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Palm Springs leaders discuss airport concessions, downtown park

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An American Airlines flight takes off Palm Springs International Airport, November 19, 2019. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)

More improvements are coming to the Palm Springs International Airport.

On Thursday, the Palm Springs City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the airport concession lease agreement and concept designs related to a demonstration garden and future turf conversion projects.

An extension of the concessions agreement with Paradies Shops, which has operated at the airport since 1999, will be in effect through April 2023, according to the city.

It will include a $512,000 investment from Paradies to improve food and bar spaces with proposed concepts such as Santa Rosa Kitchen and Spirits, PSP Coffee House and The Wine Bar at PSP in lieu of the 12th Fairway, Starbucks and California Vintage. 

Approving the amendment will allow Paradies to begin working on design plans, acquiring equipment and hiring staff in hopes of opening some locations by mid-November, according to a staff report. 

The deal with Paradies comes as more airlines announce flights to and from Palm Springs. On Thursday, Southwest Airlines announced it will begin flying out of Palm Springs on Nov. 15 to Phoenix, Oakland and Denver.

“I think it’s important that when people come into our airport, they have a good experience so they’ll want to return,” Councilman Dennis Woods said. “Part of that experience is having vendors available for food and drink as they pass through, especially if they’ve been on a long flight.”

The agreement also comes several months after HMS Host, which used to manage food and beverage sales at the airport, terminated its operations there effective July 31. 

“HMS’s termination of operations eliminated food service, bar service, and the two licensed Starbucks operations at PSP,” a staff report stated. 

In addition to concessions, the council unanimously approved concept designs related to a demonstration garden and future turf conversion projects.

The garden, which will be located between the fountain and terminal, will feature drought-tolerant plants, a pollinator garden, edible plants and other features, according to a staff report. Approving the design allows the city to proceed to the construction documents phase of the project. 

More airport landscape conversion projects involving the grass along El Cielo and Ramon roads will occur in the future when additional funds are available, the city said. 

‘Substantial completion’ of downtown park expected by April 

An architect’s rendering of the proposed Palm Springs Downtown Park, which would be built in front of the art museum. The drawing has been on display in Palm Springs City Hall. (Photo: Palm Springs Desert Sun)

The downtown park, which is being built near the Palm Springs Art Museum, is expected to be substantially complete by April 30, according to the city.

The date was mentioned in a staff report that recommended increasing City Manager David Ready’s authority to approve construction contract change orders in order to keep the project moving forward, according to the city. The council voted unanimously to approve the increase. 

The estimated budget to finish the park has increased “due to structural repairs to the city’s parking garage and other additional work and increased costs.”

Except for the police substation and restroom building, work is delayed until the repairs in the underground parking garage are complete, the city said.

“Prior to starting construction of the project, certain cracks were identified in the concrete beams that support the deck extending across the city’s underground parking garage,” a staff report stated. “Upon further review, it was determined that additional structural repairs will be required to prevent further fatigue cracking.”

The estimated cost of the structural repairs are $500,000, according to the city.

The total project budget has increased to more than $9 million, according to an August estimate, due to change orders, parking garage repairs, construction management and other potential costs. 

The increase comes after a construction contract was approved in October 2019 for $7.6 million.

City caps food delivery fees, extends police agreement

The council also unanimously adopted an urgency ordinance establishing limitations on third-party food delivery fees. 

Under the ordinance, it is unlawful for a delivery service to charge a food establishment a delivery fee more than 15 percent of the cost of an online order, according to the city. In addition, the ordinance requires drivers receive the full gratuity paid by customers.

The ordinances comes after cities such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C. have passed similar ordinances. 

The council also unanimously approved the renewal of an agreement with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration through Sept. 30, 2021.

The city through the police department has participated in the Palm Springs Narcotics Task Force for more than 10 years. The task force, which is supervised by a DEA supervisor, focuses on major drug traffickers in the area.

One Palm Springs police officer participates on the task force, police Chief Bryan Reyes said. Representatives from other law enforcement agencies across the valley also participate. 

“This is a task force that focuses on long-term investigations,” Reyes said at the council meeting. “Some of these investigations can take a year or two to come to an end and their focus is on high-volume drug dealing, cartel-level investigations.”

In other action, some residents spoke during council’s public comments period about wanting to see properties such as Boulders, a valuable 30-acre plot of vacant mountain-adjacent land on Chino Canyon Road, and Crescendo, another large vacant plot of land near the mountains that sits near Racquet Club Road, remain undeveloped.

The city acquired the two properties in a 2019 settlement with Grit Development.

Their comments were in response to an agenda item regarding an agreement to analyze market demand of city properties, which was deleted from the agenda prior to the meeting. It wasn’t immediately clear when the item will be discussed again. 

According to a staff report for the item, the council, in the wake of the pandemic, had directed staff to “solicit real estate services to determine general interest in the purchase of certain city-owned properties.”

“It is important to note that this action is only approving a real estate broker agreement and is the first step to identify what interest, if any, exists in the real estate market for potential buyers of these properties,” the staff report added. 

Some residents said Thursday night they wanted to see the land preserved as open space.

Brian Ray, a Palm Springs resident and professional guitar player who has been a member of Paul McCartney’s band for 18 years, said he opposed development on the Boulders and Crescendo sites.

“I would be so opposed to the disruption of the peace and the quiet that we’ve all come to know and love in the area,” he said. 

Airlines: Southwest to begin flying out of Palm Springs on Nov. 15 to Oakland, Phoenix and Denver

Upgrades: Palm Springs International Airport is getting some major upgrades in 2020. Here’s what to expect

Flights: Delta to add daily L.A.-Palm Springs flights; conservation group interested in buying city golf course

Shane Newell covers breaking news and the western Coachella Valley cities of Palm Springs, Cathedral City and Desert Hot Springs. He can be reached at shane.newell@desertsun.com, 760-778-4649 or on Twitter at @journoshane.

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