Reading license plates in La Quinta

In this week’s newsletter: License plate readers are coming to La Quinta, Rancho Mirage officials get a raise, and more.

Welcome to Wednesday, where we have a programming note of sorts: We’re off next week! We’ll still deliver our Sunday calendar of events, but this  newsletter will take a short break so we can rest up. Meanwhile, we bring you some of this week’s news below …

La Quinta plans to install 69 new high-tech license plate readers in the city — at a two-year cost of about $370,000 — to track and tag the comings and goings of every vehicle they scan.

  • The Flock Safety system analyzes more than just license plates. It also tracks a vehicles’ color, type, make, and other identifiable characteristics like stickers, dents, or roof racks. 
  • The system is not used for traffic enforcement, but can be used to help in emergencies or for crime prevention. For example, if the vehicle description or license plate matches a vehicle reported as stolen or identified in an AMBER alert, law enforcement would be alerted. 
  • Opponents of the cameras say are concerned that tagging and track all vehicles, whether or not they’re involved in a crime, is an invasion of privacy. The company’s marketing material claims that it leads to an increase in solved crimes — even though studies have not supported that claim.
  • Details: The system has been installed in more than 1,000 municipalities nationwide, including Indio and Palm Desert. in La Quinta, expect most of the cameras to appear at the city’s entry and exit points, but also in the Cove and along Highway 111.

???? Raises in Rancho Mirage

City Councilmembers in Rancho Mirage recently voted unanimously to give themselves a pay raise for the first time since 2007, making them one of the highest-paid councils in the valley.

  • An ordinance passed this month sees annual salaries for councilmembers jump from $31,110 to $35,000, and annual pay for the rotation mayoral position increase from $34,112 to $38,500.
  • In context: Councilmembers in other valley cities have discussed the issue at length, arguing that higher pay would encourage people of different backgrounds to run for office, increasing representation in city government.

    ????️ Cathedral City hits pause on home development

    The Cathedral City Planning Commission pushed out a decision on the plans to build 103 single-family homes on the south side of East Palm Canyon Drive, west of the flood control channel.

    • The project was originally approved in 2005 and was formerly known as “Tesoro.” Now, the development named Nirvana Estates would occupy about 16 acres, with two-story homes ranging from about 1,800 square feet to about 2,000 square feet. 
    • Bottom line: Last week, city staff explained they needed more time to consider comments from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy relating to concerns about the project’s proximity land used by bighorn sheep, burrowing owls, and desert tortoises.

    ???? In other news

    ???? The pandemic significantly impacted the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, but it’s back in full force starting this weekend. That has business owners bracing for an increase in business.

    ???? Looking for places to see wildflowers in the valley? Check out these seven recommendations (and some pretty pictures from Desert Sun photographer Jay Calderon).

    ????️ The valley is loaded with colorful murals. Check out the details on nearly a dozen of them and plan your own self-guided tour.

    ???? What to watch for

    ???? Opening weekend in Indio

    Looking for something to do in Indio this weekend and don’t feel like crowding in with tens of thousands of people at that other event in the city? Desert Theatreworks has you covered. 

    Details: “The Play That Goes Wrong” starts its run Friday evening at the theater, located at 45175 Fargo St. Shows are at 7:30 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday. Starting next week they run Thursday through Sunday through the end of the month.What they’re saying: “This 1920s whodunit has everything you never wanted in a show – an unconscious leading lady, a corpse that can’t play dead, and actors who trip over everything (including their lines). … Part Monty Python, part Sherlock Holmes, this Tony Award-winning comedy is a global phenomenon that’s guaranteed to leave you aching with laughter.”

    Find tickets and more information here.

    ⌛ And finally …

    ???? Pickleball players in La Quinta, rejoice! The City Council recently approved converting two tennis courts at Fritz Burns Park into pickleball courts, at a cost of roughly $36,000.

    • The park, first built in 1994, originally had eight tennis courts. But since 2017 many of them have been converted into pickleball courts as the sport has risen in popularity. With two more tennis courts being converted, the park will contain four tennis courts and 16 pickleball courts.
    • Why it matters: Staff noted heavy use of the existing eight pickleball courts, with residents lodging complaints about long wait times.

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