Council rejects surf resort plan
(Updated Sept. 22) By The Desert Sun
Plans for a large development in La Quinta that would include hundreds of houses, a hotel and a high-tech surf wave basin — a centerpiece that’s drawn strong opposition from some residents and climate experts — were unanimously rejected by the city council Wednesday night following a lengthy meeting in a room packed with both opponents and supporters of the project.
The vote marks a major defeat for the current plans for Coral Mountain Resort, a roughly $200 million private development mapped for 386 acres of vacant land on the southwest corner of 58th Avenue and Madison Street.
The La Quinta City Council held several hearings on the proposal in recent months, and delayed a decision on the project in July to give the developer more time to address residential concerns, particularly water usage for the centerpiece wave basin.
The council heard more about those concerns — as well as the developer’s rebuttals — during its meeting Wednesday. Ultimately, all five members declined to advance the proposal, which included zoning and general plan changes to allow for the hotel and wave pool, arguing the developer’s request did not meet the “higher threshold” to warrant such substantial changes.
“What I see is a developer that hasn’t pushed the weight above their head,” councilmember Robert Radi said, using a sports analogy. “I don’t see how I can support the change in the general plan … I can only conclude that the project is not consistent with the fundamentals of the land use and the use of resources as per the general plan.”
Recent hearings over the development have lasted several hours, as many locals — including members of the group “La Quinta Residents for Responsible Development” — have spoken against the proposal, which was narrowly advanced by the city’s planning commission in April.
Their concerns have largely centered on whether the wave basin would be an appropriate use of water amid a historic drought across California that experts say has been fueled by climate change.
But about half of the people at the packed-house meeting were supportive of the project, with several people wearing t-shirts that stated “ON BOARD: CORAL MOUNTAIN” across the front.
One of the proponents donning a shirt, Danilo Kawasaki, told the council he was speaking on behalf of more than 160 La Quinta residents who wrote a letter in support of the development. He also recalled visiting the Surf Ranch near Fresno, the only spot already using the wave technology from champion surfer Kelly Slater that would be used at Coral Mountain.
“I’m not a surfer. I went on vacation with my kids, but I have to say it was one of the best days of my life,” Kawasaki said. “I was able to catch waves, I was able to have fun, my kids enjoyed it. … For people like me with young kids, young families, I think this is going to be a great attraction to La Quinta.”
Wednesday’s meeting was more than two years after plans for the project were first announced in 2020 by Meriwether Companies and Big Sky Wave Developments, who teamed up as CM Wave Development LLC to buy the land. The plans includes zoning changes to allow a hotel with 150 rooms, and all homes on the development would be allowed to operate as short-term rentals.
The development would bring “the largest, rideable open-barrel, human-made wave in the world” to La Quinta by using Slater’s wave technology, according to a statement announcing the project in February 2020. Plans initially called for a 20-acre wave basin, but developers recently reduced it to 12 acres.
The Coachella Valley Water District has said it has adequate supply to serve the project “without substantially decreasing groundwater supplies,” according to the environmental impact report. Coral Mountain Resort would use more than 900 acre-feet of water per year, with about 13% of that usage coming from the wave basin. An acre-foot is about 326,000 gallons, or enough to serve at least two households for a year.
Those leading the project have tried to ease neighbors’ concerns which also include the potential for noise and light pollution in areas surrounding the wave resort, well in advance of Wednesday’s meeting. Last fall, the developer hosted a live demonstration of how light would impact the area at night, though it left some residents unconvinced.
Recently, after asking the council to delay its decision in July, the developer announced several changes to the plan in response to concerns.
The changes include reducing the size of the main wave basin, reducing the height of the lighting poles around the basin from 80 to 40 feet (that change also increases the number of light poles from 18 to 55), reducing the maximum height of buildings by five feet and a moratorium on any special events at the resort for its first two years.
The developers have also offered to add a new 0.25% transfer tax on the resale of all homes within the project to support health and social programs in the area, donate at least 1,000 surf hours per year for charitable uses and contribute $1.5 million to a turf-reduction program in the La Quinta area.
James Vaughn, an attorney representing the Coral Mountain developers, ran through all of the new benefits offered by the project’s backers, noting the tax revenue it would bring the city through the plan’s short-term rentals, as well as the other funding for local community programs and upgrades to a nearby substation.
“The project protects the environment and enhances water conservation (through the turf rebate program),” Vaughn said. “The project has no impact on the quality of life or the surrounding residents.”
“When you balance the project’s benefits against any negative effects, it’s not even close,” he added. ”This project is a clear winner for the city and for its residents.”
But the proposed benefits ultimately didn’t move the needle for members of the council. Mayor Linda Evans said the public benefits were “too little, too late” in changing the public perception on the project.
Others at the meeting pushed back strongly against the developer’s notion that the project promotes water conservation. Local resident Laura Dolata questioned how the project could be allowed to proceed as California residents are being asked to conserve water amid a historic statewide drought.
