Palm Springs City Council declines public vote on downtown project

Public vote rejected 5-0, downtown project to move forward

POSTED: 09:12 AM PST Mar 07, 2013    UPDATED: 09:44 AM PST Mar 07, 2013 
PALM SPRINGS, Calif. -

In a unanimous 5-0 decision on Wednesday, the Palm Springs City Council denied a resident-driven group’s request to have a public vote on the hotel portion of the downtown revitalization project.

One right after the other, Palm Springs neighbors voiced spirited support of the plan to move forward with the project and not allow a referendum to be placed on a ballot.

"I'm going to be damned if 25 businesses and residents are going to tell us about the future of downtown and of this city," said Joy Meredith, a supporter of the project.

At the city council meeting, many of them were fired up and upset with the group, Citizens for a Sustainable Palm Springs, which called for a public vote on Wessman Development’s proposed design of a new Kimpton Hotel.

"It's important. It's a decision that's going to change the character of our city forever,” said Manny Montoya, a spokesperson for Citizens for a Sustainable Palm Springs.

The council approved the project on Dec. 19. In January, opponents of the hotel's 89-foot height turned in a petition with thousands of signatures to have the issue placed on the November ballot to protect the scenic landscape and tradition of the city.

"We don't want it on the ballot. The reason is we were forced to do this because we didn't have a say so in the process,” said Montoya.

The council earlier proposed hosting an $80,000 special election, if need be, to allow the public to decide on the final design. The cost didn't sit well with residents and was rejected by the council in Wednesday’s vote.

Montoya says the opposing group plans to “pursue a legal avenue to get the vote on the ballot” and will fight all of the way until it does.

City council, however, did approve John Wessman's redesign of the hotel, which the project Planning Commission approved in February. Opponents say the redesign only changed the exterior of the building, not the height.

Some neighbors say they’re eager to tear down for a new downtown.

"We fully support the city council on this. We look forward to ensuring Downtown gets revitalized," Chris Brooks, the project manager of PENTA Building Group.