Coachella Valley news headlines for the week of June 12-18

Decision on Western Joshua tree delayed

The Western Joshua tree will remain a ‘protected’ species after the California Fish and Game Commission failed to reach a majority decision Thursday on whether the iconic plant should be listed under the California Endangered Species Act.

High desert towns, construction and real estate trade groups and renewable energy developers oppose the listing, arguing that it would hinder housing and renewable energy development. Conservation groups, scientists and advocates, however, have argued that listing the tree is integral to protecting the species from climate change, as well as other threats like wildfires. and development.

The commission considered four hours of public comment on Wednesday and also heard presentations from the Center for Biological Diversity, which submitted the petition to list the species as “threatened,” and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which issued a report recommending against listing the species in April.

Commission Vice-Chair Erika Zavaleta and Chair Samantha Murray backed listing the Western Joshua Tree on Thursday, but commissioners Jacque Hostler-Carmesin and Eric Sklar said they wanted to delay the decision and urged all parties concerned to work on a range-wide conservation plan in the meantime, although both have indicated that they are likely to support listing the species at a later date. The fifth position of commissioner is currently vacant.

—Erin Rode

Southwest to launch service between Palm Springs and San Jose

Southwest Airlines announced Thursday that it is adding year-round daily flight service between San Jose and Palm Springs.

Nonstop flights will begin Nov. 6, making this PSP’s third nonstop service to a Northern California airport from Southwest Airlines.

Southwest has developed its service with PSP since November 15, 2020, when it joined the airport. The airline also announced a second daily return flight to Las Vegas in July.

— City News Service

Indio City Council advances plans for warehouse on 45 Avenue and Golf Center Parkway

Plans for a 65,000 square foot warehouse in Indio advanced on Wednesday after the city council voted unanimously to reject an appeal on project approval from a nonprofit group called Supporters Alliance for Environmental Responsibility.

The design and development of an industrial warehouse at the southwest corner of 45 Avenue and Golf Center Parkway had been reviewed and approved by the Indio Planning Commission in May. At the time, the commission said the project would be exempt from California’s Environmental Quality Act guidelines, which exclude projects that do not occupy land that is habitat for endangered species. , rare or endangered and do not significantly affect traffic, noise, air or water quality in the area, among other conditions.

But in its application to appeal the approval, SAFER argued that the city had not provided enough evidence that the project will not have negative environmental impacts, particularly on traffic, water quality air and biological resources, and should therefore not proceed without an assessment under CEQA. .

— Eliana Perez

Former Shadow Hills High School basketball coach pleads guilty to sexually assaulting teenager

Former Shadow Hills High School basketball coach Ryan Towner pleaded guilty Monday to charges of sexually assaulting a teenage girl he coached four years ago. He is expected to be sentenced on August 4.

Towner, 36, was arrested in June 2021 following an investigation by the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department and charged two weeks later with one count each of oral copulation with a minor and sexual intercourse illegal with a minor.

Former Shadow Hills High School basketball coach Ryan Towner, center, leaves the courtroom with his attorney David Greenberg after his appearance at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, California on June 13, 2022.

Appearing before Superior Court Judge James Stafford Hawkins Monday at the Larson Justice Center in Indio, he pleaded directly in court, without a sentencing agreement with prosecutors, according to the district attorney’s office.

Hawkins said Towner would serve less than three years in prison, and Riverside County District Attorney spokesman John Hall confirmed the judge’s stated sentence was two years and eight months. Towner is free on $55,000 bail until sentencing.

Hired in May 2018, Towner led the Knights to a 20-9 record in his first season, then to a 29-4 record the following year, in 2019-20, which ended in a 3A championship. CIF.

— Andrew L. John

Children’s museum reaches fundraising milestone

The goal of raising $150,000 to reopen the Children’s Discovery Museum of the Desert, which will be matched by the town of Rancho Mirage, has been achieved. And with an additional $150,000 allocated by the City of Palm Desert, the fundraising effort passed halfway to a total of $3 million.

The Rancho Mirage Museum has been closed since March 2020 due to the pandemic. In November 2020, the board announced that the museum would remain closed indefinitely and that its 23 employees would be laid off due to lost revenue during its closure.

When the pandemic forced the museum to close, 85% of its revenue came from memberships, admissions and gift sales. Without visitors to generate revenue, the museum had no choice but to suspend operations and lay off staff, board members said at the time. The board launched a campaign to raise $3 million to revamp and reopen the museum, and in March 2021 named Cindy Burreson the museum’s new CEO, following an interim appointment. She has since led the reIMAGINE campaign, a multi-phase fundraising campaign to replace the original exhibits and reopen the museum, with a goal of reopening in December 2022.

—Sherry Barkas

A short-term rental awaits its next guests on Shifting Sands Dr. in Joshua Tree, California on March 4, 2022.

Short-term rental permits suspended in Joshua Tree

New short-term rentals will be suspended in the Airbnb hotspot of Joshua Tree and other high desert communities under a temporary emergency order approved by the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.

The ordinance applies to unincorporated communities in mountainous and desert regions of San Bernardino County, including Joshua Tree, Morongo Valley, Landers, Big Bear City and Wrightwood, among others.

The 45-day interim emergency order takes effect immediately and was introduced by Supervisor Dawn Rowe, who represents the majority of unincorporated mountain and desert communities in the county.

Under the order, the county will continue to accept and process short-term rental applications, but no permits will be issued for 45 days. The pause on new permits does not apply to applications made before the order came into force, nor to applications to renew existing short-term rentals.

“In part due to the COVID-19 pandemic, tourism has increased significantly in the mountainous and desert regions of the county, which has led to an increase in the number of new short-term residential rental listings and occupancy rates. STR in unincorporated areas of the region. With increasing occupancy rates, the community has expressed increased concern about STR guest behavior, including noise, parties, disruptive events, overcrowding, parking issues and security issues,” indicates the order.

In addition to the temporary pause on new permits, supervisors also approved several amendments to the county’s short-term rental ordinance. These changes include a limit of one STR on parcels under 2 acres and two STRs on parcels over 2 acres in mountainous and desert regions, and occupancy limits of four people for a unit of one. bedroom or studio, with two additional guests permitted for each additional bedroom up to a maximum of 12 guests in total.

—Erin Rode

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