“We’re at a point in history where we cannot be freely wasteful of water,” Dolata said. “While the rest of the world is screaming about water conservation, including all the experts and scientists, the federal and state governments, the developers say, ‘No problem, we have plenty of water’ — yet the rest of us who live here must conserve and reduce our water usage and will in fact be penalized for overuse.”
Dolata also argued changing the area’s zone to include tourist commercial zoning — which would allow for the 150-room hotel, wave basin and other resort amenities — would be unfair to nearby neighbors, calling such a move “completely contradictory to the whole concept of why zoning laws exist in the first place.”
Her comments on the proposed zoning changes were echoed by other residents, including one who said such a move would be a “breach of trust” by the council against its constituents.
In their initial presentation, the project’s developers noted similar developments — with tourist commercial zones in close proximity to residential areas — exist in other parts of the city, pointing to the La Quinta Resort and the Rancho La Quinta Country Club as examples.
A 750-home community with 18-hole golf course was previously approved for the Coral Mountain development. But supporters of the project argued the valley has more than enough golf courses, while the wave pool would offer a new attraction to younger people in the area.
The development project also had the support of the La Quinta Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Southern California Builders Association. Joe Hammer, who has properties in La Quinta and the nearby Vista Santa Rosa area, encouraged the council to approve the project, arguing it would set the course for future development in the city.
“We have to look in the future — This is not just one project,” Hammer said. “Other developers are looking at us … (If) La Quinta is not open for business, I know where they’re going: right across the street from where I’m at, which is Vista Santa Rosa.”
However, the council ultimately decided against advancing the development, despite some admitting the wave pool would be an attractive amenity for La Quinta.
“I think this is a cool project — I really do — but I don’t think it’s in the right location, and maybe the timing isn’t great because of the drought,” Evans said.
“But I feel like La Quinta would deserve a project like this someplace in the city,” she added. “I think that we can be on the forefront of having something like this in different times, and maybe that’s where our sphere of influence comes in.”
It wasn’t immediately clear what will happen with the existing plans for the nearly 400-acre plot of land, but John Gamlin, president of CM Wave Development LLC, told The Desert Sun his team will soon begin evaluating its options.
“We’re disappointed with last night’s outcome and will evaluate our options in the near future,” Gamlin said in an email Thursday morning.
Councilmember John Peña noted the hearing “could’ve gone either way,” adding it certainly won’t be the last tough development decision to come before the city council.
Decision postponed until September
The La Quinta City Council on July 5 granted the developer a 60-day extension to respond to concerns about the proposed project. The council will take the matter up at a special meeting on Sept. 21. The two-hour meeting on July 5 included more public testimony.
The law firm representing developer Meriwether Companies wrote to the city on June 29: “We need 60 days to complete our evaluaion and responses to the comments we heard at the City Council
meeting on June 7th and our meeting today with Lisa Castro and Alena Callimanis. Accordingly, we are
requesting that the City postpone the hearing on the Coral Mountain Resort project currently scheduled for July 5, 2022, and continue it to the first available meeting in September.” Castro and Callinmanis are La Quinta residents opposed to the project.
Representatives of the developer said the bulk of their technical responses will be provided to the city by August 15, giving city staff and the public time to review the information prior to the September meeting.
Planning Commission OKs project
(Updated April 26) The La Quinta Planning Commission has approved the proposed private resort. The matter now moves to the City Council, which has final say on the project. The Desert Sun has a comprehensive article on the decision. Link is here. Video of the proceedings can be found here.
Hearing goes 7+ hours; no decision
(Updated March 23) The city of La Quinta has posted the video recording of last night’s public hearing on the Coral Mountain Resort proposal. The video can be accessed here. The hearing ran for more than seven hours and is divided into three segments (in order): city staff report & questions from Planning Commission; developer report & questions from Planning Commission; and comments from residents. No decision was rendered. The commission will meet again on April 12.
The Desert Sun account of the meeting can be found here.
Final EIS shows minimal impact
Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkus outlines the issues in article.
The city of La Quinta has released the site specific plan for Coral Mountain Resort, a private, gated community that includes up to 600 custom homes, a boutique hotel 150 rooms, a 16-acre artificial wave basin, and 60,000 square feet of neighborhood commercial businesses on the vacant land across Madison Street from Andalusia.
Water supply & laws explained
The Desert Sun has published a comprehensive look at our water supply and regulations. Article is here.
Council opens review of Coral Mountain plan
(Updated Sept. 29) The La Quinta City Council and Planning Commission met together on Sept. 28 to begin their review of the proposed Coral Mountain Resort. A video of the meeting can be accessed here.
The purpose of the meeting was to give the two governing bodies an overview of the project, which has undergone review by city staff and a full environmental review by various agencies and organizations. Public hearings are expected to be scheduled later this year.
