CVIndependent

Mon05272019

Last updateTue, 18 Sep 2018 1pm

Vacation rentals are one of the most contentious issues in Palm Springs—and on June 5, voters in the city will decide on a measure that opponents say would effectively ban vacation rentals, if approved.

Measure C is the culmination of a battle that’s been brewing for more than a decade over short-term rentals, or STRs. The housing-market crash during the Great Recession created an STR boom in Palm Springs, as buyers both local and from out of town snapped up foreclosed-property bargains, and later turned them into vacation rentals.

The problem is that these homes—available for weekend getaways and short retreats through Airbnb and other services, and at times the sites of rather raucous parties—are intermingled with homes occupied by full- and part-time residents.

According to Rob Grimm, the campaign manager for Palm Springs Neighbors for Neighborhoods—the group that got Measure C placed on the June ballot—there are 1,986 units registered as vacation rentals and home shares, which hosted an estimated 467,000 visitors in 2017.

“This is an alarming number of strangers to be rotating in and out of unsupervised mini-hotels located in residential neighborhoods,” said Grimm.

However, city officials claim that the STR issue is under control, thanks to strict enforcement of the city’s newish vacation rental compliance ordinance.

“We are one of the only cities in California that has a dedicated Vacation Rental Compliance Department,” said Boris Stark, a vacation-rental code-compliance officer. “Our latest ordinance … was a collaboration among community stakeholders and city leadership. It addresses neighborhood concerns head-on.”

Stark said the department includes eight officers and two vehicles. I personally have seen VRC officers working, often late at night and on weekends, to enforce the city’s ordinance. (I wanted to go on a ride-along with Stark, but City Manager David Ready did not respond to my request.)

The city makes hefty revenues from the STRs.

“For fiscal year 2016-17, total (transient occupancy tax) dollars from vacation rentals was $7.58 million, and for 2017-18, we anticipate the same,” Stark said. “Vacation Rental Compliance issued over 430 citations for various violations in 2017.”

Grimm said no neighborhood in Palm Springs has been unaffected by STRs.

“The city has refused to entertain density limits on the number of STRs allowed in the city,” he said.

Measure C has attracted fierce opposition in the form of a coalition called We Love Palm Springs. According to Jeremy Ogul, the coalition’s media relations coordinator, opposition to the STR ban comes from groups including Vacation Rental Owners and Neighbors of Palm Springs, representing nearly 400 homeowners; the Palm Springs Hospitality Association, with about 200 hotels, restaurants and attraction venues in the city; the Palm Springs Regional Association of Realtors; and the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, among other groups.

“We oppose Measure C because of the devastating impact it would have on the Palm Springs economy,” said Nona Watson, CEO of the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce, in a news release.

While a majority of vacation rentals are owned by people who are not residents of Palm Springs, local entrepreneurs have also invested in STRs. Athalie LaPamuk owns and manages two vacation rentals in the city. She also owns and operates Ice Cream and Shop(pe) at the Arrive Hotel.

“I often meet visitors at my vacation rental who are excited to plan a return trip to stay at the hotel, or guests at the hotel who want to come back and stay in a vacation rental,” LaPamuk said in a news release. “Those are some of the same people who end up moving here and starting businesses here. The point is that our city benefits from all this tourism activity.”

Both sides fervently believe they are acting in the city’s best interests.

“It is time for the residents of Palm Springs to decide what their neighborhoods should look like,” Grimm said.

Published in Local Issues

What: The Grape Nut Ice Cream

Where: Ice Cream and Shop(pe), 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive, Suite A

How much: $3.50 single scoop (pictured); $5.50 double

Contact: 760-507-4005; www.icecreamandshop.com

Why: Both the flavor and the texture are delightfully unique.

On the Palm Canyon Drive side of Arrive, THE new hip place to see and be seen in Palm Springs, is an ice cream shop, appropriately named (if oddly punctuated) Ice Cream and Shop(pe).

However, this is no ordinary ice cream shop(pe). Here, you’ll pay a little more for your ice cream—but in exchange, you’ll get scooped-up goodness in a rotation of flavors both expected (chocolate, vanilla, strawberry) and delightfully WTF? (avocado, pomegranate chip, lavender). Sorbet is also on offer for those eschewing dairy for whatever reason.

On a recent stop at Ice Cream and Shop(pe), I decided to get a scoop of the grape nut ice cream. As she dished it into the cute li’l cup, the woman working behind the counter said I’d enjoy the unique texture.

She was right. I didn’t know it was possible for a treat to be frozen yet gooey (in a good way) at the same time, but that’s exactly how this grape nut ice cream is. The cereal mixed in with the ice cream adds both flavor and texture, creating a frozen dessert that’s flavorful—it’s sweet, but in a mellow way—and fun.

