In November of 1972, citizen concern over the Palm Springs building boom put the City Council on the spot.
Many residents called on the council to establish a policy that would limit growth.
Critics claimed the council procrastinated too long in facing the environmental headache produced by a record splurge of new construction over the past year. Many said the boom could eventually lead to the destruction of the Palm Springs “image.”
Members of the newly-appointed Environmental Impact Committee had been struggling through many long meetings trying to comply with the terms of the Friends of Mammoth Lake decision requiring Environmental Impact Reports for private projects. Desert Peoples United (DPU) called on the city to delay building permits for 11 multiple housing developments that would add an estimated 1625 units to the local scene. Value of the projects has been estimated at about $40 million.
DPU petitioned city hall that “the wholesale grant political controversy” boiled over with the sale of the El Mirador Hotel to Desert Hospital. In an article printed in the Desert Sun on Dec. 12, 1972, one faction headed by Matt Dragicevich, chairman of the Palm Springs Citizens for Balance, criticized the city’s “no-growth” policy, saying the economy was in a “delicate balance.”
He concluded that the loss of the revenue from the El Mirador Hotel to the city was approximately $60,000 to $70,000 per year and nearly $50,000 in bed tax funds. He added this would negatively impact city revenues.
The loss of revenue from the El Mirador Hotel and the and the bankruptcy action against the largest hotel in the city, the 464 room Riviera Hotel as well as the alleged shaky financial condition of three or four more hotels, all factored in to his assertion that the city was not in a position to stick its neck out for the financial responsibility of the hospital’s future expansion.
According to Dragicevich, the city was co-signing a $4 million loan for the district hospital to purchase the hotel because under the joint powers agreement, the city would be liable for the payment. He noted the hospital district extends from the cities in the west end of the Coachella Valley east to the Colorado River, but that Palm Springs taxpayers were basically picking up the entire tab.
He called for the repeal of the current building moratorium as a possible solution to keeping the city’s coffers solvent. Dragicevich stated, “Palm Springs just can’t be known as a no-growth city. We are a city not a village, no use kidding ourselves,” he added, “We’re a city with expensive investments, like an airport that the whole valley uses but we have to pay for.”
There is a multitude of ways to Explore Palm Springs, which turned 75 in 2013. One of the more intriguing methods is by exploring Palm Springs history.
The Palm Springs Historical Society will share a weekly story whose time and place corresponds with today.
The Palm Springs Historical Society is located at 221 S. Palm Canyon Drive.
Visit www.pshistoricalsociety.org for more information.