Project developer Meriwether Cos. proposes a private, gated community that includes up to 600 custom homes with starting prices of $2.5 million; a boutique hotel 150 rooms; a 16-acre artificial wave basin designed by Kelly Slater Wave Co.; and 24 acres of open space for recreation for homeowners and hotel guests. Also proposed is 60,000 square feet of neighborhood commercial businesses on the east corner of the property, along Madison Street and Avenue 58, that would be open to the public.
Key headlines from the meeting:
- Planning Manager Cheri Flores outlined the review process, which will include proposals to amend the city’s general plan (separating Andalusia from the project property), a zoning change (to allow for commercial development for the hotel and wave basin), the specific project plan and the various permits and conditions required.
- Flores said close to 100 people provided comments on the draft environmental report. City staff is collecting responses to those comments to be included in the final report.
- Flores said the Environmental Impact Review found only two areas where mitigation would not be achieved: the reduced public view of Coral Mountain and greenhouse gases during construction. Flores said the city’s requirements for perimeter walls around the project would block some views of the mountain. She noted this would be the case regardless of how the property is developed.
- The developer has agreed to allow public access on a trail along the base of Coral Mountain.
- Flores and a representative of the developer said the 17 light standards at the surf basin would not be visible outside the property because of the lighting technology and casings. Council members asked that the developer consider a demonstration of the light at the project site.
- The developer offered a preview of the market and shops planned at the corner of Madison and Avenue 58th. The drawing showed the buildings set back from the corner, with several rows of crops in front.
- Members of the City Council and Planning Commission asked questions about the project’s water and power consumption, traffic generation and light standards, among other topics.
- Opponents testified that the project would negatively change the character of La Quinta and adversely affect the environment and surrounding neighborhoods.
Draft EIR published
The City of La Quinta has released the draft Environmental Impact Report on the proposed Coral Mountain resort has been released. Significantly, the report found that impacts on water resources and noise were “less than significant.”
The 738-page report is meant to inform public agency decision-makers and the public of the significant environmental effects of the project, identifing possible ways to minimize the significant effects, and describe reasonable alternatives to the project. The public has 45 days to respond, beginning on June 22. The responses will be included in the final environmental report. Once that process is completed, the proposal will got the the city’s planning commission and city council for review and public hearings. The city council has the final decision.
Below is a summary of the findings in the report, including a reference to sections in the executive summary. The summary includes whether the project’s impact is significant and whether additional mitigation measures are required.
Aesthetics (4.1) — Significant and unavoidable. Mitigation measures including requiring that perimeter wall be set back 30 feet from Madison and Avenue 58 to preserview view of the mountains. That’s 10 feet more than currently required by the city. Homes must be set back 75 feet from those streets.
Air Quality (4.2) — Less than significant. Mitigation measures include requirements for paving, equipment, paints and dust reduction.
Biological Resources (4.3) — Less than significant. Mitigation measures including having a qualified biologist on site to survey site for burrowing owl nests during breeding season along with a survey and protections for roosting bats.
Cultural Resources (4.4) — Less than significant. Mitigation measures including protecting the adobe house and having a monitor present during ground-disturbing activities.
Energy (4.5) — Less than significant. Not mitigation required.
Geology & Soils (4.6) — Less than significant. Mitigation measures include requirements for excavation and backfill. A qualified paleontologies must monitor all excavation beyond 2 feet for identification of fossils.
Greenhouse Gas Emissions (4.7) — Significant and unavoidable. The developer must purchase carbon credits prior to permitting.
Hazardous Materials (4.8) — Less than significant. No mitigation required.
Hydrology & Water Quality (4.9) — The review found that the impact on groundwater supplies is less than significant. No mitigation required.
Land Use (4.10) — Less than significant. No mitigation required.
Noise (4.11) — Less than significant. Mitigation measures include construction of a 6-foot perimeter wall around the property, delivery routes designed to minimize truck noise, and limiting wave basin operation to between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.
Public Services (4.12) — Less than significant. No mitigation required.
Environmental hearing recording available
More than 100 people participated in the first public hearing on the proposed Coral Mountain resort on March 30. A recording of the meeting can be found here.
The purpose of the scoping meeting was to inform the public that the lead agency, the City of La Quinta, is evaluating the project under the California Environmental Quality Act and to solicit public comment regarding the type and extent of environmental analyses to be undertaken.
Residents from Trilogy, Andalusia, The Quarry and other nearby neighborhoods testified at the hearing. All expressed opposition to the project and expected impacts.
Developer issues FAQ ahead of hearing
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
How big is the project? Coral Mountain is situated on approximately 400 acres and is currently approved for 750 homes and a golf course. Our proposed project is a private community that includes 600 homes and up to a 150-key hotel with a wave basin and other community amenities. The public will have access to the hotel restaurant and bar on a reservation basis along with the commercial development at the Southwest Corner of Ave 58 and Madison. By committing to a private community, we are able to maintain similar traffic levels as the currently approved project.
