RECAP: City Council, January 23, 2024
A focus on youth and schools, road safety, and the Self-Help Housing Project
If you find a high school student being inexplicably nice to you, it’s because Twentynine Palms High School is participating in a kindness challenge. As student Elizabeth Marshall reported, “at least one act of kindness a day, all week, from doing happy dances to holding a door open for a friend.” Both girls’ and boys’ basketball teams will be going to the California Interscholastic Federation for their outstanding performance this season. Do your happy dances, Wildcats.
For School Board Recognition Month, former City mayor John Cole acknowledged the important role the local board plays in the providing opportunities for success for students and the board’s collaborative efforts with parents and the community. He noted that the key “mission of the public schools is to meet the diverse educational needs of all children and to empower them to become competent, productive contributors to our democratic society.”
Highway Safety and Safe Routes to School. Interim City Manager Larry Bowden gave an extensive review of the City’s Safe Routes to School program, developed following an audit of City streets by KOA Engineering, which was awarded a contract to conduct the survey in late 2020.
Bowden reported that curbs, gutters, and sidewalks have been installed along El Paseo from Mesquite Springs to Yucca Avenue to enhance safe pedestrian travel. This connects Twentynine Palms High School and Oasis Elementary School to adjacent neighborhoods. The Two Mile Road bike path, and sidewalks ease bike and pedestrian travel to Twentynine Palms Elementary and Twentynine Palms Junior High.
The Interim City Manager detail other improvements that have been implemented including the Highway 62 median project and the refurbishment of more than 300 stop signs and thermoplastic stop bars. Many other upgrades are in the works, including planning for a 7.1-mile bike path from 49 Palms to Amboy Road and Baghdad.
Creation of a Youth Council. The Youth Council Resolution was pulled from the Consent Calendar to allow Recreation Division Manager Kary Minatrea to recap the discussion from January 9’s City Council meeting in which the program was unanimously approved. Minatrea has been appointed as the Council’s advisor. The only step before the Council becomes a reality is for the City Attorney to review plans and offer advice.
New Tourism Board Improvement District Member Appointed. Mayor Steven Bilderain reported that he and Mayor Pro Tem Joel Klink had proposed hotelier Ashton Ramsey, owner of the Ramsey 29 motel. “We had many qualified applicants,” Mayor Bilderain said, “and a lot of them had great ideas.” After being approved by the Council, Ramsey said, “I've never been a part of any town or any place or seen anything like this where you have so many people that are cheering each other on….We’re going to showcase what we have to the world, and I think it's really exciting.”
Self-Help Housing Project. The Council discussed the opportunity to collaborate with the Coachella Valley Housing Coalition (CVHC) on their self-help building program (we covered this in more detail here). The program allows applicants to build their own homes, and the CVHC requires at least 10 single-family lots from the city to participate. Several options were explored:
1. Finding 10 undeveloped, vacant lots already subdivided and ready for building. The cost may vary as negotiations with different property owners would be necessary.
2. Purchasing an approved but not recorded subdivision, negotiating with one property owner, and covering the costs of finishing engineering and subdivision work.
3. Subdividing city-owned property into suitable lots and managing the process internally. This option depends on the availability and appropriateness of city-owned properties.
During the Council’s discussion, City Development Director Keith Gardner clarified that none of the options would result in the city recouping money; instead, the City would donate the land to the CVHC. While no direct profit is anticipated, the project is seen as an investment in the community's future.
Questions were raised about infrastructure development. If the City initiated its subdivision, it would incur costs in developing roads and infrastructure, while applicants would be responsible for constructing the homes. Considerations included whether the homes would use septic tanks or a treatment plant, with existing subdivided lots potentially avoiding the need for a treatment plant.
The Council directed staff to explore options 1 and 2 and gather more information. There's no immediate timeframe, and geographic restrictions limit the search to the redevelopment area of the City, making the process more manageable.
Council member Klink said, “My concern with this project, when these people decide to sell it, can they sell it as a VHR or a rental? Or do they have to have on contract how many years they have to live in the house before they can do anything with it?” Gardner said he had no answer, but thought owners had to live in the homes for seven years before they could be sold.
Parking Lot Improvement. Council voted to approve the allocation of Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds to the public access parking lot at the Parks and Recreation office within Luckie Park, which is not currently up to ADA standards and has not seen significant maintenance in years.
Public Comment. LeeAnne Clark thanked the Council and the community for turning out for the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., March and Prayer Bowl. She also congratulated the School Board and commended Ashton Ramsey for preserving the Desert Gold Mining Days mural on his property. She said, “we do appreciate the newcomers just appreciating our history and preserving it.”
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