From the January 30, 2015 Hi-Desert Star:

Company pushes plan for gated housing near Friendly Hills

Posted: Friday, January 30, 2015 8:11 pm | Updated: 1:18 pm, Wed Feb 4, 2015.

By Jimmy Biggerstaff
Hi-Desert Star

JOSHUA TREE — The Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council’s committee on the Alta Mira project got an update Friday on the proposed 248-unit gated community near Friendly Hills Elementary School.

The committee tabled any action on a resolution calling for an environmental impact report on the development. It would be Joshua Tree’s first gated community.

Project proponent John Criste told committee chairman Mark Lindquist and committee members David Fick, Pat Flanagan, Vic Fuller, Janet Johnston and Mike Lipsitz he has talked with Morongo Unified School District administrators about increased traffic at the staggered junction of Alta Loma Drive and Sunny Vista Road. Criste said plans include a 200-foot dedicated right-turn lane for families dropping off students in front of the school.

According to the meeting agenda, the developers have also held discussions with Joshua Basin Water District staff and Center for Biological Diversity representatives about the environmental impacts of the relatively high-density housing project.

“We’ve had some very productive conversations with the Center For Biological Diversity,” Ron Schwartz, a partner in the project, said.

According to a 2009 estimate, the 248 single-family homes would use about 89 acre feet of water per year. Responding to criticisms about water use, Criste told the committee the original plans allowing for up to 200 square feet of grass lawns per home site had been scrapped.

Potential home buyers, Criste, said, would include “empty nester” retirement couples. Schwartz said homes would sell in the $225,000 to $300,000 range.

Fick took issue with the traffic survey. Criste said updated traffic counts were conducted about one year ago.

“They do not know the shopping needs of the Morongo Basin,” Fick alleged. Criste replied that Caltrans had reviewed the results of the study. “Yucca Valley would welcome this project with open arms,” Fick declared, adding, “Joshua Tree would not.”

“We all spent a lot of time on the community plan,” Janet Johnston said. “The county has given it no weight, no credence, no nothing. I think we’ve both been screwed over by the county on that point.”

During public comments, former MAC member Mickey Luckman asked what the project developer’s commitment was to finish the plan. Schwartz said the financial investment was considerable and restated his commitment to the plan.

Jay Babcock, of the activist group “Defend Joshua Tree,” warned the developers about the community’s propensity toward lawsuits, citing the ongoing litigation with Dynamic Development and the county over a proposed Dollar General store in Joshua Tree.

Rebecca Unger, a Joshua Basin Water District director, said she admired the developer’s tenacity, and reminded the developers construction takes a lot of water. The project would require construction of a package wastewater treatment plant similar to the one at Hi-Desert Medical Center. Stormwater retention and detention ponds are planned at the upper and lower ends of the project.

The county’s housing density zoning for the proposed development was “up-zoned” in the early 1980s for up to 4.2 units per acre, an action Fick characterized as a “backroom deal.”

From KCDZ 107.7:

By Z107.7 News, on February 2nd, 2015
Back in November, the developers of the 248-unit Alta Mira residential project in Joshua Tree met with a small group of local residents to discuss the project, and encountered resistance and skepticism. This past Friday, the discussion was continued, with a larger group of residents on hand. Reporter Dan Stork says that locals generally scoffed at the developers’ efforts…
John Criste, the planning consultant for the Alta Mira residential project planned for the Friendly Hills area of Joshua Tree, told the ad hoc committee on the project, and about 15 other residents assembled at the County government building in Joshua Tree about recent discussions he’s had with the school district, the water district, the Center for Biological Diversity, and of efforts to manage traffic patterns. He offered the school district a slice of land on Sunny Vista Road, to create a safe entry lane to Friendly Hills Elementary school for parents dropping off students. Criste discussed with the water district hydrology and water infrastructure considerations for the project, and said that a package plant technology similar to that being used at the High Desert Medical Center would be used for waste water treatment. He also said that ongoing discussions with the Center for Biological Diversity about habitat considerations on the project site will soon yield an agreement, but he was not at liberty to provide specifics at this time.
The ad hoc committee members—Mark Lundquist, Mike Lipsitz, David Fick, Pat Flanagan, and Vic Fuller—questioned Criste closely on the methodology of traffic studies he cited, and were skeptical about their adequacy. The committee also questioned Criste about mitigation fees, water infrastructure, the long-term financial viability of Homeowner Association emergency reserves, invasive species patrolling, and landscape planning.
During public comment, most speakers attacked the project on numerous grounds—light pollution, dislike of gated communities, inappropriate zoning, the assumed buyer profile for properties, development density, strain on water resources, and impact on native plants. Claims by Ron Schwartz, who represented investors in the project, about economic benefit for Joshua Tree, were derided. Only one local resident attendee—Julian Gonzalez—disputed other locals’ criticisms of the project.
The ad hoc committee deferred to another meeting whether to recommend a call for a full Environment Impact Report to the Morongo Basin MAC.