When will landscaping be installed along Madison? Perimeter landscaping on our property along Madison and Ave 58 will be included in the initial phase of construction. This area is the “front door” to our community, requiring early completion to ensure the property looks great for the home sale process.
What are the anticipated prices for lots and homes at Coral Mountain? Similar to other exclusive communities in La Quinta, our homesites are large with most ranging in size from 12,000 to 40,000 sf. Prices for large estate lots will begin at more than $2 million and finished homes in the village core will range from $2-$5 million.
How tall is the hotel?
The hotel is still planned to have a portion of the rooms and facilities in a 2-story configuration, with a majority of the rooms in 1 story casitas. A 3-story slender structure with a footprint of approximately 1,000 sf is currently planned on the edge of the wave basin for viewing and operations.
Will short term rentals be allowed?
Short term rentals (at the option of the homeowner) are proposed for the community; however, we plan to manage 100% of the rentals through an onsite 24/7 management program. While we are confident we can address the issues related to short term rentals through onsite management and security, we understand this is a hot topic in La Quinta and look forward to working with the City to ensure compliance with all regulations.
Why are lights for the wave basin required?
Due to the short daylight hours during the winter, directional lights are planned to allow for operations to continue into the early evening hours. The proposed lighting has been designed to meet the City of La Quinta requirements and ensure there is no light spillage outside of the basin property. The proposed lighting plan consists of single-mounted poles with directed LED lights with full cutoff and will not appear anything like stadium lights for tennis or athletic courts. The lights and sounds produced by the activities are meant to be confined to the areas they are being produced, and not disturb the residences within this project let alone those that are bordering our project.
Will I hear the wave basin?
The noise generated from the wave basin is the movement of water, similar to the ocean. The existing facility in Lemoore has been recorded by the sound engineer and this information has been incorporated into the noise study for the project. We expect the findings from the final report to confirm all City of La Quinta noise standards are met. While not scientific like the above-mentioned study, last year we coordinated a site visit for a concerned neighbor which resulted in confirmation that the wave basin was barely audible at 300’ distance with only an 8’ wooden fence in between. His sound level meter recorded readings less than 50 decibels at this distance, significantly lower than the City of La Quinta’s 65 decibel threshold for single family residential use. At 2,600’ from the site, he was unable to hear any noise. It is important to note that the area surrounding the Lemoore facility is undeveloped flat land, very different than the plans at Coral Mountain which will contain buildings and landscaping to further insulate the wave basin.
The following notes the approximate shortest distance from the wave basin to the closest homes in each neighborhood:
The Quarry – 2,400’ (Coral Mountain sits in between the wave basin and all homes at The Quarry) Trilogy – 2,600’
Andalusia – 4,100’
Ave 60 Private Residence – 870’
Will speakers be used to communicate with surfers in the basin?
The existing wave basin operation in Lemoore, CA utilizes a speaker system to make periodic safety announcements and has been included in the noise analysis for our EIR. While we are confident the noise study will show the speakers will not be audible off of our property, we will continue to look for alternatives to ensure this does not become a nuisance. These speakers are NOT used to project music across the wave basin.
Will personal watercraft (jet skis) operate in the wave basin?
Currently in the existing facility, one jet ski is used to reposition surfers within the basin and for life safety purposes. We anticipate this will also be the case at Coral Mountain.
How will impacts from the four proposed annual public events impact the neighborhood?
It is imperative to note the application as submitted does not give us the unilateral right to host an event. The EIR will study impacts should we apply for and receive approval for events. We will be required to go through the City of La Quinta’s special use permit process which requires significant detail to address items such as noise, traffic, etc. This would be a public process and include input from the community.
Project to undergo full environmental review
The Coral Mountain resort project will undergo a full Environmental Impact Review. This is a detailed analysis of a project’s impact on the environment and resources. If the analysis determines there are significant impacts, mitigation requirements are assessed.
The City of La Quinta is the lead agency in the review. The city’s planning staff had earlier issued a preliminary assessment that the project west of Adalusia would not have a significant impact on the environment. Among the subjects the preliminary study examined were air quality, traffic, geology, noise, aesthetics, building height and energy usage. The report concluded that “although the proposed project could have a significant effect on the environment, there will not be a significant effect in this case because revisions in the project have been made by or agreed to” by the developer.
However, city officials have now asked the developer, Meriwether Companies of Boulder, CO, to submit to a full environmental review. The company has agreed, and initial documents were filed this week. The full EIR is expected to add four to five months to the review process. Once the EIR is completed, the project will go before the city Planning Commission and City Council for final determination. Public hearing will be held at several stages.
The Notice of Preparation, which spells out the project proposal and extent of the EIR, can be found here:
Realtors assess impact on Trilogy home values
I asked three prominent local Realtors to assess the potential impact on Trilogy home prices of the proposed Coral Mountain resort on the property across from Andalusia. These Realtors are experienced in selling homes in our community. and have a skilled perspective on the project’s impact on home values. Their responses are printed below.
