- Annual Meeting recording now on-line!
- Short Term Rentals and the SB County Housing Element
- Rooftop Solar in California
- 30 x 30
- Morongo Valley Cell Tower
- Mark your Calendars for the 2022 Landscape Tour
- MBCA Scholarship
Hello, MBCA members and supporters:
This year is starting out with an abundance of issues we continue to track and comment upon!
Annual Meeting recording now on-line!
For those who were not able to attend our 53rd Annual Meeting, I encourage you to view the recording on our website.
The Last Joshua Tree? Climate change and the future of this iconic species.’
Following an overview of MBCA’s ongoing activities, Brendan Cummings of the Center for Biological Diversity and Chris Clarke of the California Desert Program for the National Parks Conservation Association provided an overview of the status of the listing of the western Joshua tree as a threatened species by California’s Fish & Game Commission. In addition to MBCA’s prior comment letter, MBCA submitted another comment at the Commission’s February 17 meeting. The Commission confirmed they intend to vote upon the candidacy at the April 2021 meeting. MBCA will continue to track this important issue.
Short Term Rentals and the SB County Housing Element
MBCA continues to track and comment upon the issues surrounding the proliferation of Short Term Rentals (STRs) within portions of the unincorporated areas of San Bernardino County. STRs are having a significant negative effect on the availability of housing in the Morongo Basin and Mountain Communities.
MBCA’s Mission Statement emphasizes our advocacy for the healthy desert and the Basin’s economic well-being – of which adequate housing plays a foundational role. In the last few years, stories abound of Park rangers, teachers, students, families, and workers unable to find housing – at any price – and STRs are contributing to this shortfall. MBCA is not opposed to STRs within our communities. We endorse a balance of locally owned and operated STRs with benefits accruing to the local economy. However, the current ‘Land Rush’ mentality by outside LLCs and Companies is clearly out of balance and the ill effects are becoming ever-more apparent.
Planning Commission hearing
Amendments to the County Short Term Rental ordinance were on the agenda of the February 3, 2022 Planning Commission hearing. The proposed amendments were intended to address some of the adverse effects caused by a surfeit of investor-owned STRs within our communities.
At the hearing, MBCA Directors and a number of Morongo Basin residents commented. Compelling cases for addressing the effects of STRs were provided both orally and by a letter from Wayne Hamilton, the housing liaison for the Morongo Unified School Districts, and through oral comments by Sean Young, Mr. Hamilton’s counterpart at the Big Bear Valley Unified School District. However, after receiving over 60 written and oral comments from the public, the Planning Commissioners were unable to reach any consensus and continued the discussion to the February 17 meeting, only to again continue the item to a future date at that meeting.
STR problem and the General Plan Housing Element
Because of state reporting requirements related to the County’s Housing Element (part of the County-Wide Plan), MBCA has sent letters to the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) and the California State Attorney General describing our concerns with the unbridled proliferation of STRs in the County. HCD mandates the submission of an Annual Progress Report (APR) that requires an accounting of available housing. Per existing State requirements STRs are not tabulated as a separate housing type but are categorized as VACANT housing! This accounting provides a false and skewed vacancy rate, in the County’s case showing a vacancy rate of nearly 30% while in fact, the actual vacancy rate is below 2%. MBCA has asked HCD to revise the APR reporting requirements to provide a separate line item for STRs.
MBCA also requested that a moratorium on the issuance of new STRs be put in place until amendments to the ordinance can be enacted. We contend that the current STR ordinance is inconsistent and must be brought into consistency with the goals and policies of the County-Wide Plan (more commonly referred to as the General Plan).
We encourage participation in this ongoing process by our members and supporters, letting your voice be heard as these needed amendments are crafted. Email comments to: [email protected]
Protect Rooftop Solar in California
With the appointment of two new California Public Utilities Commissioners by Governor Gavin Newsom, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has indefinitely postponed a vote on this important issue. There was strong opposition to the proposed Net Energy Metering Tariff 3.0 (NEM3.0) that if passed would have dealt a crippling blow to the rooftop solar energy business in California. MBCA is pleased with this development and looks forward to a revised version that will recognize investments of existing solar customers; encourage the creation of an equitable distributed generation electrical infrastructure; support the imperative to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, and guarantee a fair return for the investor-owned utilities that serve as the backbone for our upcoming electrically powered world.
30 x 30
California Governor Gavin Newsom issued an executive order N-82-20 calling for conservation of 30% of California’s land and water to be protected by 2030. This 30x30 effort is key for adapting to the effects of climate change throughout the State. The California Department of Natural Resources produced a Draft Pathways Report that would serve as a guide to implementing this order. In a coalition letter with 22 other non-profits, MBCA has called for a re-classification of the area designated as desert within the Draft Report and for a recognition of the services the desert provides in sequestering carbon and supporting biodiversity. MBCA also joined a statewide comment letter on the Draft Report. We will continue to track this Pathway and will keep you informed.
Morongo Highway 62 Communication Tower
The Bureau of Land Management has announced the opening of a 30 day scoping comment period for a proposed 196 foot tall communication tower in Morongo Valley. Key to allowing the construction of this tower would be the granting of an amendment to the existing Desert Renewable Energy Conservation Plan/California Desert Conservation Area (DRECP/CDCA) to revise the Visual Resource Management (VRM) classification for the site. This tower is intended to provide 5G cell coverage to the portion of Highway 62 ascending from the low desert to Morongo Valley. The comment deadline will close on March 21, 2021. We will continue to track this project.
Mark your Calendars for MBCA’s 2022 Landscape Tour
MBCA has set April 24, 2022 for the date of our yearly Landscape Tour. This year we plan to offer a hybrid production of a limited number of in-person and virtual video productions of sites throughout the Morongo Basin. This year will mark our 12th year of showcasing landscapes that offer creative, energy-saving, and water-wise examples of living sustainably within our desert. Check out the Desert-Wise Living section of our website to see our Desert Wise Top Ten Tips and see the 2020 and 2021 virtual landscape tour videos. Please mark your calendars for April 24 and plan to attend. More information will be forthcoming.
MBCA has expanded our commitment to supporting Morongo Basin High School graduates by offering two $1,000 scholarships for 2022. Please help spread the word and encourage applications for these grants. More information and a link to the application are on our Scholarship page. We look forward to receiving applications from a broad variety of students with a commitment to supporting Mother Earth at this critical time.
At this time, I wish to offer our gratitude and acknowledge the many years of commitment and service given by retiring director Ruth Rieman! Thank you, Ruth!
Thank you, members and supporters, for your interest and support as we pursue our mission of Advocating for the Healthy Desert!Sincerely,
Steve Bardwell, President
Brian Hammer, Director
Janet Johnston, Director
Sarah Kennington, Director
Arch McCulloch, Director
Gary Stiler, Director