As reported on local radio station KCDZ, the RoBott Land Company replied in writing to questions asked at a recent Homestead Valley Community meeting with a 17-page document. Their detailed replies are to a great extent based on the acceptance and approval of San Bernardino County in their application process and their belief that the growth in visitors to Joshua Tree National Park supports their project.
Changes to the proposed Sienna Solar project in Lucerne Valley triggered a new scoping comment letter from MBCA about Sienna Solar 2. The proposed site has expanded and poses a wide range of potential harms to quality of life and the desert ecosystem. In a community designated as Severely Disadvantaged, Lucerne Valley residents will be subjected to dust, degraded views, and excessive lighting. Environmental problems likely to arise include degraded air quality, water issues, and harm to wildlife including threatened species. MBCA Directors Pat Flanagan and Brian Hammer have outlined the problems and created detailed maps illustrating the issues in MBCA's Scoping Comments to San Bernardino County’s Land Use Services Department.
MBCA and 7 other conservation groups have requested a pause in the Golden Currant Solar project variance review until a revised Bureau of Land Management Resource Management Plan is completed to replace the 1997 version. The 25-year old plan predates many changes in desert management, including updated desert tortoise status, water availability, visual resource and habitat conservation plans, plus water availability, public land access, tribal consultation and many more concerns. While this Nevada project is not within the Morongo Basin, MBCA has always viewed the entire Mojave Desert as part of "the healthy desert environment" that we seek to preserve.
As part of the County's amended Housing Element (required report to the state), Program 4 is a study to determine the impact of short-term rentals on the housing supply of unincorporated desert and mountain communities. In this September 19 letter to San Bernardino County's Planning Director, MBCA and the Center for Biological Diversity along with Mojave Desert Land Trust, Tahquitz Group of the Sierra Club, and Unincorporated San Bernardino Together, ask the County to show that they are taking their responsibility to their communities seriously. The letter recommends formation of two Advisory Committees – one for the Mountain Region, and one for the Desert Region. The letter also recommends setting an interim cap during the study period, plus a timeline and goals for the study. The introductory paragraphs of the letter summarize past concerns and the intent of the recommendations. For more background information, read MBCA's News posts from May 15, June 9 (MBCA letter), June 9 (letter with CBD), June 15, and July 5, 2022.
San Bernardino County's June draft version of their state-required Housing Element contained some changes in direct response to the outpouring of public concerns about excessive Short Term Rentals in unincorporated Desert and Mountain areas of the County. MBCA has scrutinized the latest draft and sent a detailed comment letter thanking the County for some useful changes and pointing out the need for additional revisions. For a history of the ongoing County housing issues, see our News posts of June 9 (MBCA comment letter), June 9 (combined letter with Center for Biological Diversity), and June 15 (report on Supervisors' meeting). This Desert Sun article contains a good overview of the situation.
MBCA President Steve Bardwell addresses Supervisors at June 14 meeting. Photo by Stacy Doolittle
At their June 14 meeting, the San Bernardino County Supervisors voted to place a 45-day moratorium on new short-term rental (STR) permits in unincorporated areas of the County via this Urgency Ordinance. During this time the County is expected to initiate studies about housing issues caused by the excessive number of STRs. The Board also voted to prohibit transfer of STR permits with home sales and limited STR ownership to 2 per person. Third District Supervisor Dawn Rowe was instrumental in championing these actions.
The Supervisors also voted on revisions to the existing Short Term Rental Ordinance forwarded by the Planning Commission. Supervisor Rowe made a motion to limit corporate and LLC ownership of STRs, but was unable to get a second on her motion to move it to a vote. MBCA along with other speakers emphasized the need to gather data and analyze the effect of STRs and housing needs at the local level incorporating input from the local community. This as the supervisors emphasized that the STR ordinance is a ‘living’ ordinance that should be expected to be revised over time.
There was some recognition by the Supervisors that any analysis could require more than 45 days of study. County Counsel informed the supervisors that the urgency notice could be extended for 10 months 15 days, and then for an additional year for a two year maximum.
MBCA's Pause Petition sent to the County on June 12 plus an Addendum presented at the meeting on June 14 were signed by a total of 474 people with 136 comments.
After months of escalating concern about the proliferation of short-term rentals across San Bernardino County, especially in the desert and mountain regions, MBCA joined with the Center for Biological Diversity to ask the County to immediately pause the approval of short-term rentals. The letter also urges a comprehensive study of both STR problems and the growing lack of rental housing availability.
Congressman Raul Ruiz (Coachella Valley) is planning to introduce legislation seeking to expand federal desert land protection with a new National Monument and other protection categories. MBCA has sent a letter to the Congressman in support of this effort.
In this public comment letter to the County and to the State Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD), MBCA details the many inconsistencies between the state-required Housing Element policies and the County's open-ended Short-Term Rental Ordinance. A few of the many issues covered are housing displacement, lack of acknowledgement of community input, quantifying of housing unit objectives, and data about housing stock and housing types.
Photo by Stacy Doolittle
News of this proposed Alta Loma and Sunset Avenue housing project in Joshua Tree was received on short notice and the deadline for comment is today, but we are publishing our our letter of concern sent today to the County planning staff. You will find in it a summary of our concerns about issues ranging from water use to native plant removal.