Meriwether Companies of Boulder, CO, intends to build a private resort community that includes million-dollar-plus homes, a 150-room hotel and an artificial wave/surf pool on the vacant land along Madison Avenue between Avenues 58 and 60. The proposal is being reviewed by the City of La Quinta and other agencies. The final plan is expected to be submitted in February. Public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council will follow in the next few months.
HK Lane Real Estate
One of the biggest complaints we as Realtors hear from potential buyers is that the development is “so far out there.” It really isn’t that far away from services but feels that way because of the raw desert that surrounds us. Ragged bushes and craggy landscape are not impressive when I drive prospective buyers down Madison to Avenue 60. Having a beautifully landscaped destination resort will enhance and connect Trilogy with the rest of south La Quinta. It will bring visitors from all over the country who, perhaps, will fall in love with the desert as we have and want to purchase a home. People want to live in a dynamic and growing community. From my perspective as a Realtor, I welcome the improvement.
John K. Miller
John K. Miller Premier Real Estate Group
Right now there is a lot of talk going around in the community about the “water park,” “surf park” or whatnot. Most people I have spoken to are in favor of something nice going into the empty lot other than another golf course. I have been following it and the only issue I may have would be potential noise or traffic. I have not read either of the reports to give an honest opinion. Personally, I think a high-end community going up outside of Trilogy will continue to help push our home prices up. Right now Trilogy has some of the lower-priced homes compared to the surrounding communities.
Berkshire Hathaway California Properties
Home values in large part are tied to the economic health of a community. The city of La Quinta’s economy is tourism and hospitality based, and it’s the success of this industry that provides the tax base that keeps our city beautiful, healthy and safe…and, one in which the affluent want to visit and live. The Kelly Slater Surf Park will add to the city’s image and popularity as a preferred entertainment destination. Taxes from this new venue will add significantly to the city’s financial coffers, and in turn, will make La Quinta an even more desired location for the affluent to invest and live.
Locally, we can expect more visitors, a younger demographic, a bit more traffic, noise and possibly, some light pollution. As for Trilogy and other residential developments surrounding the Surf Park, in the long run, I do not believe the project will negatively impact home sales or values, and could eventually increase them. The reason is that the market for homes in La Quinta and surrounding areas will continue to increase (for the reasons above), and there will always be many people for whom the lifestyle of the area and the new surf park will act as a draw. Most likely our new homebuyers, similar to what is already happening, will be about 55 to 65 years old, physically active, many still working, and buying a second home in Trilogy. Initially, there may be some Trilogy residents who will decide to sell, particularly during the construction phase of the Surf Park project, but I fully believe that there will be a large enough market of interested homebuyers to absorb these homes.
Update: Water supply adequate for project
Sufficient water supplies exist for the Coral Mountain development proposed for vacant land across Madison Street, between Avenues 58 and 60. The water supply assessment was provided to the City of La Quinta by the Coachella Valley Water district as part of the review process.
According to the district, “…sufficient water supplies exist, or will exist based on current water planning assumptions, to meet the projected demands of the Project, in addition to current and future projected water demands within CVWD’s service area in normal, single-dry, and multiple-dry years over a 20-year projection.”
The determination was approved by the district’s Board of Directors. The Coral Mountain project must still undergo further review by the water district, including approval of design and construction plans.
Update: Q&A with developer Garrett Simon
Garrett Simon, a partner with Meriwether Companies, agreed to answer several questions about Coral Mountain\, the proposed private resort community on the vacant land along Madison Avenue across from Andalusia.
The proposal, now under review by the City of La Quinta, includes million-dollar-plus homes, a 150-room hotel and an artificial wave/surf feature. Mr. Simon met with Trilogy residents earlier this year to explain the development and answer questions. He also has led Trilogy residents on several hikes through the property.
Below are the questions submitted by Trilogy residents and Mr. Simon’s responses. He is open to answering additional questions from Trilogy residents. If you have a question, please send it to JSPerry760@gmail.com. I will forward it to Mr. Simon. His responses will be published on this site as they are received.
- What makes Meriwether believe there is a market for a private surf resort community in the desert?
Meriwether has an extensive background in resort master plan communities, including work in the Coachella Valley. We have been working with the Kelly Slater Wave Company for several years to create a resort concept centered upon the Wave Basin. As evidenced by the success of the prototype Wave Basin built in central California, there is considerable demand from surfers ranging from novices to advanced for a safe and reliable surf experience. Further, our project is not just a “surf resort.” In fact, we are proposing a complete offering focused on surf, sports, wellness and community. The surf basin rightfully garners a lot of attention, but it will be just one of many planned amenities and activities for our community. The proximity to a sizeable southern California market, inbound sales interest to date, press coverage and other factors all support our confidence in the demand for the community that will be sustainable and highly-differentiated from other CV communities.
