Discover more from The Desert Trumpet
ON THE AGENDA: CITY COUNCIL AUGUST 22, 2023
Issues about the agenda itself, showers for the unhoused, and TBID
Note: Article was updated on August 28 with a link to the Desert Trail article on the TBID meeting.
The Desert Trumpet crew sincerely hopes you are dry and comfortable as you read this and have weathered the storm without too much wind or rain damage. Some of our team have certainly learned valuable lessons about filling sandbags!
Let’s do a deep dive into this week’s City Council agenda:
The Desert Trumpet has noted before the almost random nature of City agendas, including items addressed from the dais in public meetings that are not listed on agendas, the lack of attachments on committee agendas, and crucial future agenda items that are not brought before the public in a timely way.
Councilmember Octavious Scott brought up this point in an August 17 post on Facebook:
I just took a look at the agenda for next Tuesday’s City Council meeting and none of the Council future agenda items are on the agenda. As elected officials, the City Council should be giving direction to when these items are put on the agenda. These future agenda items shouldn’t just sit for months without discussion. We need to make decisions on these agenda items within a reasonable time to ensure services are provided to our constituents.
If these future agenda items and other issues are of concern to you, there is an opportunity to bring them up at every Council meeting. Comments on agenda items take place prior to Council discussion on the item; comments on non-agenda items are scheduled towards the end of the meeting.
Public comments for all items are limited to three minutes per agenda item, but the public is entitled to fill out requests to speak on multiple items and may also speak during general public comments. To comment, pick up a green form at the desk, fill it out, and hand it to the City Clerk who is usually sitting at the desk at the front of room on the right side. The public can also send comments via email to Council members and the City Manager and cc the City Clerk requesting that comments be read at the meeting.
This week’s invocation is scheduled to be given by Elder Robert Kelley from Oasis Community Church. The church states that:
We believe that laws and ordinances come from God’s ultimate authority and should be upheld, except when they are in opposition to the revealed will of God (Rom. 13:1-5).
The City is aware of residents’ concern that invocations drawing on such beliefs violate the separation between church and state and that the preponderance of invocations by evangelical ministers excludes those who hold other beliefs. Anyone is welcome to offer an invocation; if you would like to do so, contact the City Clerk at firstname.lastname@example.org.
AWARDS, PRESENTATIONS, APPOINTMENTS AND PROCLAMATIONS
#1. Introduction of the new San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department Detective. No information was provided in the agenda about our new law enforcement officer. We look forward to welcoming them.
The Consent Calendar usually consists of routine items approved with a single vote. Generally approval of the minutes for the last City Council meeting is included, but they aren’t in this agenda. This meeting’s Consent Calendar includes approving the register of City expenses from June 7 to April 14 as well as for Project Phoenix expenses; extending the janitorial contract with Soap Suds through 2027; reports from legislative lobbyists, the Morongo Basin Ambulance company, and the fire department. The calendar also includes a five-year report on fees charged by the City to help pay for the costs of public facilities that support these developments.
#10. San Bernardino County Fire (SBCFD) Fire Code. The State amends its fire code every three years and local governments must enforce this code, although local amendments can be made. The San Bernardino County Fire Protection District enforces the code within the City's boundaries. After discussion and public comment, the City Council will vote whether to ratify the code.
The Fullerton Observer has summarized the 95 pages of the California 2022 fire code changes; these amendments do not appear to vary much from the existing fire code.
#11. DCA23-000010 Article 2 - Allowable Uses
#12. DCA23-000009 Accessory Dwelling Units
#13. DCA23-000008 Density Bonus, Community Care, Emergency Shelters
#14. DCA 23-000006 Off Street Parking and Loading
On July 18, 2023, the Planning Commission held a public hearing on these amendments to the City’s housing and development plans to bring them into compliance with State laws (the meeting is recapped here). These changes will facilitate developing much-needed housing in the coming years, including low-cost housing and accessory dwelling units (ADUs).
Proposed changes to the density provision establish a table of additional units a developer could apply for if a particular development dedicates a certain percentage of their project to low-income housing units.
Amendments to the Community Care Facilities Chapter remove some bureaucratic red tape regarding community care facilities, including the requirement that a facility be located in a transitional region between residential and non-residential zoned properties. The proposed amendment also removes a distance requirement between those facilities.
After discussion and public comments, the City Council will vote whether to ratify these changes.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
#15. Designation of Voting Delegate and Alternate for the League of California Cities' Annual Conference. The City Council will designate a delegate and alternate delegate for the League of California Cities' Annual Conference, which will be held in Sacramento from September 20 to 22. Delegates help shape the league’s priorities to empower City government and lobby against policies that the League claims weaken local governments.
#16. Portable Shower Facilities. This proposal recommends the City Council authorize the City Manager to purchase a portable shower unit and to enter into an agreement with non-profit agencies within the City for its use to serve the homeless population.
According to the Staff Report, the mobile shower unit would be purchased by the City of Twentynine Palms for an initial upfront cost of $15,000. Unknown maintenance, supply, and insurance costs would also be the responsibility of the City. The shower facilities would be managed by a small group of local churches, headed by Shadow Mountain Community Church.
According to the Staff Report, the proposal was put forth by Pastor Mike Maddy of Shadow Mountain Community Church and recommended to the Council by the Housing and Homeless Committee on August 1st. Maddy’s undated letter was not attached to the agenda for that meeting, a violation of the Brown Act, and the August 1 meeting was not recorded or livestreamed.
