All washed up? Proposed La Quinta surf resort fails to get crucial council vote

Council chambers was bursting at the seams as elected officials entertained four hours of comments during a six-hour meeting that concluded with a vote just 15 minutes before midnight.
Plans for a proposed development complete with a surfing wave at the base of Coral Mountain appear to be dead in La Quinta.

The wave of controversy over a resort that would feature an 18-million-gallon surf park may have crested.

Driving the news: At a marathon special meeting Wednesday evening, the La Quinta City Council unanimously rejected a zoning change that would have allowed the Coral Mountain Resort project to move forward. The move appears to bring to an end a bitter back and forth between multiple parties that centered on the fact the resort would feature an 18-million-gallon wave pool in a desert that already has the highest residential per-capita water use rates in the state.

Looking back: The $200 million project was first announced in February 2020 after ​​a pair of companies formed an LLC and purchased the 386-acre plot of vacant land at 58th and Madison that had previously been eyed for a low-density housing community complete with golf course. The project was to feature 600 homes, a hotel with 150 rooms, and a wave pool featuring technology from champion surfer Kelly Slater.

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At issue: Large resorts with massive water features and pools are common in the Coachella Valley. But at a time when residents here are being asked to cut back water use in their homes to help ease drought conditions in the state, the idea of a surfable wave in a basin nearly a half-mile long was just too much. They flooded City Hall with letters, formed a citizen opposition group, and showed up en masse to offer comments during key votes.

  • Wednesday evening was no different. Council chambers was bursting at the seams as elected officials entertained four hours of comments during a six-hour meeting that concluded with a vote just 15 minutes before midnight.

  • Opponents took issue with the project’s light and noise pollution, greenhouse gas emissions, aesthetics, traffic, energy use, and proposed special events. Water for the wave pool, remained at the center of the debate, despite reassurances from the developer and experts that it would have less impact on the valley’s water supply than believed.

What they’re saying: “I don’t want La Quinta to become the poster child of misuse of water in California,” said Councilmember John Peña. “We’ve gotten emails from all over the country. There’s been articles in The Los Angeles Times and shows on HBO.”

Up next: Several councilmembers said they felt positively about development of the land and the tax revenue it would bring, but objected to this particular project being built so close to a neighborhood, as well its timing.

  • Its developers have made multiple alterations to the plan and proposed mitigations that include matching Coachella Valley Water District turf rebate fund for area residents, but did not immediately say whether they would come back to the table with a plan that omits the wave pool.

Bottom line: “The reality is, it has to be the right project at the right place at the right time,” said Mayor Linda Evans. “And it’s not the right location and the timing is not great. But La Quinta deserves a project like this somewhere in the city.”

But wait: The La Quinta surf wave was only one of several being discussed in the desert. The only one moving ahead at this time, however, is a project in Palm Springs at the site of a former water park.

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