The ice cream isn’t the only fun thing about Ice Cream and Shop(pe); the “shop(pe)” part of the name hints at the fact that this is also a cute little gift shop selling cards, souvenirs and the like. One other element of the place is also fun: It’s open late—until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 p.m. the other days of the week.

The portion of Palm Canyon Drive south of Vista Chino and north of downtown Palm Springs proper continues to get more popular and hip—and Arrive and its Ice Cream and Shop(pe) are a big reason why.

Published in The Indy Endorsement

New to the CV Supermarket Scene: Gelson’s and ALDI

The grocery-store gods giveth; the grocery-store gods taketh away.

In recent months, both Haggen and Fresh and Easy have faded to black in the Coachella Valley due to financial stresses.

Enter Gelson’s Markets and ALDI to fill the void.

Gelson’s—a Southern California fixture since 1951—opened in late January in the former Haggen/Pavilions space at 36101 Bob Hope Drive, in Rancho Mirage. Gelson’s purchased the Rancho Mirage store and seven others from Haggen when the company made a hasty retreat from California last year.

“Gelson’s has been looking for a great desert location for nearly 15 years, and we’re excited to come to Rancho Mirage,” said Rob McDougall, Gelson’s president and CEO, in a news release. “Our goal is to serve the local community by providing premium-quality merchandise and exceptional customer service, while also re-employing many of the dedicated employees of the former Haggen store.”

Gelson’s has a upscale yet friendly vibe, with high-quality meats, produce and seafood, in addition to a fantastic floral department; bars for salad, antipasti and hot foods; a service deli; and a counter serving juices and cut fruits. Find more information at www.gelsons.com.

And now for something completely different: ALDI, a much-larger chain that’s aggressively moving into California from Europe and the East Coast, opened stores in La Quinta (78601 Highway 111, La Quinta) and Palm Springs (5200 E. Ramon Road) on March 24.

ALDI’s shtick: It features a limited selection of most of the usual items you’d find in a supermarket—except you’ve probably never heard of the brands that ALDI sells. For the most part, the less-expensive brands are exclusive to ALDI, and the company claims the items must all match or exceed the quality offered by national brands. Don’t like something? ALDI will both replace the product and give you your money back.

One other twist at ALDI: If you want to use a shopping cart, you’ll need a quarter—but you’ll get it back when you return the cart to the central station.

Get more info at www.aldi.us.


The Saguaro’s former Tinto Restaurant Is Now Rocco’s Electric

As was foretold in this space a couple of months ago, the relationship between the Saguaro Palm Springs and the Garces Group has come to an end.

Gone is Iron Chef José Garces’ Tinto. In its place: Rocco’s Electric.

The new “Red Room and Ice Cream Emporium” looks pretty much just like Tinto did—no surprise, seeing as there was not very much time between the Tinto era and the Rocco’s Electric era.

As for the menu … it’s quite different. The Basque-inspired plates of Tinto have been replaced by a focus on cocktails (at least during evening hours) and entrées like salads and tacos. And ice cream … lots of ice cream; in fact, on the weekends, the restaurant offers midday ice cream socials.

Speaking of tacos, and specifically Taco Tuesday: If you’re a fan of El Jefe, never fear, because the popular spot survived the changeover.

For more information, call 760-322-1900, or visit www.thesaguaro.com/palm-springs.


In Brief

Congrats to Chef George’s, located at 40100 Washington St., in Bermuda Dunes. Not too long ago, the much-loved Hungarian joint took over an adjacent space and created Pickaso, a lounge with dancing and live music in addition to tasty food and drink; call 760-200-1768 for info. … The Habit Burger Grill, a 150-plus-location chain that claims to have the best burger in America according to Consumer Reports, is opening its second valley location on Highway 111 in Palm Desert. The initial area location opened a year and a half or so ago at 79174 Highway 111 in La Quinta; www.habitburger.com. … Babe’s Bar-B-Que and Brewhouse is teaming up with Catalan Restaurant for “Pigs, Paella and Brews” at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, April 5, at Catalan, located at 70026 Highway 111, in Palm Desert. $49 will get you beer-tastings and a fantastic family-style dinner. Call 760-770-9508 for reservations or more info. … Want yummy treats while in Palm Springs? Well, you now have more options than ever before. Fruit Wonders is now offering juices, fruit bowls, smoothies and vegan cakes at 264 N. Palm Canyon Drive (www.facebook.com/fruitwondersps), while Ice Cream and Shop(pe) is just one of the much-raved-about offerings at the brand-new Arrive Hotel, located at 1551 N. Palm Canyon Drive. (Reservoir, the new full-service restaurant there, is creating quite a buzz.) At Ice Cream and Shop(pe), you’ll find between 16 and 20 favors of ice cream every day until midnight; icecreamandshop.com. Finally, if you want coffee or a light lunch, check out downtown Palm Springs’ newest coffee shop, Joey Palm Springs, at 245 S. Palm Canyon Drive; www.facebook.com/joeypalmsprings.

Published in Restaurant & Food News