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From projectbobcat.org:

Thanks to your efforts along with our partners, the Center for Biological Diversity and other supporters across the state, the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 was passed by the California legislature just over a year ago. Now we need your help to ensure the bill is implemented to truly protect the state’s bobcats. The California Fish and Game Commission is launching a rulemaking to implement the bill that could result in a complete ban on the commercial trapping of these beautiful animals. But for that to happen, the Commission needs to hear from you.

The Bobcat Protection Act was passed in response to the outrage triggered by the discovery of trappers lining the boundaries of Joshua Tree National Park with cages, luring the animals out the Park, and killing them for their fur. Under the bill, trapping was immediately banned around Joshua Tree and the Commission was directed to implement similar bans around all other parks, monuments and refuges in California. One option the Commission is seriously weighing is a statewide ban on bobcat trapping.

Please take a moment and contact the Fish and Game Commission and let them know you support a complete statewide ban on bobcat trapping. Note that original, personalized letters are the most effective way you can help our effort.


Thursday, January 29, 2015, 5pm

Submit comments to fgc@fgc.ca.gov -or- FAX to: (916) 653-5040

Address comments to Executive Director Sonke Mastrup. Fish and Game Commission, 1416 Ninth Street, Room 1320, Sacramento, CA 95814.

Written comments received at the Commission office by 5:00 p.m. on January 29 will be made available to Commissioners prior to the meeting on Febuary 12, 2015. Comments received by 12 noon on February 6 will be marked late and made available to Commissioners at the meeting. Please also remember to email Project Bobcat at: info@projectbobcat.org a PDF copy of your sent letter.


RE: Agenda Item 29: Ban Bobcat Trapping Statewide

I urge you to implement the Bobcat Protection Act of 2013 by banning trapping statewide. I am appalled that hundreds of California’s native bobcats are trapped and killed each year for sale of their skins in the international fur trade. Californians overwhelmingly value our wildlife alive, not as commodities to be exploited for the private profit of a handful of trappers. It’s long past time to end the subsidized destruction of our wildlife and instead protect and value them as living members of a healthy ecosystem. Please vote for the alternative of a complete statewide ban on commercial trapping of bobcats.

TALKING POINTS for Statewide Ban:

Let the Commission know that you would like to see bobcat trapping banned for anything other than rehabilitation or research.
There are fewer than 100 commercial trappers “harvesting” bobcats and that taxpayers are essentially subsidizing these commercial trappers.
A statewide ban is simpler and more economical than determining boundaries, methods for describing boundaries, fees, enforcement, and creating documents describing new boundaries and regulations.
State the valuable role of bobcats in ecological system, tourism economy, rodent control, and any reasons for your opposition to the trapping of bobcats for pelts.
Remind the Commission that natural resources and wildlife are public assets, and not for the profit of a few.

Are you available to travel for the Commissioners meeting in Sacramento on Thursday, February 12th, 2015? Please let us know at: info@projectbobcat.org so we can put you in touch with others that are traveling up north for carpooling, sharing hotel accommodations, etc.

Project Bobcat thanks you for your ongoing support!

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defendJTmens copy

All proceeds from the next 50 sales of this Men’s Large ‘Defend Joshua Tree’ T-shirt go to the continuing effort to keep Dollar General out of beautiful Joshua Tree!

Help courageous Joshua Tree residents pay the legal fees in this epic David vs Goliath battle, now in its fourth year!

This is MEN’S LARGE only — this size fits most folks! Each shirt is $20 plus postage. Each T-shirt is manufactured by American Apparel and screenprinted by hand with the fierce Arik Roper three-coyote design.

DEFEND JOSHUA TREE. Before it’s too late.

