ON THE AGENDA: Twentynine Palms City Council, January 23, 2024
A Youth Council resolution (finally!), a new member for the Tourism Business Improvement District, and a low-income housing initiative
Updated 1/21/24: The original version of this article incorrectly attributed a recent invocation to the Church of Satan. That name was incorrect. The correct name of the organization is The Satanic Temple, a free speech advocacy group which believes in “reason, empathy, the pursuit of knowledge.”
With the holidays long behind us, it’s back to business as usual for the City Council with a mixed bag of agenda items at its Tuesday, January 23, meeting, which starts at 6 pm.
PUBLIC COMMENT AND INVOCATION
You have an opportunity to comment on these agenda items and issues important to you at every City Council meeting. Please use the opportunity to question your City Council members on the issues affecting our City. Comments on agenda items take place during the discussion of that item. Comments on non-agenda items take place near the end of the meeting. The Brown Act prevents Council from commenting on non-agenda items.
To comment, pick up a green (or occasionally gold) form at the entry desk, fill it out, and hand it to the Clerk, who is usually sitting in front of the Council bench on the right side. The public can also send comments via email to City Council Members and the cc Cindy Villescas, the Council secretary. We suggest requesting that comments be read at the meeting.
After last year’s Satanic Temple invocation, we continue the run of inspirational introductions led by Christian organizations. Suzy Dick of Yucca Valley’s chapter of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints will get the Council meeting started. You too can give an invocation; contact City Clerk Cindy Villescas and ask to be put on the schedule.
Interim City Manager Larry Bowden will give a presentation on Road and Pedestrian Safety. We hope he will address the lack of crosswalks near Oasis Elementary School, which has been of great concern to City residents.
The Consent Calendar usually consists of routine items approved with a single vote. You can make public comment on these items prior to the Council motion. The City has been holding an unusual number of closed sessions (which we commented on here) including a special meeting held on January 17 and announced only the day before.
The Consent Calendar approves the minutes of the January 9 Council meeting and also the minutes of the special meeting held on January 17. The minutes of that merely note that the City Attorney provided guidance on the interview process and the importance of confidentiality of the prospective applicants for the City Manager position. Its unclear why a closed session was needed.
Also on the Consent Calendar is the resolution for the long-awaiting Youth Council, which the Council voted forward at January 9 meeting. Mayor Steven Bilderain set three goals to be achieved by this meeting, two have been met: the drafting of a formal resolution included in this agenda, the appointment of Recreation Division Manager, Kary Minatrea, as staff advisor. The third, a consultation with the City Attorney, has not yet occurred.
No budget for the Youth Council, if it is approved, has been set and will be discussed during budget discussions in the spring.
DCA (Development Code Amendment) Article 3, Administration, Permits, and Procedures. The City continues to bring its development code into compliance with the State and correct inconsistencies; public hearings were held about these changes by the Planning Commission in their October 17 and December 5 meetings last year. These code changes include Approval Requirements, Fees and Deposits, Site Plan Review, Administrative Use Permit, Conditional Use Permit, Planned Development, Specific Plan, Sidewalk Vending, Transient Peddling and Soliciting, Mobile Food Trucks, and Historic Preservation.
DISCUSSION AND POTENTIAL ACTION ITEMS
Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID) Advisory Board Appointment. Ashton Ramsey is being recommended to replace Ash Maharaj on the board. Ramsey owns Ramsey 29 Hotel at the east end of the City and has a long history of short-term rental (STR) ownership and management. He owns Best Nest Living, a “high-end corporate housing brand,” which manages STRs in Los Angeles, Yucca Valley, Rancho Mirage, and Twentynine Palms. Ramsey’s resumé is included in the agenda packet.
Self-Help Housing Project. One of the ways the City proposes to provide much-needed affordable housing in Twentynine Palms is make lots available on which an informal association of families will help each other build homes with the technical assistance of the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition—a program we covered in more depth here.
City staff are asking Council how to move forward with obtaining the land needed for the program. The City needs at least ten adjacent parcels where houses can be built.
Here's how it would work:
First, the City would own the pieces of land. Then, they would give ownership of these lands to the CHVC (Community Housing Development Corporation).
The staff report describes the different ways the City can acquire land or use parcels it already owns. The City's staff is asking the Council for direction on the options. The staff will then give more details about the costs and steps for each option. Here are the choices:
The City could buy at least 10 existing pieces of land that are next to each other, preferably with roads and utilities nearby. This would mean negotiating with each of those owners on the purchases.
There are existing tentative housing tract maps within the City, but they are not recorded yet. The City could buy the land shown on these maps, subdivide it, and set up the infrastructure. Although this would mean negotiating with one owner, the City would incur costs for recording the divisions and installing the infrastructure.
Last, the City could avoiding negotiating for the purchase of land by dividing land it already owns. Like option two, the City incurs costs for the environment, engineering, and more. There are only a few City-owned properties that could be used for this.
These are all time-consuming choices, ensuring that self-help housing is several months away at best.
2024/2025 Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Funding Prioritization. Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) is a federal program targeted at improving low and moderate income communities and eliminating and preventing “slums and blight.”
In prior years, Council has used CDBG funds for City projects and allocated general funds for the non-profit requests. This is because of the county's rules. If a city gets $150,000 or more in CDBG funds, only 15% (or $24,012 in this period) is available for eligible non-profits. Also, since the CDBG funds are paid by reimbursement, the non-profits must front the funds. This means they will forfeit the funding if they do not have enough money in their budget.
Per the staff report the City and four non-profit organizations are requesting funding totaling $242,000. Twentynine Palms expects to receive less than the total requests - $160,078.
This a summary of the requests, the details are attached to the staff report:
1. City of Twentynine Palms: Parking Lot Improvements / ADA Rehabilitation Project, $170,000
2. Morongo Basin Unity Home, Inc.: Rehab a basketball court for children of victims of domestic violence, $12,000
3. Reach Out Morongo Basin: transportation and activities to moderate and low income seniors, $20,000
4. 29 Palms Community Food Pantry and Outreach Ministries: distribute food to moderate and low income persons, $30,000
5. San Bernardino County Library (SBCL), Twentynine Palms Branch: Adult literacy program, $10,000
Share your thoughts in the comments below. Please note that we do not allow anonymous comments. Please be sure your first and last name is on your profile prior to commenting. Anonymous comments will be deleted.
Subscribe now—it’s free!
Share the article—it’s free too!