- Who is your target audience for home sales at Coral Mountain and where do they live?
Coral Mountain will primarily target active affluent individuals and families in the drive to markets of Southern and Northern California. Due to the unique design and amenity offering, we also anticipate buyers from across the country and international.
- What impact has the COVID pandemic had on plans for Coral Mountain? Did it make you change any parts of the plan or rethink the concept?
COVID has strengthened our conviction for a drive-to resort community focused on health, wellness and sport. From the onset, our development plan was low density with a small-scale hotel. While we expect the COVID pandemic will be mitigated by the time we open, we do believe our resort is well situated to build safeguards against future pandemics.
- Opponents of your plan claim that a) the resort is wrong for this area; b) it will generate too much traffic; c) the wave feature will generate too much noise; and d) it will block street-level view of Coral Mountain. How do you respond?
As you are aware, the property is currently approved for 750 homes and 16 additional holes of golf. As we began our planning process, our intent was to maintain the same density and find ways to reduce impacts from the previous plan. One way we accomplished this was replacing the 16 holes of golf with the wave basin, which will have a significant reduction in water consumption. In regards to traffic, we studied 22 intersections in La Quinta and most notably, the intersection of Ave 58 and Madison does not require any additional improvements to maintain the required level of service. The noise study includes recording operations of the existing Kelly Slater Wave Basin in Lemoore, CA. The study confirms that both the wave and overall resort operations do not exceed allowable levels per the requirements of the City of La Quinta. Subsequent to the recording of the Lemoore facility, new technology has been implemented to further reduce noise giving us significant confidence that noise will not be an issue to our owners and guest as well as our neighbors. The views to Coral Mountain, while not a protected corridor, will be no further impacted from our proposed project than the currently approved plan.
In summary, we believe the proposed plan for Coral Mountain compliments the immediate area as it will be developed as a high end private community, while not directly competing with the adjacent golf course communities due to the differentiated amenities. Additionally, we believe the hotel, restaurant and bar will be utilized by many existing residents due to the lack of services in the immediate area.
- How will short-term rentals be managed to ensure homeowners and renters comply with City of La Quinta requirements?
In additional to requirements from the City of La Quinta, Coral Mountain will be governed by a homeowners association that will enforce rules and regulations on both homeowners and their guests.
- You’ve met with residents of Trilogy, Andalusia and other residential communities near your project. What were the key takeaways?
To date, we have had 10 meetings with our adjacent neighbors and have been very pleased with the discussions and feedback. We have heard the concerns you outlined above from a number of neighbors; however, it is clear this is mostly due to the new concept we are proposing and the need for additional information. With the submittal of our application, the studies have been completed to provide professional input in these key areas and we are confident they will provide the detailed information people are looking for.
At the same time, we have also received strong feedback and excitement in favor of the project. Many neighbors are excited to see the property developed with new amenities and offerings being added to our end of La Quinta. Whether it be the restaurant and bar for a close place to eat, the hotel for family and friends to stay, and maybe most significant, a community that will draw friends, family and like-minded people that enjoy the desert but are looking for something that is not currently offered in the Coachella Valley.
- How long is construction expected to last and how will you mitigate dust and truck traffic?
While the full build out of Coral Mountain will be dictated by market demand and conditions, we anticipate the initial phase including the primary infrastructure, wave and hotel to take 2.5 years to complete. The home building in the resort area will be dictated by sales.
In regards to construction traffic, we are developing a plan that creates a balanced site to minimize any necessary import or export. We are in discussions with neighbors immediately adjacent to the property to determine best access points and will develop a construction traffic mitigation plan with the City of La Quinta. Dust will be managed similar to other projects with watering and placement of other materials to ensure we met applicable requirements.
- What are the plans for the retail section at the west corner of Avenue 58 and Madison? Will they be open to the public?
At this time, we do not have specific plans for the full build out of the 60,000 sf of the retail / commercial corner. The initial phase that we are currently planning to develop is a small market with a limited food and beverage operation. The market would serve both Coral Mountain and the public. Feedback to date from neighbors has been very positive due to the limited offerings in the immediate area.
- Why would anyone want to come to a wave park in the middle of the summer, when the beach is free and only two hours away?
As evidenced by the success of the prototype Wave Basin in operation in central California that sees similar temperatures in the summer, there is considerable demand from surfers ranging from novices to advanced for a safe and reliable surf experience. Further, our project is not just a “surf resort.” In fact, we are proposing a complete offering focused on surf, sports, wellness and community. The surf basin rightfully garners a lot of attention, but it will be just one of many planned amenities and activities for our community. The proximity to a sizeable southern California market, inbound sales interest to date, press coverage and other factors all support our confidence in the demand for the community that will be sustainable and highly-differentiated from other Coachella Valley communities.
- With the destruction of the economy in our valley and the end results unknown, why do they think a project like this is a good idea?
