Eblast April 18, 2022

  • Attend MBCA’s Landscape Tour Sunday April 24!
  • Comments due on the Flamingo 640 Glamping Project
  • Proposed Wonder Inn Hotel
  • Short Term Rentals and the SB County Housing Element
  • Is the Joshua Tree a Threatened Species?

Hello, MBCA members and supporters:

Attend MBCA’s Landscape Tour Sunday April 24!
REGISTRATION is now open for our 12th Annual Desert Wise Landscape Tour. This year will offer the opportunity to visit 5 landscapes throughout the Morongo Basin that employ water and energy-wise principles within their landscapes. The in-person tour of these sites will run from 9:00 to 4:00 on Sunday, April 24. We strongly encourage pre-registration at our website. In-person registration will be available on the day of the tour from 9:00 to 1:00 at the Mojave Desert Land Trust (MDLT) offices in Joshua Tree. This year’s tour will incorporate a hybrid of the above in-person sites, and videos of 4 additional landscapes that will be available for viewing through our website in June of this year. Check out the Desert-Wise Living section of our website to see our Desert Wise Top Ten Tips and view the 2020 and 2021 virtual landscape tour videos.

Upon registering for our landscape tour, a limited number of spaces are available to tour the MDLT Seed Bank at 10 AM or 2 PM. To reserve a place you must email [email protected].

Comments due on the Flamingo 640 Glamping Project
This project would establish a destination resort consisting of tent camping with support facilities that are not open to the public, including a restaurant, bar, reception, store, trails and paths, and recreation buildings, as well as a helicopter landing pad on a 640-acre parcel. The parcel is within a Rural Residential area and requires a conditional use permit to allow for its construction. Under the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), an Initial Study (IS) has been completed and a Draft mitigated negative declaration (MND) has been prepared. The comment period on this draft is closing on April 21, 2022.

MBCA contends this project warrants the preparation of a complete Environmental Impact Report (EIR) for, among other reasons:

  • The potential adverse effect on wildlife due to the proximity of the wildlife corridor and the destruction of the Joshua tree woodland habitat.
  • The creation of adverse noise sources within an otherwise quiet area.
  • The introduction of artificial light sources within a relatively dark area.
  • The impact of additional traffic on Highway 247 (an already dangerous highway!).
  • The use of campfires and their effect on air quality and the potential for wildfires.
  • The inappropriate use of tents provided with heating and cooling that would utilize energy and water in an unrestricted manner.
  • The potential for adverse effects on water wells within the area.

In addition to the above, MBCA questions the compatibility of this project with the stated goals of the Homestead Valley Community Action Guide.  While one may in general be opposed to this project, we encourage the submission of substantive comments to require the preparation of a full EIR. Comments should reference and be addressed to:

PROJ-2020-00191 Assessor Parcel Number (APN) 0629-181-01
Jim Morrissey, contract planner (909) 387-4234
County of San Bernardino
Land Use Services Department – Planning Division
385 N Arrowhead Ave. First Floor
San Bernardino, CA 92415-0187
[email protected]

The deadline for submission of comments is Thursday, April 21, 4:30 pm.

As an aside – ‘Where would the workers for this resort live?’ – the housing shortage in the Morongo Basin is reaching a critical level.

Proposed Wonder Inn Hotel
This proposed project for the development of a 106 room hotel-resort on 25 acres in the Wonder Valley community east of 29 Palms is currently under review by the County of San Bernardino. Should this project be approved, the unique quality of the Wonder Valley community would be fundamentally changed. The developers are seeking to utilize the existing 3.18 acres of existing CS commercially zoned land (previously an SCE office) as a justification to rezone the balance of the RL zoned 25-acre site to allow for this commercial development.