Order a shirt here: http://defendjt.bigcartel.com/product/defend-joshua-tree-t-shirt-to-benefit-fight-against-dollar-general

More info on the battle against Dollar General: https://jtdba.wordpress.com/

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Above: More than a hundred acres of pristine north Joshua Tree desert wilderness have already been scraped, fenced off and covered in solar panels by Sun Edison Solar to prop up an ass-backwards energy strategy. Imagine another one of these wasteful abominations nearby. NextEra has.

We urge you to join us in attending tomorrow’s special afternoon meeting of the Land Use Study Committee of the Morongo Basin Municipal Advisory Council.

The meeting will feature a discussion with an executive from NextEra, the for-profit solar development company that wants to transform the dormant Roy Williams Airport on Sunfair into yet another giant deadscape of solar panels — an action that will irreversibly degrade and damage this residential rural area AND fence off another 115 acres from the Morongo Basin’s wildlife corridor.

This NEXT ERROR project is desperately misguided, and needs to be stopped. This meeting is an ideal opportunity to loudly re-affirm the depth of this community’s opposition to this project.

Want more information and background? Here is a very good news feature article (and film) on the project, from the Jan. 2, 2015 Desert Sun: “Joshua Tree residents cry foul over airport solar plan”.

Here are the meeting’s pertinent details:

Land Use Study Committee Agenda
January 15, 2015, 3:30 p.m.
Joshua Tree Building and Safety Offices
63665 Twentynine Palms Highway
Joshua Tree, CA 92252

Chair, Mark Lundquist; Members, Elizabeth Karman, Pat Flanagan

Discussion with Jess Melin, Project Director, Business Development, NextEra Energy Resources, regarding Joshua Tree Airport solar project.

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NextEra testing #solar panels at defunct #JoshuaTree airport, where it hopes to build a solar farm.

A photo posted by Sammy Roth (@sammy_roth) on

From the Desert Sun….

Joshua Tree residents cry foul over airport solar plan

Joshua Tree’s defunct airport could be turned into a mid-sized solar farm — and many of the town’s residents are livid.

Florida-based NextEra Energy Resources has proposed a 20-megawatt solar power plant at the Roy Williams Airport, which has been shuttered for several years. Southern California Edison has a 20-year contract to buy the electricity generated at the site, which is located about a mile north of Highway 62.

But residents of Joshua Tree are crying foul, arguing that the 115-acre project would hurt tourism, stir up dust and threaten their community’s rural character. They also insist that the Roy Williams Airport — if revived — could be a boon to the town’s economy, which relies largely on out-of-town visitors drawn to Joshua Tree National Park.

Joshua Tree resident Buck Buckley rents vintage trailers to vacationers, on a plot of land from which the solar farm would be visible. He said his guests come to see “unspoiled, unchanged, open space, which they don’t have in large cities, and don’t even have in Yucca Valley right across the way.”

Such concerns aren’t unusual in Joshua Tree, where residents are currently fighting a plan to open a Dollar General store downtown. But they also reflect broader opposition to renewable energy projects across the rural communities of the High Desert.

That opposition has been stoked by the Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan, a federal-state effort to encourage solar, wind and geothermal development. More than 1,000 people — many of them hailing from small, rural communities like Yucca Valley, Lucerne Valley and Pioneertown — have signed a petition urging regulators to prioritize rooftop solar over standalone desert projects.

International oil and gas conglomerate BP initially proposed to turn Joshua Tree’s airport into a solar farm a few years ago. But BP pulled out of the solar business in 2011, and NextEra acquired the project rights the next year.

If San Bernardino County approves the project, NextEra hopes to finish construction no later than December 2016 — just in time to take advantage of a 30 percent federal investment tax credit that expires at the end of that year.

For proponents of renewable energy, projects like this one are critical to California’s efforts to limit climate change, which is already having an impact across the desert. State law requires Southern California Edison and other utilities to buy 33 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2020, and policymakers have set a long-term goal of reducing the state’s greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2020.

Climate change or no, Joshua Tree residents say they’ve seen enough solar projects for a lifetime.

David Fick — who has lived in the town for 28 years and can see Roy Williams Airport from his living-room window — cited a litany of grievances with the nearby Cascade solar project, a 24-megawatt plant that SunEdison brought online in late 2013. That project, Fick said, has stirred up enormous dust devils.

