CVIndependent

Sun10252020

Last updateMon, 24 Aug 2020 12pm

Last night, I met friends for drinks at a bar on Arenas Road, in downtown Palm Springs. I haven’t been out much this week, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.

As we drove down Arenas, unsuccessfully looking for a spot, I was surprised to see that most of the bars appeared to be packed.

“I don’t know if I have ever had more mixed feelings about something in my life,” I told my husband.

On one hand … I was elated to see that all of these small, locally owned businesses were getting much-needed business. It was good to see the servers and bartenders making good money. I was proud to be part of that needed cash infusion.

On the other hand … I kept thinking: Should all of us be out and about like this?

After drinks, we wandered down Palm Canyon Drive and got dinner at a local restaurant. While the street wasn’t dead, it certainly was getting quieter as the night went on.

Again, mixed feelings.

After I hit send on this Daily Digest, I am going to get ready to head to CVRep in Cathedral City, to do a review of The City of Conversation—the only play currently running in the valley that has not yet been shuttered by the pandemic. (More on this below.) Then I am going to meet friends at a charity art event, and go to dinner at Lulu. I am going to savor it like it’s the last good night on the town I have for a while … because it might very well be.

I hope it’s not. But it might very well be.

Here’s today’s news.

• The Desert AIDS Project just announced something huge: It’s opening a COVID-19 triage clinic.

This just arrived in my inbox, from CEO David Brinkman:

“In the next 48 hours DAP will take a bold step and we ask you to please have our backs. Last week, we opened our new clinics for DAP’s day-to-day healthcare operations, leaving our original clinic temporarily vacant. Today, I worked with our infectious disease doctors to develop an emergency plan of action to ensure the health and well-being of all we serve. The original clinic will be transformed this weekend into a specialized COVID-19 triage clinic. This will allow our medical experts to screen patients demonstrating symptoms in a quarantined space, while also allowing our non-symptomatic patients to continue having their health needs met without potential exposure.

“This is no small undertaking. Desert AIDS Project is the healthcare home to 7,000 of our friends and neighbors, most of whom live at 200 percent of the federal poverty level or below. And, the majority of our patients are of an age with significantly increased risk. We already are seeing a dramatic increase in inquiries and we must be able to meet the need as it grows in the coming weeks.

“This new clinic will cost DAP $575,000 to operate over the coming months.”

Wow.

See the full announcement—and make a donation while there, if you can—here.

• As for those plays: Yesterday, we reported that Desert TheatreWorks, Palm Canyon Theatre and CVRep were moving forward with their productions. This morning, however, Desert TheatreWorks announced last night’s production of The Producers would be its last until April 10, while Palm Canyon Theatre announced it was cancelling the final two planned performances this weekend of The Pajama Game. As of now, PCT plans on proceeding with the rest of its season—Sordid Lives is slated to open Thursday, March 26—but noted that this is a “very fluid situation.” This makes CVRep the last theater company standing: As of this writing, The City of Conversation will continue at least through this weekend.

Read more about all of this tomorrow in the second Installment of the Independent’s Pandemic Stories series. Yeah, I said yesterday that story would be available today … and then things changed. It’ll be worth the wait, I promise.

• All schools in Riverside County are closed for the next three weeks, per county Public Health Officer Dr. Cameron Kaiser. More info here.

• Good news: During the closure, kids in need within the Palm Springs Unified School District can still get free meals. School buses will be delivering them on normal morning routes, or they can be picked up at schools. Get the details hereDesert Sands and Coachella Valley Unified are also making meals available to kids at schools.

• The United Way of the Desert has launched a very good information page, chock full of resources and phone numbers people may need during this crisis. View it here

• This is amazingly cool: Yesterday, we reported that the Certified Farmers’ Markets had been suspended for the time being. Today, the organizers have started posting direct contact info for the various vendors (with their blessing) on the Certified Farmers’ Market Facebook page, so people can directly contact and buy from the vendors if they so choose. Get all the 411 here.

• The Palm Springs Art Museum has decided to close for the time being. More info here.

That’s all for now. Please, support local businesses. Be a good neighbor. Stop hoarding crap. Be smart and diligent and caring. More tomorrow.

Published in Daily Digest

After months of rain—and increased revenue from last year’s rate increases—both the western Coachella Valley’s Desert Water Agency and the eastern valley’s Coachella Valley Water District find themselves wading in more riches than they could have imagined just one short year ago.

However, that does not mean that all of the water-conservation mandates are a thing of the past.

“The drought is over, but conservation isn’t,” said Ashley Metzger, the DWA’s outreach and conservation manager. “That’s the big message.”

While Gov. Jerry Brown declared on April 7that the drought was officially over in most of the state—including Riverside County—many of the water-usage restrictions imposed during the drought may be with us for some time.

“We live in the desert, and we’re always in a drought,” said Heather Engel, the CVWD’s director of conservation and communication. “Even though there were many areas of the state that were facing unprecedented circumstances, for us, this is how it is all the time.”

Coachella Valley residents are continuing to conserve. According to the CVWD’s March conservation report, customers used 24.5 percent less potable water than compared to the same period in 2013, while the DWA reported a 23.6 percent decrease.

“There are still prohibitions on water waste, water runoff and watering during or soon after rainfall. These are all things for which the DWA will cite people,” Metzger said. “We see the drought as having been a good learning opportunity for our customers, and we want to keep that message going in terms of water use efficiency.”

However, some of the most onerous water restrictions may be eased.

“Any restrictions that local water agencies imposed above and beyond the state’s, according to my understanding, can be eliminated,” said Engel. “That’s where you see that some of the local time or day-of-the-week outdoor-irrigation usage restrictions are being lifted. But the state restrictions are pretty much common-sense restrictions, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the governor and the State Water Resources Control Board make those kinds of restrictions permanent.”

Still, the local agencies are celebrating the results of all the recent precipitation.

“The big and good news is that, with the state getting plenty of rain and snowmelt runoff in Northern California, we are expecting to get 85 percent of our imported water allotment from the State Water Project this year,” Engel said. “That’s huge. If you’ve driven over that Whitewater Bridge lately, you’ve seen the water flowing down, and it’s going to be flowing all year. We’re thinking that we might be able to put about 300,000 acre feet of water into the aquifer, which is huge for all of us here in the Coachella Valley.”

The last year in which the valley received a noteworthy imported water allotment from the state was 2013.

“The only downside is that we have to be more diligent in our messaging concerning safety,” Metzger said. “You know during the summer when people want to get a reprieve from the heat out here that the river flow is alluring. But we want to point people to the reserve to experience the water resource—and not have them go into the river.”

The CVWD may also receive an unexpected revenue windfall. Last year, the CVWD board of directors approved aggressive incremental rate increases over five years. Engel explained: “When we pitched the need for these rate increases to the community, we said there were three key reasons: chromium 6 treatment (required by new state regulations); reduced revenue due to conservation; and the third had to do with a number of other capital-improvement projects, some of which had been deferred during the recession years.”

However, CVWD staff members last fall—after the rate increases were enacted—became aware of test results involving an alternative chromium 6 treatment program.

“We decided to take a timeout and do a pilot study of this alternative treatment method,” Engel said. “If this doesn’t work, we probably won’t meet the deadline to be in compliance with state-mandated chromium 6 levels by 2020. So there’s a bit of a risk there, but the savings to our customers would be so significant, and the positive impact on our communities and the environment so significant, that our board decided it was a risk worth taking. Since the report came, a handful of water districts in the state, and the city of Coachella, are looking into this other method.”

Could this new treatment option lead to—at least—lower rate increases for CVWD customers?

“The board could reduce rates back to 2010 levels if they wanted to do that,” she said. “Or they could say they don’t need any increase this year. Or they could increase any amount up to the total that was published.”

At 8 a.m., Monday, May 22, the CVWD Board is holding a public meeting to review a presentation on next year’s fiscal budget, effective July 1.

“Certainly, we did not spend the money in the last year on the chromium 6 treatment project that we had planned, but we’re uncertain about that future,” Engel said. “People are still conserving, and that’s good, and we do still have these additional projects that we need to do. For instance, we’re in the planning stages for the construction of a new aquifer-recharge facility in Palm Desert, where subsidence of the aquifer has become an issue. So there’s still a need to fund these other projects, but whether or not we can do it with or without a rate increase is still undecided. Based on what the board has said in recent public meetings, it’s clear they’re hoping that staff can come up with a plan (for the next fiscal year) that does not require an increase.”

Meanwhile, the DWA and other local water agencies have found a way to lessen the impact of rate increases on some customers. Partnering with the United Way, the DWA formed the Help2Others program, which provides financial aid to help lower-income residents pay their water bills.

“We have a lot of seniors and some lower-income neighborhoods. … it was really important to get a program like that set up, and we did,” Metzger said. “… Now all five public water agencies in the valley have this program in conjunction with the United Way.

This valuable assistance is funded differently through each of the participating agencies. “Here at the DWA,” Metzger said, “our vendors and our employees have contributed funds to make our program possible, which I’m super-proud of. I think we all realize what we do wouldn’t be possible without the residents paying our rates, and if you need help, we understand water is one of the most fundamental things you need.”

Published in Local Issues

New: Elixir at the V Palm Springs Hotel

Could Palm Springs be entering an era when hotel-pool restaurants are all the rage with locals?

Given the wild success of Reservoir at the Arrive Hotel, at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive in Palm Springs, it’s possible—especially if the new restaurants at the V Palm Springs live up to their potential.

The V Palm Springs, located at 333 E. Palm Canyon Drive, is not quite finished yet; about half of the former Curve hotel opened just before April’s big music festivals, with the rest of the rooms slated to open later this year.

As for the food: The V’s owners enlisted the help of the New York-based Blank Slate Group to develop the restaurant concepts. Keep your fingers crossed that Solstice, the V’s signature restaurant, will be open late this summer (i.e., September or so). Press materials say Solstice “will be a desert-inspired, simple, modern American restaurant and cocktail lounge, serving creative farm-to-table fare with a commitment to the freshest locally sourced ingredients,” during breakfast, lunch and dinner. Slated for the menu are dishes including “roasted bass with preserved blood orange, fiddleheads, spring peas and lemon balm,” and “grilled skirt steak with cilantro spaetzle, black garlic puree, crispy shiitake and mache.”

You don’t have to wait to check out Elixir Pool Bar and Grill, which opened in mid-April. “Asian-fusion BBQ fare” is the emphasis here, with dishes including a green curry guacamole for starters, and entrées including fried rice noodles with sautéed vegetables.

During a preview event at the V, I was able to taste a couple of the V’s signature cocktails. I especially enjoyed the Cucumber Crush, with citrus-infused vodka, cucumber juice, lime, Velvet Falernum and pineapple.

Brian Kabateck, one of the attorneys who owns the V, told me he does not want the V to just be enjoyed by visitors.

“The local community is very important to us,” he said.

Get more information at vpalmsprings.com.


United Way of the Desert’s Annual Gala This Year Is ‘Shaken, Not Stirred’

Like martinis? Want to help out a fine cause? Have an extra $275 sitting around?

If your answer to all of those questions is, “Why, sure!” you’ll want to get your tickets for “Shaken, Not Stirred,” the 2016 edition of the annual gala put on by the United Way of the Desert.

It takes place at 6 p.m., Friday, May 6, at the Ritz-Carlton, Rancho Mirage, at 68900 Frank Sinatra Drive. Your $275 will get you live music, dancing, entertainment—and, of course, signature martinis!

For more details, call 760-323-2731, or visit www.unitedwayofthedesert.org.


In Brief

The Funkey family—the people behind Giuseppe’s, Bar and Smoke Tree BBQ, all located in Palm Springs—have opened a second Smoke Tree BBQ location in Palm Desert, at 73850 Highway 111. Get smoked pork baby-back ribs, Angus choice brisket and other yummy food, plus cocktails, daily from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.; smoketreebbq.com. … Chad Gardner, the owner of Dash and a Handful catering and Pho 533, has announced plans to open a new restaurant at the Andaz Palm Springs, 400 N. Palm Canyon Drive, when it opens in 2017. Fez Modern Moroccan will emphasize Moroccan fare, obviously, as well as vegan and vegetarian delights. Keep up to date at www.facebook.com/fezmodernmoroccan. ... We were zooming down the road through Rancho Mirage the other day when we noticed a sign announcing that Fisherman’s Crab Restaurant would soon be taking over the old Crab Pot location at 70030 Highway 111. That’s all we know for now; watch this space for more information. … Coming soon to the Henry Frank Gallery at 276 N. Palm Canyon Drive: Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace. From the Facebook page: “Tipper’s Gourmet Marketplace is poised to be the No. 1 destination when it comes to quality grab-and-go-prepared foods in Palm Springs. The store will be an international market and deli that will feature a signature rotisserie chicken. In addition to the chicken, the store will offer prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner items as well as specialty food items and gifts from around the world.” Watch www.tippersgourmetmarketplace.com for updates. … Downtown Palm Springs’ La Plaza will soon be the home of Grand Central Palm Springs. Restaurant veteran Aaron Rogers is the general manager, and the restaurant’s website says Grand Central will have a full bar and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner. Expect the fare to be “American contemporary, a mix of updated classics and comfort foods” using locally sourced, sustainable ingredients where possible. Visit www.grandcentralpalmsprings.com for more information.

Published in Restaurant & Food News