Kaufmann House, Abortion, Palm Hills


County has 1,900 criminal cases awaiting trial while 30 judges are down

Riverside County Superior Court has more than 1,900 criminal cases awaiting trial — a backlog authorities attribute to COVID-19-related closures and a shortage of judges.

Before the pandemic shut down courtrooms in March 2020, the county had a backlog in the “low hundreds,” Riverside County Superior Court spokeswoman Marita Ford said. The backup is now about 10 times what it was before the pandemic.

The extended lockdown means some suspects are being jailed for months or even years before their cases go to trial — jeopardizing their right to a speedy sixth amendment trial. It also means that victims of crime face long waits for justice to be served.

The Desert Sun previously calculated that the court system has initiated about 50 lawsuits a month for the past decade. At this rate, it would take about three years for the current cases to reach a courtroom.

Ford said the exact number of cases awaiting trial is difficult to report because it’s ever-changing, with new cases being filed and old ones being resolved every day — either because a trial is closed, charges are dropped, or a defendant makes a plea bargain have agreed.

– Christopher Damien

Newsom, Democrats vow to protect abortion in California constitution

California voters could get a chance this fall to add abortion protections to the state constitution.

Gov. Gavin Newsom and senior lawmakers pledged Monday to include an amendment in the November vote that would enshrine “the right to vote” in California.

Her comments came hours after Politico released a draft court opinion showing that a majority of the nine justices supported Roe v. Wade wants to overturn the landmark 1973 ruling that prevented state governments from banning abortion.

If the court overturns Roe v. Wade, at least 26 states are likely to either further restrict access to abortion or ban it outright, according to the Guttmacher Institute, an abortion rights advocacy group.

California will not be one of them. Instead, Newsom has promised to make California a haven for people to come and have abortions. State legislators have approved 13 bills, including proposals that would potentially use taxpayers’ money to pay people from other states to come to California for abortions.

Abortion rights supporters demonstrated in Palm Springs on Tuesday.

-Tom Coulter

Groups buy Palm Hills for $7 million

Three conservation groups have paid approximately $7 million to purchase about 3,500 acres of desert land above Palm Springs’ East Palm Canyon Drive, often referred to as the Palm Hills or Goat Trails.

The land, located behind the Rimrock Plaza shopping center anchored by Vons, includes a number of popular hiking trails such as the Clara Burgess Trail and the Jane’s Hoffbrau Oasis Trail. The Coachella Valley Mountain Conservancy and the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission funded the purchase, which was negotiated by the Oswit Land Trust.

“It’s been a very challenging, long process,” said Jane Garrison, Founder and Chief Executive of Oswit Land Trust. “It’s really taken 30 years, and in the last two years it’s just crossed the finish line.”

Garrison said conservation groups have had their eyes on the country for decades, but momentum accelerated after a 2005 referendum in Palm Springs that saw voters toppled a city council-sanctioned golf course and residential development on the land.

– James Cutchin

La Quinta residents oppose a surf resort complaint after a key vote

A group of residents opposed to a proposed surf resort in La Quinta has called for the removal of a planning commissioner who they say acted inappropriately and disrespectfully at the April 26 meeting regarding the Coral Mountain Resort.

The complaint was filed with the city council on Tuesday by Alena Callimanis, a representative of the civic group La Quinta Residents for Responsible Development, also known as LQRRD, who has repeatedly spoken out against the Coral Mountain Resort.

Commissioner Kevin McCune listens to a presentation to the La Quinta Planning Commission at La Quinta City Hall on Tuesday, March 22, 2022 in La Quinta, California.

The complaint is directed at Commissioner Kevin McCune, who voted for the 386-acre project planned at the southwest corner of 58 Avenue and Madison Street. It is alleged that McCune used inflammatory rhetoric, made derogatory comments and disrespected opponents’ opinions.

However, the city attorney denies the complaint, saying he was at the meeting and believes McCune acted professionally.

On April 26, the commissioners submitted the project to City Council with a recommendation for approval in two votes.

A view of the pool area at the Kaufmann Desert House.

The iconic Kaufmann House sells for a record $13.06 million

The Kaufmann Desert House, made famous by Slim Aarons’ iconic 1970 “Poolside Gossip” photo taken by his pool, sold for $13.06 million, according to its listing agent. It originally went on sale in late 2020 for $25 million.

The selling price narrowly beats Bob Hope’s home, which set the previous record for the most expensive Palm Springs home sold in 2016 when investor Ron Burkle bought it for $13 million. Despite the massive price tag, it falls short of the Coachella Valley-wide record set earlier this year by a Bighorn property that sold for $42 million in January after listing for $50 million last year had been.

Property records do not yet reflect the sale, although this is common for very recent transactions.

Listing agent Gerard Bisignano of Vista Sotheby’s International Realty said the property’s “history, pedigree (and) architect” boosted the sale price.

Designed by modernist architect Richard Neutra and built in 1946 for Pittsburgh department store magnate Edgar Kaufmann, the 3,200-square-foot, five-bedroom home has had a small number of owners over the past 75 years. Brent R. Harris, a longtime manager at Newport Beach-based investment manager PIMCO, undertook a year-long series of multimillion-dollar renovations after acquiring the property in the early 1990s.

– James Cutchin

Palm Springs is considering how to spend money on infrastructure

A library renovation, a fire station and pickleball courts are three new projects Palm Springs plans to fund in the next fiscal year.

However, these projects are being considered alongside dozens of others — including some that are much more advanced and have already received a significant commitment from the city for an annual budget item. This budget must be available by July.

City manager Justin Clifton said in April that the city’s general fund was filled with cash because revenue from various taxes recovered much faster than expected in the wake of the pandemic.

Palm Springs City manager Justin Clifton photographed on August 7, 2021.

Clifton said that while the infrastructure fund isn’t doing quite as well, it still has more money than expected, largely because sales tax revenue from Measure J exceeded expectations. Measure J is a 1% sales and use tax to be used to fund city services and is the largest contributor to the infrastructure fund.

The Palm Springs City Council on Wednesday began considering which projects to fund and failed to reach consensus, but came to a clear conclusion: The council will need more time and information to determine how the $70 million will be spent that the city will likely have to spend on infrastructure over the next year.

— Paul Albani-Burgio


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