While we all have seen significant impacts to the economy in the Coachella Valley and across the country, we are also seeing significant demand for primary and second homes for those focused on either relocating or splitting time. This has been well documented in many recent articles, including a Wall Steet Journal article of which focused on Andalusia. In additional to the immediate demand, we are fortunate to be able to implement design features into our community to address future events, such as a pandemic.
- Trilogy is already a long drive to our commerce, how can he tell us why more traffic and additional traffic signals will help us.
First, we believe the commercial property located within our project at the Southwest corner of Avenue 58 and Madison, has the potential to bring commercial and retail services closer to this end of the Valley and benefit all neighbors. In regards to traffic, the recently completed traffic study for our project concludes that the existing four-way stop at Avenue 58 and Madison is sufficient for full build out with the level of service never dropping to a point where a traffic signal is required. In total, we were required to study 22 intersections, and only five where deemed to need any improvements at some point during the build out of Coral Mountain. These five intersections are: Madison at Avenue 54, Jefferson at Avenue 54, Monroe at Avenue 58, Monroe at Avenue 54 and Monroe at Avenue 52.
- Why doesn’t the Merriweather organization purchase the empty land on the corner of Madison and 60th? I don’t see a developer building homes there with the end of the wave machine ending right at the west side of the property.
The property on the Northwest and Southwest corners of Avenue 60 and Madison is currently for sale for $9.95 million. In additional to this property, there are a number of larger acreage lots owned by individuals, some of which are excited to be adjacent to our project and the wave. At this time we are not pursuing any additional land and focused on the property that we currently own.
Update: Initial city review released
A preliminary assessment by the City of La Quinta has found that the proposed Coral Mountain project west of Adalusia will not have a significant impact on the environment. Among the subjects the study examined were: air quality, traffic, geology, noise, aesthetics, building height and energy usage. The report concluded that “although the proposed project could have a significant effect on the environment, there will not be a significant effect in this case because revisions in the project have been made by or agreed to” by the developer.
Meriwether Companies of Boulder, Colorado, proposes to build a private resort community that includes million-dollar-plus homes, a 150-room hotel and an artificial wave/surf pool on the vacant land along Madison Avenue across from Andalusia. Construction is anticipated to be phased, with Phase 1 beginning in 2021 with the resort, wave pool and hotel, 104 attached dwelling units, 26 detached dwelling units and 10,000 square feet of retail. Phase 2 in 2023 would add 25,000 square feet of retail at the west corner of Madison and Avenue 58. Phase 3 in 2026 would add 470 detached dwelling units and 25,000 square feet of retail.
The initial environment study is an early step in a lengthy review process conducted by the city and other agencies. Public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council will be held before a final decision is reached.
Below is a summary of key points. The 156-page environmental report can be accessed here:
Traffic: The environment assessment refers to a separate traffic study that evaluated six roads and 22 intersections for their current and future operating conditions. That study calculates that, upon full buildout, the project will generate a net total of approximately 6,994 external trip-ends per day on a typical weekday with 447 occuring during the weekday morning peak hour and 638 during the weekday evening peak hour. It states that no specific off-site mitigation or area-wide improvement would be required to accommodate project-related traffic aside from the improvements to adjacent roadways and other Project Design Features included in Final Engineering Plans. However, five intersections are anticipated to require installation of a traffic signal by full buildout: Madison Street at Avenue 54; Jefferson Street at Avenue 54; Monroe Street at Avenue 58; Monroe Street at Avenue 54 and Monroe Street at Avenue 52.
Visual: The building height standards, mass and scale guidelines and setback requirements established in the city’s municipal code and the Coral Mountain Specific Plan “will ensure that new development proposed within project area will not significantly impact the valued views and scenic vistas that surround the project property. Additionally, the design features throughout the project property and along the project frontage will complement the existing natural scenic vistas.”
Energy: “The project property will comply with all applicable state and local guidelines and regulations regarding energy-efficient building design and standards. Therefore, the proposed project is not anticipated to conflict or obstruct a state or local plan for renewable energy or energy efficiency.”
Noise: Urban Crossroads, Inc. prepared a separate Noise Impact Analysis in April. The noise study analyzed four main noise components anticipated to be produced by the project. These include off-site traffic noise, on-site traffic noise, operational noise and construction noise. The primary source of noise will be traffic from Avenue 58 and Madison Street. The project will also experience some background traffic noise impacts from its internal streets and parking lots. However, due to the low traffic volume and low speeds of vehicles travelling on these roadways, traffic noise will not make a significant contribution to the noise environment. Worst-case noise environments were assumed with the surf lagoon/wave machine activity, outdoor pool/spa activity, outdoor activities, and neighborhood commercial land-use activity all operating simultaneously. However, these noise level impacts will likely vary throughout the day and will be limited to the hours of 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
To determine the noise levels associated with outdoor hotel pool and spa activity, Urban Crossroads collected a reference noise level measurement at the Westin Hotel in Rancho Mirage. The measured reference noise level at 50 feet is 57.8 dBA Leq. The outdoor pool/spa activity noise levels included a waterfall, people talking, and children and adults swimming and playing in a pool.
