The decision to be made is simply whether to grant an extension or not. The granting of the extension cannot be made with conditions. Thus in considering this request by the developers the Planning Commission could not modify the existing entitlement.
If the extension request is granted the developers have a further full year in which to submit plans to the City and to start the project. If the extension request is not granted then the existing approval, for a gated community of 80 two-story town homes, twenty two 32-feet high live-work units with virtually no public open space and 15,000 square feet of retail space will lapse and the application process for an outline design must start again. In that case local people would be consulted on any proposed design and could have input to it.
I believe that there is a case to be made for rejecting the request for an extension.
1. THE PLANS ARE OUT OF DATE: The layout plan for this development was drawn up in 2005 when the situation in Palm Springs and especially South Palm Springs was quite different than today. Ten years ago there was no redevelopment of Downtown taking place, Magruder Chevrolet and the Rock Garden restaurant were operating businesses, the land behind the Rock Garden was owned by Indian allottees and the Tahquitz Creek Trail Master plan had not been developed. Today a lot more new retail space is being created downtown, both the Magruder building and the Rock Garden are derelict and the land behind the Rock Garden is owned by developers, as is the Rock Garden itself. The Cameron Project's design does not take account of any of these new facts to which we can add the appointment of a new Director of Planning for the City.
2. THERE IS A ONCE IN A LIFETIME OPPORTUNITY: At this moment then there is a once in a lifetime opportunity for the City to apply imaginative guidance to the development of the largest combined development area, (the RG development, Magruders and the Cameron Project), in Palm Springs to create something which is far in excess of the sum of its parts and which will greatly enhance the quality of life of residents of South Palm Springs. These three sites can only be considered together if the request for an extension for the Cameron Project is rejected and an outline plan has to be applied for again.
3. THE REASONS FOR THE REQUEST ARE NOT PLAUSIBLE: Davidson Communities, the owners of the Cameron Project, have claimed that they could not submit plans for the project because of "the complexity of the project". But people experienced in both planning and development tell me this is simply not plausible. Davidson Communities are experienced developers, the development is on a conventional brown-field site and they have had eleven months to submit these drawings. They have even employed the engineering firm which worked on the original plans back in 2005. It is simply not credible that they could not submit plans in the time allotted.
4. THE DEVELOPERS HAVE MADE CLAIMS THAT ARE APPARENTLY FALSE: In their letter requesting the extension Davidson Communities state that they have submitted plans for the residences, but the Director of Planning has stated that his department has no record of such. In addition Davidson Communities have repeatedly stated that they intend to start the development, first in the Fall of 2014, then in the Spring of this year, and only now has something happened which has been described by one person I know as "simply pushing dirt around". The erection of dust fencing, and water spraying just when an extension is applied for is not sufficient evidence of either a start or an intent to build as this has happened in the past and the land was subsequently sold without building starting. Thus even if an extension is granted there is no guarantee that a start will be made, and the lengthy delay so far in submitting detailed residential plans suggests that the same thing may happen yet again. In the meantime Davidson's inaccurate claims and statements undermine the believability of any promises they may make.
5. THE LOCAL COMMUNITY HAS BEEN EXCLUDED: Though there was purportedly a "public consultation" back in 2006 which should have sought input from everyone in the community on the development, no evidence of that input can be provided to show its extent. Over the nearly ten years since then there has been a huge turnover of residents in the neighborhoods in the vicinity such that today most of the people living in the area and affected by this development have had no say in it. For instance there is concern about the gated nature of the community, its density, and the height of the buildings, but because the outline plans were approved ten years ago nothing about them can be changed. If the extension is not given, local residents can be heard in regard to any new outline plan submitted.
I live in a home directly facing this development. It would be to my advantage to have the development proceed immediately as something built would be better than facing an empty development site. But because this is a once in a lifetime opportunity to create something that would benefit everyone living in South Palm Springs, because there is no certainty that even if the extension is granted anything actually would be built in the next year and because local people have been excluded from having their say about it I believe it is right that the application for an extension be rejected and the developers be asked to submit another outline plan.