Boulder Blast Nearly Kills Neighbor
Local resident Victoria Tyhurst was nearly killed when a ten pound chunk of exploding boulder burst through her bedroom ceiling, missing her by inches. Builders were dynamiting boulders to make way for the Pedregal project, located between the Chino Canyon neighborhood and the Tram Road. Unfortunately, proper channels had not been followed and the neighbors were not notified of the blasting, which took place a few yards from a residential area.
Having no knowledge of the blasting, when Ms. Tyhurst heard the explosion, she thought that a terrorist attack was taking place. Seconds later, the "meteorite" came careening through the ceiling leaving an impromptu skylight and knocking a nearby workman off his ladder. Local activist Dana Stewart has branded this disregard for local flora and fauna, including humans, "eco-terrorism."
British visitor Harry Wills and his wife were out with their son in his stroller. "There was a sudden explosion fifty yards ahead of us, during which sizeable rocks were thrown a considerable distance into the air, accompanied by a loud bang.We witnessed large rocks raining down on both the house and car parked outside. We feared that someone could easily have been killed in the explosion and called out to ascertain if there had been any injuries.We were very fortunate that our walk was not a couple of minutes earlier, otherwise, we might have been severely injured or killed."
Friends Files Lawsuit
Friends of the Palm Springs Mountains has filed a lawsuit in Riverside County Superior Court because the City of Palm Springs failed to comply with the California Environmental Quality Act when it approved Crescendo, a 79-home Wessman Development project proposed for Chino Canyon.
Wessman was sued in 2005, over his Crescendo and Boulders projects, to force him to prepare an Environmental Impact Report (EIR), as required by law. A joint EIR was completed last year, and both projects were approved by the City Council in October on a 3-2 vote. The City will not incur legal costs from this lawsuit because the development agreement states that Wessman will handle all legal disputes for the projects.
Crescendo's current plan includes mass grading and terracing as well as extensive rock crushing. The height and density of the homes is inappropriate for the area. The Boulders project has been change to custom homes with no mass grading or rock crushing thanks to the tireless efforts of concerned citizens. According to Friend's board member Nickie McLaughlin, "To subject the neighborhood to more than nine months of imploding and crushing boulders on a hillside, with air issues and noise issues which we do not feel have been appropriately addressed in the EIR, is unacceptable."
A mediation hearing on the Crescendo lawsuit is scheduled for the end of the January.
Big Victory for No on "C"
Palm Springs voters have once again said "No" to shady development deals, with more than 60% of voters rejecting an extension for the massive Shadowrock project. The project, which included an 18 hole golf course as well as houses, condominiums and hotels would have built more than 1100 total units in the upper part of scenic Chino Canyon. In 2007, the Palm Springs City Council approved an illegal extension to the 1993 development agreement which had previously expired. Save Our Mountains put the decision to the people in the form of a referendum on November's ballot and won big.
Shadowrock would have irreparably harmed Chino Canyon and destroyed views from much of the Coachella Valley. The project was also to be built in an area frequented by endangered bighorn sheep. In the event that the developer went belly-up during construction, particularly during the current real estate recession, the City would have been saddled with enormous costs for restoration of the area. The developer must now resubmit plans if he wishes to move forward with the project. Friends of Palm Springs Mountains is pursuing the opportunity to purchase this land at appropriate value to preserve it for future generations. We urgently need donations of volunteer time and money to keep Chino Canyon safe.
Building Continues as Housing Bubble Bursts
According to the LA Times, Countrywide Bank, owned by America's biggest lender, Countrywide Financial, was so inundated by customers trying to withdraw their money due to fear of collapse, that customers were forced to leave their names on a waiting list. American Home Mortgage, the 10th largest US mortgage retailer, filed for bankruptcy on August 6, 2007. Riverside County boasts the fourth highest foreclosure rate in the nation at a time when foreclosures are at their highest level since record keeping was begun.
Undeterred by economic indicators, the City of Palm Springs continues to approve large residential and commercial building projects, apparently unconcerned that there may be no buyers when these projects are completed. Many of the residential and commercial projects proposed for sensitive mountain and canyon areas involve massive grading and terracing, usually at the beginning of construction. Once these natural areas have been irreparably destroyed, construction will only start when buyers come forward. Without buyers, our scenic treasures become empty lots, good only for fueling sandstorms. A drive around Palm Springs reveals dozens of half finished developments, some several years old, with only a few units sold. Now is the time to stop building future ghost towns in our most scenic, wild areas.
Shadowrock Goes to the Voters
July, 2007 - The Referendum petition against the 10 year extension of the Shadowrock Development Agreement was certified as sufficient by the Palm Springs City Clerk on July 12. The Palm Springs City Council, on July 26, voted unanimously to place the Referendum on the November 7, 2007 ballot, which is the City's next municipal election. According to the City staff report, the City Council decision to extend the 13 year old Development Agreement for another 10 years is on hold until Citizen's vote on the Referendum.
In part, the decision to postpone the election until 2007 was to save the City money, but it was also at the recommendation of the City Attorney who forecasts some likelihood that the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity will prevail in their lawsuit against the City's decision to extend the Development Agreement. If they do prevail, then there will no longer be a need to vote on the Referendum, and Shadowrock will need to go back to the drawing board and submit a new proposal. (courtesy of Save Our Mountains. Click the link for more information.)
Court Rules Against Shadowrock
May 16, 2007 - Superior Court Judge Harold Hopp issued a preliminary injunction today to prevent Shadowrock from grading in the heart of Chino Canyon. The Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity asked the Court to enjoin the developer from grading until the court could rule on their lawsuit claiming that the City of Palm Springs had illegally extended the Shadowrock Development Agreement. The Court agreed with the Sierra Club and the Center, finding that there was a likelihood they would prevail, and that if grading were to proceed, the damage to Chino Canyon would be irreparable.
The ruling protects Chino Canyon and the voter's right of referendum. According to D. Wayne Brechtel, Sierra Club legal counsel, "Shadowrock was hoping to do some grading so that it could claim it had vested its development rights and no longer needed the ten-year extension that is scheduled for a public vote this November. The court put the brakes on the ill-advised plan and put Shadowrock on notice that it cannot circumvent the court's jurisdiction or the voter's right of referendum." (courtesy of Save Our Mountains. Click the link for more information.)
All photos credit: Tom Brewster Photography unless otherwise specified. Katherine Siva Saubel photo credit: Greg Day