Some of the concerns MBCA has with this project include:

  • The fundamental incompatibility of this development with the existing dispersed rural residential community. This development would not be in keeping with the aspirations and values of the Wonder Valley Community Action Guide.
  • The hop-scotch nature of this development that would encourage additional development in this remote area.
  • The lack of existing fire and law enforcement resources in the area.
  • The inappropriate use of water in this desert area where the aquifer is not receiving any re-charge. The proposed 6000 square foot uncovered swimming pool being a prime example.
  • The effect of additional lighting within this relatively dark-sky area.
  • The apparent lack of a commitment by the developers to incorporate sustainable features into the development. As presented, the project would not be Net Zero.

This website provides an overview of the project and a link for submission of comments on the project.

As with the proposed Flamingo Glamping project discussed above, where would the workers for this enterprise live?

Short Term Rentals and the SB County Housing Element    
We continue to track developments affecting the housing crisis within the Morongo Basin. MBCA has written letters to the State Department of Housing and Community Development and the California State Attorney General expressing our belief that the County Short Term Rental (STR) Ordinance as it is now written is inconsistent with the Countywide Vision Statement and the Housing Element (HE) of the Countywide Plan. We believe there is a balance that can be achieved with policy changes that will better serve the needs of the community.  MBCA directors were primed to speak at the March 17 Planning Commission hearing to comment on the Housing Element only to discover at the last minute that this item had been removed from consideration.

We subsequently learned the County had already submitted a Draft Housing Element in early December 2021. The draft element was submitted to HCD without notice to the public, and without the benefit of public input, thereby excluding them from the process. MBCA was surprised to learn the County had received a letter from HCD in early February (!!!) describing changes needed to bring the Housing Element into compliance with requirements. Notably, the letter requires that the issue of housing displacement caused in part by the investor-fueled STR market, be considered in the preparation of the HE. The planning commission considered proposed revisions to the STR ordinance at their February 17, and March 3 meetings. As of this writing, we are not aware of when these two important issues will next be presented to the board of supervisors. MBCA will continue to follow this opaque process.

MBCA advocates for land-use policies that support and enrich our local communities and preserve and protect our desert plants, animals, and vistas for future generations.  We value our tourism-based economy and have worked for 53 years to preserve this unique place for their enjoyment as well as our desert residents.

MBCA is in support of locally owned and managed STRs within our community – when such vacation homes and lodgings are part of a balanced mix of housing. The Morongo Basin is not alone in feeling the effects of the housing crisis, however, the draw of desert tourism has helped to fuel the investor STR market to the detriment of long-term rental housing as well as affordability for the coming younger generation. We look forward to participating in a process to craft policies and regulations that will balance the imperative of providing housing with the economic welfare of this special place.

Is the Joshua Tree a Threatened Species?
The California Department of Fish and Wildlife has published a status review with the opinion that this iconic species does not warrant designation as threatened under the California Endangered Species Act (CESA). The final determination on the listing is up to the Fish and Game Commission and will be voted upon in an upcoming meeting. This MBCA news article provides additional detail. We encourage you to write the Fish and Game Commission and express your opinion. Utilize this link(no longer available) to the Center for Biological Diversity to submit your comments.

I am sad to relay news of the passing of long-time MBCA member and supporter Steve Rieman. Steve was always generous with his time and ready to contribute. Steve and his wife Ruth, former long-time MBCA board member, were the recipients of the Minerva Hoyt Award in 2012, recognizing their many decades of selfless service in support of the healthy desert. Steve’s sculptures can be seen at many venues throughout the Basin, across southern California, and beyond. Steve will be sorely missed but leaves a legacy of art inspired by the natural world.

Spring is here and I encourage you all to get outdoors and enjoy our beautiful desert environment!

Steve Bardwell
Your MBCA Board:

Steve Bardwell, President
David Fick, Vice President
Laraine Turk, Secretary
Cathy Zarakov, Treasurer  
Pat Flanagan, Director;
Stacy Doolittle, Director

Brian Hammer, Director
Janet Johnston, Director
Sarah Kennington, Director
Arch McCulloch, Director
Gary Stiler, Director

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  • Steve Bardwell
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