Competition for influence over Vista Santa Rosa may end in bit of a draw

Both Coachella and La Quinta want to have some control over county land they share a border with. A recent move by Coachella may help solve the issue.
Vista Santa Rosa, 8,000 unincorporated acres bordered by three valley cities, is at the center of a complicated dispute.

A tug of war between two Coachella Valley cities over an 8,000-acre section of unincorporated land shows no sign of letting up. It could end up with residents of the area having a new address.

At issue: Vista Santa Rosa is a census designated area bordered by La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella. It has everything you’d expect to find in the eastern part of the valley: homes with expansive views, farmland, and horse pastures. It’s also at the center of a complicated dispute with roughly 3,000 residents and a relatively unknown commission caught in the middle.

  • Pulling on the ends of the metaphorical rope are the cities of Coachella and La Quinta. Both want the area to be part of their “sphere of influence” (SOI), a designation that could ultimately lead to annexation.

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State of play: Both cities have recently tried to sway the Riverside County Local Agency Formation Commission (LAFCO) in their favor. To date, La Quinta — which has had influence over Vista Santa Rosa since 2006 — appears to be winning.

  • Earlier this summer, Coachella asked LAFCO to proclaim the land within its sphere of influence. That move came as a surprise to La Quinta, which immediately mounted a campaign in an effort to drum up support for its cause.

  • The effort may have paid off. LAFCO ruled in late July that Vista Santa Rosa remains within La Quinta’s SOI, and there’s talk the city might move to annex the property into city limits.

But wait: On Aug. 26, Coachella asked LAFCO to reconsider the SOI designation for a smaller portion of the 8,000 acres. “Pocket 7” — 237 acres near Jackson Street and 52nd Avenue — is now in play, according to Coachella Development Services Director Gabriele Perez, because “LAFCO believed it was not covered in our General Plans at the time of the meeting,” but it is.

  • “La Quinta has not objected,” said Jon McMillen, city manager of La Quinta.

Why it matters: As is most often the case, revenue is at stake. Pocket 7 could be crucial to Coachella’s future growth, and that means it’s important to its economy.

  • More homes and businesses mean more revenue for a city hoping to take advantage of increased interest in the entire valley. But it also means more possible pushback from the Vista Santa Rosa residents who may want to keep the status quo.

  • As LAFCO stated in a report on the issue: “It will be a classic case of landowner/developers vs. registered voter/residents.” 

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