Desert Fashion Plaza revitalization project faces more opposition

POSTED: 01:36 PM PST Jan 30, 2013    UPDATED: 06:05 PM PST Jan 22, 2013 
PS Petition
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -

The long-awaited plan to revitalize the Desert Fashion Plaza in Palm Springs could be delayed again. One month after the city council approved the project, one group wants the people of Palm Springs to voice their vote. 

The "Citizens for a Sustainable Palm Springs" collected 2,775 signatures to petition for a public vote on plans to build a high rise hotel as part of the Desert Fashion Plaza revitalization. The opponents believes the six-story hotel could affect views of the desert landscape.  "You come home, you look at the mountains, you look at the windmills," said the group's treasurer Manuel Montoya. "You look at what we have here and this is where we want to be and we want to protect that."

Montoya also believes it will hurt the image Palm Springs is known for.  "Some of us have traveled and conducted business outside of Palm Springs, are very aware of the brand," said Montoya.  "It's a tourist attraction like no other, and what brings people here is what you see, we're trying to protect that."

The petition doesn't come without criticism from business owners.  "To have people just come in and stab you in the back is painful," said Crystal Fantasy owner Joy Meredith.

The city council approved the project last month and its spurred mixed emotions from many of the shop owners in downtown. "I'm all for bringing in new business but I think the integrity of Palm Springs and its architecture and its history need to be protected," said Ross Rhodes.

The plans call for demolition of the existing Desert Fashion Plaza and replace it with new stores, restaurants, and the hotel.  While there's support from some residents, some also share the concern for the view.  "The biggest thing is why like to come out here and I like the village atmosphere," said Sylvia Lundquist. "That's my biggest thing, and don't want to obstruct the beautiful mountains you have here."

While the revitalization plans could move forward for now without the hotel, Meredith fears the further delay could disrupt the entire project.
"That is just not a good message from a group of citizens," said Meredith.  "We elect the city council so they can make these choices for us, and if you don't like what the city council does, vote for somebody new next time."

The project is scheduled to start in a month, but the petition drive could delay construction, at least on the hotel.  Palm Springs city attorney Douglas Holland says verifying the signatures and getting reviewed by the city council again, could take until March.  "I think a lot is going to depend upon how the city council wishes to process this application that we have pending and it also depends on what Mr. Wessman is going to want to do," said Holland.

Wessman Development, the project's contractor won't let this slow their progress.  Senior vice president Michael Braun gave us this written statement:

"We look forward to starting the downtown revitalization project in February.  Every delay we face delays the hundreds of jobs and benefits to our local economy this revitalization project will bring to Palm Springs.  The revitalization project has tremendous support among Palm Springs citizens and visitors alike.  They share our excitement about getting this much needed project started."