, fine art, independent, and foreign films in Palm Springs. Showtimes for the Regal are listed here. Showtimes at Camelot are here.
ONGOING / UPCOMING
MODERNISM PREVIEW: Tickets are still available for Modernism Week Fall Preview, which takes place October 14 through 17. The event offers visitors and locals a taste of modernism through talks and seminars, and in-person home tours and parties in unique locations not regularly open to the public. Tickets for dozens of events can be found here. In addition to the Fall Preview, you can find furniture, art, décor, and design elements at the Palm Springs Modernism Show & Sale Fall Edition that runs October 15 through 17 at the Palm Springs Convention Center, 277 N. Avenida Caballeros. The weekend kicks off with an opening night party (tickets are available here) on Friday, October 15 at 6 PM, and continues with the main event all weekend, starting at 10 AM (registration is available here).
VOTING UNDERWAY: Our partners at The Coachella Valley Independent have started the next step in the process of determining the best of the best in the Coachella Valley for 2021-2022. The top vote-getters in each category have been selected, and now you can vote for the winners. To vote for your favorite in any one of multiple categories, start here.
Want to know what’s happening in your city and at agencies that make decisions affecting your neighborhood? See below for calendars, meeting agendas, and links to all city services, police reports, code enforcement reports, and more: