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Civic affairs

Mayor’s briefing at our annual meeting

Mayor Jeffrey Bernstein was the featured speaker at our April 13, 2024 Annual Meeting. For those who missed it, here are notes on what he had to say on homelessness, economic development and much more:

  • Housing and homelessness. Opened phase 1 of the Navigation Center. Part of our Four step continuum of care. Daytime Drop in Access Center, Overnight Beds, August Phase 2 of Navigation Center will add 80 modular units (bed bathroom kitchenette) for temp housing, Affordable Permanent Housing (first one opened earlier this year 60 units, later this year near DAP another 70, next year another 60 for senior housing). Navigation center welcomes children and pets. Passed tenant-based relief, identify people a few months behind in danger of being evicted, and we were able to help 200 families ($5 to 15K) to keep them in their homes. Allocated another $1M to this. Easier to keep people in homes than house them when they become unhoused. We also participated in the opioid settlement and get $3M to PS for that. From the homeless count, have gone from 330 to 150 on the streets.
  • Economic Development. For first time hired a Chief Economic Development Officer, who also serves as a business liaison. We have vibrant business districts throughout the city not just downtown. Tasked with developing these as their own commercial districts.
  • Cannabis. 
    • Highest density of dispensaries etc. in the whole country.
    • We reduced their taxes to compete with other cities.
    • We put a moratorium on all new permits for 4 years. And Inactive permits cannot renew. We will see if attrition brings us to a reasonable level in 4 years.
  • Airport Modernization
    • Airport is 70 years old. Can’t meet current demand.
    • Expansion is to handle the current and expected demand.
    • People are traveling more even as they age. 1/3 of passengers are locals.
    • Expansion is a 20-year project mostly federally funded.
    • If we do not expand gates, then may have to expand to earlier morning or later at night which adds noise. If we expand, we can handle bigger, newer quieter planes.
  • Convention Center
    • Needs an upgrade. Big economic driver.
    • We can’t do nothing because other cities are upgrading.
    • Convention planners want to have a sense of place and to experience the place. Which is an advantage for us. Just need facility updated and easy transportation to downtown.
  • Library master plan
    • Library is 50 yrs old. Updating is a $40M project.
    • Thinking about what the library of the future will look like.
  • Restoration of Plaza Theatre
    • City owned building from 1936. Class 1 Historic. Can’t get rid of it or change it and has to be used as a theater.Private individuals raised $15M to renovate.But it is going to cost more than we all thought. $27M. If we wait it will go higher so we have allocated more and they are continuing to raise money privately.Partnered with Oakview who manages Acrisure Arena.
    • Will have to be year-round theater.
  • Parks master plan
    • Great parks that need upgrades.
  • Road Paving
    • We have increased road paving. Tripled funds this year.
  • Most of this type of work (roads, parks, etc) funded by Measure J. In 2011 voters approved 1% sales tax for downtown revitalization and community development.
    • 70% of Measure J funds are generated by tourists. 22M/year from Measure J. Downtown park, kitchen at Mizell, and projects like that.
    • Set to expire in 10 years. So there will be a new ballot measure in the future.
    • Need to build a new fire station downtown, Library upgrades would be financed by Measure J.
  • College of the Desert
    • Break ground in the fall for Palm Springs campus. Spring of 2027 first students.
    • Hospitality, Creative arts, Nursing, also 5-year architecture degree with Cal Poly. BA that UC doesn’t offer, like Casino Mgmt, restaurant management.
    • Across from the high school. Free tuition.
    • 97% of our school kids are at poverty level. 10% are homeless.
  • Broadband master plan
  • Arts and Culture roundtable, develop Palm Springs as a arts and culture destination
  • Local vendor fair. We want to encourage local business to go for contracts with the City of Palm Springs. April 17 at Convention Center
  • New website. EngagePalmSprings.com. Easier to navigate than the City website. Find out what’s going on and how to get involved.
  • We were better prepared for Hilary than any other city. We closed roads early. Our emergency staff and approach were great. Even when 911 went down our staff figured out how to reroute.
    • Also a catalyst for getting funding. We got $50M to add to the building of an Indian Canyon bridge, which is #1 priority for all 9 cities. It’s the access to only Level 1 Trauma Center at Desert Regional Hospital.
  • Question: How is the budget? Budget is strong.
    • Measure J is 10% of our budget.
    • Any resistance to Measure J is because people don’t like taxes. People question how cities spend money. But without it we cannot invest in the city the way we have been. When we tell people what it pays for they support it.
  • Question: Roundabouts and our own ambulance service?
    • Our own ambulance not scrapped but complicated.
    • Roundabout. Intersection near Revivals. Council Member Lisa Middleton’s district and she recently said, “I want to bring this back with an intent to kill it.”
  • South Palm Canyon
    • 3 closed banks. Some blight there.
    • Vacancy of buildings is a problem. Nothing in our ordinances that requires vacant buildings to get used. They are required to do basic maintenance. Working on a plan for this right now. Also will help to get Smoketree Business District active they will be biggest advocate.

Deputy City Manager Jeremy Hammond also spoke, telling us what he has been working on in his three years on the job overseeing human resources, the city clerk, IT, purchasing, risk management, insurance, procurement, and the Human Rights Commission. He highlighted a project to have Palm Springs certified as an “autism aware” city for residents and employers. Hammond encouraged residents to apply to serve on boards and commissions during the annual recruitment (last deadline was April 30) even when they think there is no vacancy, because vacancies occur during the year.