“We have enough solar panels,” Fick said. “This is exploitation of our area, and it’s detrimental in many levels.” …

Continue reading: Desert Sun

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Well-reported piece (and film!) by Brett Kelman in the Desert Sun [Palm Springs] on our battle against in Joshua Tree, now entering its fourth year…

In Joshua Tree, Dollar General still unwelcome
by Brett Kelman
The Desert Sun 6:48 p.m. PST, December 25, 2014

As the High Desert readies to roll into the new year, residents in the quaint, quirky town of Joshua Tree are preparing for a renewed fight in a longstanding legal dispute. For some, the lawsuit over whether to build a dollar store is more than a dispute over the local economy and the local identity. It is a battle for this town’s soul.

For three years, Dynamic Development, a Santa Monica company, has been planning to build a Dollar General on the eastern edge of downtown Joshua Tree, in a bare desert lot at the corner of Highway 62 and Starburst Drive.

Although the store would offer its patrons convenience and low prices, many residents argue that this big box store would threaten Joshua Tree’s colorful, off-beat personality. This is a community where art galleries outnumber stoplights, metal dinosaur sculptures loom over the highway and cowboys mingle with aliens in roadside murals.

“There are not many towns like this left,” said Ryon Weber, owner of Pie for the People, a pizzeria a few blocks west of the Dollar General site. “Would it hurt me if Dollar General came in? No. But is it going to add anything to the community? No. If anything, it will taint what Joshua Tree stands for.

“This town is still a little bit of the Wild West. It is one of those towns that has yet to be overrun and gentrified.”

Joshua Tree, home to about 7,500 people, sits in the High Desert, 30 miles northeast of Desert Hot Springs. The town is a gateway to Joshua Tree National Park, and its economy thrives on spill-over tourism near the park’s west entrance.

As a result, Joshua Tree’s business district is vibrant. Over the past decade, dozens of new businesses — restaurants, clothing stores, art galleries and even a yoga studio — have opened on the town’s downtown strip.

But there is also a noticeable lack of chain stores.

The town has two gas stations, one with a Subway inside, and a Santana’s Mexican restaurant. The rest of the businesses are unique. Many believe that Dollar General would bring that to an end.

In court documents, the residents argue that construction of a Dollar General would encourage the growth of “generic,” “chain-type” stores. These chain stores are already available a few miles to the west, in the neighboring city of Yucca Valley, which has a Walmart, a Big Lots, a Walgreens, a Rite Aid and a Dollar General of its own. Another Dollar General sits in Twentynine Palms, 15 miles to the east.

“How many do they really need?” asked Abe Daniels, owner of Wind Walkers, a Native American art store.

According to Dollar General, the answer is one more, at least.

Continue reading:

More information on the fight: Joshua Tree Downtown Business Alliance

Donate to the fund to fight Dollar General in Joshua Tree: GoFundMe

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The Joshua Tree Downtown Business Alliance has given a public update on our three-year battle to keep Dollar General out of Joshua Tree, and has announced a community meeting to discuss how to keep on winning against these creeps. From the JTDBA website:

Community Meeting
Thursday December 18, 2014, 7-9 pm
Joshua Tree Community Center

Three years ago, the Joshua Tree Community began its battle against Dollar General, a corporate predator that wants to build a store in our central district. Community members, friends and neighbors rallied, organized and educated ourselves, and forced the County to change its process and give the project greater scrutiny and broader public review. Despite all our statements and evidence showing the project should be rejected, the Planning Department and Planning Commission approved it. We appealed to the Board of Supervisors. Despite the hundreds of pages of written statements and evidence we submitted, and a day-long hearing, the Board of Supervisors also approved the project, with only Supervisor Ramos voting our way.

We challenged that decision in State Court, and won! Our legal victory means the County has to review this project again from the beginning, with a new initial public notice and it must correctly follow CEQA procedure and standards.

At the end of November, 2014, Dollar General appealed our win to the next level. We have until December 22 to file a pro forma response.

Please attend this Community Meeting to learn about the next steps we have to take, and other steps we can take, with our attorney and in court to defend our win.

Hanging in the balance of this fight is the future of our Community: If we maintain this win, we set a precedent and maintain our unique community character and identity as Joshua Tree. If we lose, we will inevitably become the same as everyplace else, overrun by corporate box stores.

Please visit the Joshua Tree Downtown Business Alliance website for easy access to all the legal documents and decisions that got us to here: jtdba.wordpress.com

Posted in blight, Dollar General, Dynamic Development, Joshua Tree Downtown Business Alliance | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment