Twentynine Palms: Shanghai-La in the making?

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This commentary began as a response to Twentynine Palms Planning Commissioner Larry Briggs.

Seems he called me out for lying in a comment. I held some councilmembers responsible for plucking the goose to get the most feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing. Mr. Briggs didn’t like me calling some councilmember out for a a humongous $33 M debt,  and for their wilful inaction that resulted in an increase in property taxes for local residents and 29 Palms water ratepayers. Mr. Briggs thinks that is a big fat lie.

Referring to someone as a liar is right up there with a violation of the Ten Commandments.

Mr. Briggs is a longtime resident. He has made the city a better place in various ways. But you can’t just go around suggesting people are a liar, or calling them a liar then running away and never backing up those allegation.

Feedback to that: My opinion is Mr. Briggs possesses the finesse of a alleycat, the disposition of a junkyard dog,  and the civility of a curmudgeon. Right back at you Mr.  Briggs.

Anyway, the commentary  to Mr. Brigs morphed into a short history about the saga (folly) of Project Phoenix. It became to long and too telling to pass-off as a comment.


After an all told $33M bond debt passed on to property owners and taxpayers and, after going on a decade now, the city council hasn’t the money to construct the proposed Project Phoenix massive steel superstructure frame to house a multi-purpose edifice for indoor sports, a conferences room, banquet rooms, art galleries, computer room, special events, a new (city-paid) county library, and god only knows what else.

Twentynine Palms is not Long Beach. It is a city with a small population: Census, April 1, 2010  | 25,048. This includes a rotating and transient USMC population within the city.

Given the totality of facts, over the many years surrounding this fiasco, a few people on the city council have been and are now out-of-touch with reality.

So much so that they expect to get a grant — or a loan — from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. Good luck with that hunch.

The fiscal conservative new president, his Republican administration and cabinet members are not very pleased with California. They are holding the horse’s reins tight on give-away money projects. It is not business as usual.

Meanwhile, the mandated for affordable low-income housing continues to be on the bottom shelve; it is given less that patronizing visibility. Affordable low income housing is a must requirement pursuant to the project phoenix bond mandates.

Where are tentative concrete plans for Project Phoenix affordable low-income housing?

California has already said they are not going to bail out cities and provide them money for low-income housing because cities created the problems by stalling and too many restrictive building codes.

During the strategic planning meeting last week, the Chamber of Commerce urged the city to lax city codes in furtherance of city growth. They also urged that tourism not be the main priority.

I am familiar with the U.S. Economic Development Administration, having studied urban development in graduate school. The EDA  broadly speaking offers three important components to assist cities.

  1. Planning Program and Local Technical Assistance.
  2. Grants.
  3. Loans.

It would not come as a surprise if the city council will attempt to take out a loan with the EDA — if the EDA fails to provide the city with a grantto pay for an ego-driven Shanghai-La.

Shanghai-La is a fictional place described in the 1933 novel Lost Horizon by British author James Hilton. Hilton describes Shangri-La as a mystical, harmonious valley, gently guided from a lamasery, enclosed in the western end of the Kunlun Mountains. Shangri-La has become synonymous with any earthly paradise, and particularly a mythical Himalayan utopia – a permanently happy land, isolated from the outside world.

What also came out of the strategic planning meetings last week is that the council continues to follow the dream of marketing tourism to the world: Twentynine Palms – the Shangri-La of the desert.

That moniker is more intelligent that wasting taxpayer’s ($40K a year) money marketing the Joshua Tree Gateway Communities. This drives tourism to J.T. and builds the economic base of Y.V. , not 29 Palms.

The council is in the process of spending more more money for consultants that they believe will help market tourism to the world.

We continue to have a majority on the council who have frittered away much time, effort and taxpayers money that have largely come to naught, and too little on city planning of infrastructure priorities and serving a rural community.

The city has much to offer as a small desert city.

Granted the downtown area is blighted. That can be fixed but for putting all the eggs in one massive steel superstructure frame to house the elements of  Shanghai-La .

The city needs better infrastructure city-wide for the people who live here, the forgotten people in the desert landscape.

Tourists don’t give diddly squat about a massive superstructure planted in the downtown area like they do it in Long Beach. They want a nice small rustic town not blighted throughout.

Is that too much to ask of local elected officials?






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12 Responses to Twentynine Palms: Shanghai-La in the making?

  1. abcdEFGH1234@
    abcdEFGH1234@ February 1, 2017 at 6:42 pm

    Why don’t you do something constructive for the community?

  2. Dan OBrien February 2, 2017 at 9:07 am

    I have to agree with Branson on this one….. I believe it is far more important to develop a livable community. The city is looking for investors? Why not take that money and invest it in our residential communities?

    Instead of building a Civic building that will displace hundreds of poor and lower middle class, do a massive face-lift on those residential properties? Let’s not reinvent the wheel here folks.

  3. Mark Clemons February 3, 2017 at 9:27 am

    I feel some positives coming from the base, heard the general is encouraging personnel to venture off base and support the town.

    It would behoove those that seek economic leadership from a government entity to change direction. If the controlling entity is not receptive to your efforts and contributions move on, for us in 29 JT and Yucca is a great alternative.

    It was not long ago the JT was well less than desirable, what lead the change to the most desirable place to live in the desert is debatable and best left for another time.

    What we must watch for is another non local regulated entity on our boundary taking advantage of 29s past restrictions, I am referring to the casino and there expansion, from what I heard is not only the publicized expansion, but down the road bowling ally and indoor theater. In the past the PC has but so many restrictive codes that those that sought to build a RV park or a indoor theater shelved their plans.

    I have been blessed and lucky enough the last few years I would love to expand my business here in 29.

    If all goes as foreseen we will approach the city with a Smith’s Ranch expansion plan, we know there is disposable dollars to support new business, the question is will those disposable dollars come and stay, or will they go to the casino, JT, and Yucca .

    • abcdEFGH1234@
      abcdEFGH1234@ February 4, 2017 at 4:00 pm

      Steve, are you going to help Mark when he submits his paper work? I believe you offered to help him in the past.

  4. spearman1ca
    spearman1ca February 5, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    No need I would imagine plus I have been out of the city loop for 7 years now. I am sure Mark knows what he is doing and knows how to get it done.

    • abcdEFGH1234@
      abcdEFGH1234@ February 5, 2017 at 3:41 pm

      I hope so.

  5. Branson Hunter
    Branson Hunter February 8, 2017 at 9:18 am

    I guess you missed the part about “The city has much to offer as a small desert city.” Honestly, Briggs, you are the Queen of Deception and the Madam of Misinformation. Has it ever occurred to you to write a story about the Affordable Housing Component of the Phoenix project? I didn’t think so. That would require some fancy writing where there is none. Just what the heck is going on with the affordable housing mandates? There are many alternatives. Which one is the city looking at?

    Briggs wrote: “Why don’t you do something constructive for the community?”

    • abcdEFGH1234@
      abcdEFGH1234@ February 8, 2017 at 10:52 am

      What are the alternatives and which alternative do you believe is the best?

  6. Branson Hunter
    Branson Hunter February 8, 2017 at 11:04 am

    What’s in your medicine cabnet? Your last (senseless) comment makes no sense. That is my questionn to you planning commissioner, “What componets of Affordable Housng is the city looking at? Playing your games as you do undermines the intelligence of the readers and directs sunlight to your trolling presents.

    It also tends to discredit the city.

    • abcdEFGH1234@
      abcdEFGH1234@ February 8, 2017 at 5:43 pm

      In other words you don’t know what you are talking about.

  7. Branson Hunter
    Branson Hunter February 8, 2017 at 8:37 pm

    Playing games again Larry. In theory, you serve the public. Why can’t you write about planning commission issues? Why do you play games like readers are unaware of your inserting BS commentary with the intent to obfuscate issues.

  8. David Brock June 7, 2017 at 9:02 am

    the city should never get into the construction business


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