• Steve Brown

Planning Commission to hear proposal for new city on southern border of Joshua Tree National Park

The Riverside County Planning Commission will host a public hearing on the Glorious Land Company (GLC) Enterprises, LLC plan for a new city - Paradise Valley - to be located on the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park. The hearing, which has been continued twice before, will be Wednesday, January 30, at 9:30 a.m.

Paradise Valley would include around 8,500 housing units (homes, townhomes, condos, and apartments) with more than 20,000 residents, 1.4 million square feet of commercial and light industrial space, along with the necessary supportive infrastructure, and would place it on more than 1,000 acres of prime habitat for the threatened desert tortoise.

Paradise Valley would be sited directly on the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park, and north of the Mecca Hills and Orocopia Mountains wilderness areas, creating a new obstacle for wildlife and sand transmission corridors in the area. The development would disrupt a critical migration path for desert bighorn sheep, while also destroying over 1,000 acres of prime habitat for LeConte's thrasher. LeConte thrashers, a species of concern in California, are experiencing a population decline in the Coachella Valley, and Imperial Valley, due to increased urbanization and development.

Paradise Valley talking points

(From Chris Clarke of the National Parks Conservation Association, with our additional comments in italics.)

Building a new suburb on desert wildlands next to Joshua Tree National Park is just a bad idea.

This new city would place 20-25,000 new human residents directly along the southern border of the park, furthering the urban walling off of the national park, with serious consequences for the ecological integrity of the park.

The project would irrevocably change an important dry wash network that serves as habitat and a corridor for migration and genetic connectivity between Joshua Tree National Park and wildernesses to the south.

Wildlife connectivity is crucial for the future genetic health of animal populations, as well as for survival of those species as they cope with climatic changes. Not only could wildlife connectivity be impeded, but sand transport corridors, important to the future of desert habitat for wildlife, could also be seriously impacted.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service intends to reintroduce Sonoran pronghorn south of Joshua Tree National Park. This project would block their primary route into the Park and impede their reestablishment in the California desert.

The project site is a rich and diverse “old-growth” desert habitat, with cacti hundreds of years old, thick vegetation including ocotillos and palo verdes, and rare plants.

We've hiked the site, and it's rich with stunningly beautiful desert plant life. This project would eradicate that established habitat and replace it with generic suburbia.

Despite “dark-sky” provisions in the plan, Paradise Valley would bring hundreds of thousands of new light sources to one of the darkest parts of the desert, threatening Joshua Tree’s “Dark Sky Park” status.

This would also seriously impact the night sky near the development, a part of the park that was previously relatively untouched by locally generated light pollution.

The project would generate thousands of new vehicle trips a day on a stretch of Interstate 10 that is already dangerously crowded. Local air quality would be damaged as a result.

The so-called “affordable” housing component of the project is still out of reach of average Riverside County residents. Fewer than one percent of the residences in the development would qualify as affordable housing. This will be expensive resort housing and will not serve communities in need of housing.

The Paradise Valley community, however, would need workers who could not afford to live there, resulting in more vehicle trips, more pollution, and more stress to expand the development in the future.

The Coachella Valley already has many failed housing developments on the fringes of the desert. There is nothing that indicates Paradise Valley will be any more successful.

Removed by a long distance from jobs and resources in the Coachella Valley, it is entirely possible this development could become a near abandoned eyesore providing no economic benefit to the county whatsoever, and just become a problem for county government in the future.

The project would use up far more than the amount of disturbance authorized by the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan (CVMSHCP) for desert dry wash woodland in the Desert Tortoise and Linkage Conservation Area. There would also be huge impacts to the threatened desert tortoise. The project offers only extremely speculative and conceptual mitigation to meet the CVMSHCP Conservation Objectives. The project will thus fail to meet those objectives and would be a devastating blow to the CVMSHCP.

The Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan needs to be strictly followed and respected by county government, if not by the developer. We need to demand that its requirements be followed to the letter - the fate of species in the area demand it. The CVMSHCP has been the product of decades of work, and subverting it is not in the public interest.

The project and the County have violated the CVMSHCP requirement that any development proposal in a Conservation Area go through the Joint Project Review (JPR) process with the Coachella Valley Conservation Commission before the project application is deemed complete and before a CEQA document is prepared. The County’s flimsy rationale that individual implementing projects will someday get a JPR is patently bogus. If this project is approved, the CVMSHCP will have been completely subverted and undermined.

If Riverside County government refuses to follow its own requirements and does not care about the environmental impact of development projects, it is up to us to demand that they do. The voices of citizens who live outside of Riverside County need to be respected by county government as this project will impact not only the county, but federal lands owned by all of the American public. It is not permissible for Riverside County to hold the American public in disdain while ignoring their own planning requirements so a private developer may profit. The county's willingness to ignore their own requirements leaves them open to legal action that could delay or halt the development. It is in the best interests of all parties to follow the JPR process that is required.

In addition to Clarke's points for consideration, one additional serious objection needs to be included: This Paradise Valley development cannot be isolated and looked at as a singularity. In all likelihood, if it is built, it will either need to expand on lands previously set aside for preservation, or it will become the first in a series of leapfrog developments eastward along Interstate 10 from the Coachella Valley to the Colorado River (or it could expand and also become the first in a series of developments). This would drastically and permanently damage the environmental integrity of that part of the Colorado (Sonoran) Desert, and would end connectivity of Joshua Tree National Park with wildlands to the south. In short, Paradise Valley would set a destructive precedent for further development along the southern border of Joshua Tree National Park.

While planning commissions often look at each project as existing in isolation, in reality, the wildlands of places like Joshua Tree National Park can die by a thousand cuts. Each cut is not fatal, but in totality, fatality is certain. No one may be certain which cut will be the one that kills, but the fact the last cut did not, does not mean the next won't. Joshua Tree National Park is already under an enormous amount of stress environmentally. While county government may not think it is their obligation to consider the environmental integrity and future of federally managed lands, it is in our best interests to see to it that this becomes a consideration when they deliberate on projects such as Glorious Land Company's Paradise Valley.

Make your voice heard on the Paradise Valley development.

Here is the Agenda with information on meeting location and how to submit comments in person:

Send your written comments to:

Russell Brady, Project Planner Riverside County Planning Department 4080 Lemon St., 12th Floor Riverside, CA  92501 (951) 955-3025

Please copy Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel (Manny) Perez's office with your comments as Paradise Valley is located within his district.

For more information on the proposed Paradise Valley project:

And the EIR:

Paradise Valley site map:

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