Take a Stand August 21 to Prevent Paving Paradise
On Wednesday, August 21 the Riverside County Planning Commission will hold a key hearing that will decide the fate of the Paradise Valley Specific Plan: a massive planned new city on the border of Joshua Tree National Park. The development would destroy nearly 2,000 acres of desert habitat and place the delicate balance between economic development and conservation in the Coachella Valley in peril. We presented many of our concerns about Paradise Valley in a recent blog post, and herein focus on the broader implications of this project moving forward.
For decades, Californians have struggled to balance economic growth and housing needs with conservation. Conservation battles in many parts of the state have, over the years, spurred laudable efforts to chart a path of economic growth meanwhile ensuring that essential habitats for plants and animals remain intact. One such effort is the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan. (The plan’s acronym is a beast: CVMSHCP, so for the rest of this post, we’ll refer to it simply as the Coachella Valley Conservation Plan or “the plan.”) The Coachella Valley Conservation Plan was enacted in 2008 and balances housing and commercial development with the conservation of 240,000 acres of habitat for 27 species of plants and animals. Since its inception, the plan has saved more than 90,000 acres while allowing development primarily in less sensitive habitats. This success has been possible only with the cooperation of local governments, developers, conservation organizations, state and federal wildlife agencies, and the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission (CVCC).
Now, the Paradise Valley Specific Plan, an 8,490 home, 1,800-acre new city located in Shavers Valley, 15 miles east of Indio along Interstate-10 threatens to place the integrity of the the Coachella Valley Conservation Plan in jeopardy. Paradise Valley is located in the plan’s Desert Tortoise and Linkage Conservation Area, in which a limited amount of land is permitted for development. The Paradise Valley development would exceed the allowable amount of microphyll woodland (aka desert dry wash woodland) destruction within the conservation area by more than 400 acres. Paradise Valley would also sever key wildlife corridors and destroy intact desert habitat on the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park. Much like other far-flung housing developments, Paradise Valley would lead to long commutes, air pollution, excessive greenhouse gas emissions, and a whole host of other environmental problems.
Safeguards in place
The authors of the Coachella Valley Conservation Plan had the foresight to plan for destructive, ill-conceived proposals like Paradise Valley. They drafted a process called Joint Project Review (JPR) through which all development projects in the plan’s geographic footprint must ensure their compatibility with the plan. As was originally devised, this process should be completed ahead of detailed public review, as well as any votes by the Riverside County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors. A JPR would also determine the steps a development like Paradise Valley must take to bring it into compatibility with the Coachella Valley Conservation Plan, including reducing the project’s scope or acquiring land with equivalent or greater value outside of the project’s footprint for conservation.
Paradise Valley’s developers contend that they do not need to complete JPR for the entire project ahead of a vote by the Board of Supervisors. Instead, they would like to complete the process in a piecemeal fashion, as parts of the development are ready for construction. This flies in the face of findings from the CVCC, the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, each of which have pointed out that JPR must be completed ahead of a vote by the Board of Supervisors. They also caution that the integrity of the entire Coachella Valley Conservation Plan could be placed in jeopardy if the Paradise Valley development is approved.
CNPS, our conservation organization partners, and local community groups stand united in opposition to the Paradise Valley project. We also support regional planning in the Coachella Valley and elsewhere that aims to mediate the conflict between habitat conservation and appropriate development.
This coming Wednesday, August 21, marks a critical vote by the Planning Commission. Please join us in opposing Paradise Valley in Palm Desert by taking one of these two steps:
- Attend the hearing of the Riverside County Planning Commission and let the commissioners know that you support their vote in opposition to Paradise Valley. We will also advocate strongly for the completion of a Joint Project Review prior to Board of Supervisors votes on Paradise Valley and all other projects of this scale.
What: Riverside County Planning Commission Hearing
Where: Steve Robbins Administration Building
Coachella Valley Water District – Administration Board Room
75515 Hovley Lane East, Palm Desert, CA 92211
When: 9:30 am, Wednesday, August 21, 2019
- If you cannot attend the hearing in person please email Planning Commission Secretary, Elizabeth Sarabia at ESarabia@rivco.org, and ask her to communicate your opposition to Paradise Valley to the Commissioners.
Save Shavers Valley
Nick Jensen is a conservation analyst for the California Native Plant Society (CNPS) in Southern California and a fellow of the Robert and Patricia Switzer Foundation. Jensen recently earned his PhD in botany at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden (RSABG)/Claremont Graduate University. As a graduate student he produced the first Flora of Tejon Ranch (* in preparation) and studied evolutionary patterns in perennial jewelflowers. For more information please contact him at Nick Jensen at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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