Astrid Johnson from Morongo Basin ARCH made additional comments regarding the need for a shower and additional services at the August 8 City Council meeting, but it’s unclear whether these would be available per this proposal:
We have a lot of homeless that actually are quite skilled. They just simply need a hand up on getting showers like we're talking about with the shower trailer. Getting good nutrition, getting fresh clothes and then getting matched up with available jobs here in the area.
Shadow Mountain Church, which hosted a controversial prayer breakfast with the Mayor, is a member of the Southern Baptist Convention as is Set Free Church, also listed as a shower location. Beliefs of churches aligned with the Southern Baptist Convention are listed in a statement on their website, which under the the heading The Christian and the Social Order says this:
In the spirit of Christ, Christians should oppose racism, every form of greed, selfishness, and vice, and all forms of sexual immorality, including adultery, homosexuality, and pornography.
While homeless services are needed, are churches that equate our LGBTQ+ residents with “sexual immorality” appropriate locations for services funded with City / taxpayer dollars?
Staff expressed concerns about the showers’ maintenance, supplies, insurance, disposal of shower water, and creating a gathering spot for the unhoused. Concerns not mentioned in the report might center around how the churches listed in the proposal would implement the shower outreach and whether the City’s unhoused population will feel comfortable using the showers if they are located exclusively at the churches mentioned in the proposal, several of which preach extreme beliefs that might not be welcoming to LGTBQ+ individuals.
#17. Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID). This agenda item could generate some heat. After discussion and public comment, the Council will be voting on approval of the Tourism Business Improvement District’s (TBID) annual report, marketing plan, and budget for fiscal year 2023-2024 as well as authorizing the continued collection of the 1.5% assessment which funds it. Per staff, Council has the option of not continuing the TBID.
As reported in depth in The Desert Trail, Board members met Thursday, July 27, and despite strong opposition from community members, voted 4-1 to send its proposed spending plan to the Council for approval. Several stakeholders were also critical of the TBID at the August 8 City Council meeting.
Thanks to City Manger Frank Luckino for taking time to answer questions regarding the TBID and the budget—this email exchange took place between August 17-21:
Cindy Bernard (CB): Is the 5 year authorization still on the table?
City Manager Luckino (CML): I have STOPPED the 5 year authorization.
CB: I recall Council discussing whether TBID members should be residents of Twentynine Palms....do you recall what the final decision was on that?
CML: The policy was given and we still need to update the ordinance that the advisory board members just have to be vested in their property locally, but NOT a physical address.
CB: Is there a legal reason why STR owners are not represented on the TBID board?
CML: Patricia Knight represents STRs, and with STRs almost at 50% of the board, staff made that recommendation going forward that the makeup of the board should be two large hotels, two STRs, and one at large.
CB: Regarding the budget, what stood out for me is the huge increase in event funding from $10,000 to $120,000. Do you know why that is? Is there something specific they are planning to fund or ?
CML: This was pushed by the Council Sub-Committee on Events (Danny and Octavious) for the TBID to use some of their reserves of $500K+ on events. However, no plan yet on how that money will be dispersed or have a call for events.
CB: There was going to be a subcommittee formed for events....did that happen?
CML: Yes, we met maybe two or three times – Mike (Usher) from the Downtown Business Association really drove that discussion, which ultimately led to the Pride Event; granted they wanted an earlier event.
CB: Their budget lists percentage of budget, as opposed to percentage of increase or decrease...which also means there are no budget notes or explanations for budget changes between the last fiscal year and the current fiscal year. Nowhere in the report are the increases in salary or health benefits explained. Do you have details on the differences in staff figures? There is a huge increase in health benefits? ($15,708 actual in 2022-2023 to $40,505 budgeted for 2023-2024)
CML: The TBID added an additional full-time body plus benefits. In reviewing the numbers, staff said there was an error in the medical calculation, and the benefits should only be $32K. I will look at their budget report as far as the percentage increase/decrease.
CB: In Public Comment on the TBID it's been pointed out that there is very little, if any, data supporting the TBID's claim of a relationship between their marketing and as you often put it, "heads in beds" (or butts in restaurant chairs or tchotchkes in bags). Footnotes with data supporting the claims made in the TBID presentation are MIA. Do you know whether the TBID has ever attempted to collect this data or hire a firm to collect this data?
CML: No, there has not been any independent analysis on the effect of the marketing. The TBID Board primarily looked at the rise in the market from hotels and STRs as to the results, i.e., increase in TOT [Transient Occupancy Tax].
Is TBID effective? What do you think? Let the City Council know your thoughts!
FUTURE COUNCIL INITIATED ITEMS
Seasonal Banners throughout the City.
Maintained v. Non-Maintained Roads.
Discussion on partnering with non-profits to open a "Warming Shelter."
Identify ten lots to start a self-help construction program.
Discussion on forming a Youth Advisory Committee.
Discussion with the Homeless and Housing Committee on the possibility of hotels housing the homeless for short periods of time.
Discussion on the possibility of moving the Wastewater Treatment Plant from the Desert Knoll area to the east side of the City in the industrial zone.
Desert Trumpet writer Kat Talley-Jones is a member of the Public Arts Advisory Committee, which is a part of the City of Twentynine Palms.
The Desert Trumpet is looking for writers! If you are interested helping us cover Twentynine Palms, send us an email! email@example.com.
Share your thoughts in the comments below or in our live chat in the Substack app. Please note that we do not allow anonymous comments. Please be sure your name is on your profile prior to commenting. Anonymous comments will be deleted.
Thanks for reading The Desert Trumpet! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support our work.