To measure the noise levels associated with the wave machine, Urban Crossroads, Inc. collected reference noise level measurements at eight different locations around the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch in Lemoore, CA. The noise level measurement locations were selected to identify the unique noise characteristics associated with different stages of each wave. Prior to each wave, the control tower announces the event over the public address system. This is followed by the noise generated from the movement of the sled and an increase in noise levels from the mechanical equipment buildings. As the sled moves through the lagoon, noise from the cable and metal rollers is clearly audible. However, throughout each wave event, the primary noise source is simply the movement of water from each wave in the lagoon. Over a period of 53 minutes, ten wave events were measured at eight different locations. The reference noise levels suggest that during peak wave events, the Wave basin generates noise levels ranging from 62.6 dBA at end of the lagoon, 73.8 dBA in the lifeguard tower and 75.7 dBA near the cable roller system. To describe the worst-case reference noise level conditions, the highest reference noise level describing each peak wave noise event of 75.7 dBA at a distance of 12 feet was used. This reference noise level likely overstates the expected noise levels from the wave basin/wave machine activity at the Coral Mountain since it only describes the actual wave event. In addition, improved designs for the project have placed the cable roller system under the water surface to eliminate this noise source.
June 17: Formal plans submitted to city
Plans are moving forward on a private resort community that includes million-dollar-plus homes, a 150-room hotel and an artificial wave/surf pool on the vacant land along Madison Avenue across from Andalusia. The developer, Meriwether Companies of Boulder, Colorado, submitted formal applications to the City of La Quinta on June 16. A lengthy review process will now be conducted by the city and other agencies. Public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council will be held before a final decision is reached. The developer hopes to break ground in mid-2021.
Two applications were submitted this week:
- The first removes the 400 acres on the west side of Madison from the specific plan for Andalusia, which originally was to occupy both sides of Madison between Avenues 58 and 60. The land had been approved by the city for more housing and another golf course. However, in 2018, T.D. Desert Development LP sold both Andalusia sites to Sunrise Company, based in Palm Desert. Sunrise, in turn, sold the vacant property west of Madison in 2019 to Meriwether Companies.
- The second application covers the proposals for the property itself, which is called Coral Mountain. Instead of a golf course, Meriwether proposes a half-mile-long artificial wave pool that would allow residents and guests to surf. The developer also proposes to build a 150-room two-story hotel, a restaurant and up to 600 housing units priced between $1 million and $5 million. Retail, including a small grocery store, is envisioned for the west corner of 58th and Madison.
Below is a current map of the master land-use plan and summary descriptions as submitted:
The Specific Plan is broken into four Planning Areas, each corresponding with a basic land use component as follows:
Planning Area I (PA-I) – Neighborhood Commercial
PA I consists of approximately 7.8 acres of land and will allow for up to 60,000 sf of neighborhood commercial building space. Retail development is proposed at the southwest corner of Madison Street and Avenue 58 and will consist of a mixture of neighborhood commercial and resort-related commercial development.
Planning Area II (PA-II) – Residential
PA-II consists of approximately 232 acres of land and will allow for the construction of up to 496 single family attached and detached dwellings. Residential neighborhoods of various types occur throughout the project. Product types may include estate compounds, single-family detached/attached units, alley loaded homes, cluster products, and fractional interest ownership units.
Planning Area III (PA-III)– Resort
PA-III consists of approximately 103 acres and will allow the construction of a resort hotel with up to 150 keys, 104 attached residential units, along with standard resort support services such as eateries/cafes, retail shops, corner grocery, golf and golf practice facilities.
- Wave Surf Basin – The resort is oriented around an artificial surf wave basin that will function as the focal amenity for the community. “The Wave” basin will feature state of the art proprietary technology designed to re-create ocean waves for recreational surfing by individual resort residents and hotel guests as well as the hosting of limited private and public events by invitation. Open areas south of the Wave Basin will provide gathering and staging space using temporary facilities such as port-a-potties, shade structures, tenting for inclement weather, and catering equipment as well as permanent facilities for maintenance, service and administrative operation of the wave basin and resort.
- Resort Hotel – The project will include a full-service resort hotel (up to 150 keys). The hotel is envisioned as a boutique facility with a relaxed surf-village feel and a mix of traditional hotel rooms, suites, and casitas.
- Resort Village –The hotel will be embedded within a walkable, surf-themed village. Structures will consist primarily of attached residential units designed around a compact gridlike network of streets and pathways.
- Resort Amenities – The resort will offer a wide range of community and active lifestyle amenities such as golf and golf practice and training facilities, hiking, biking, spa and dining, bicycle pump-track, fitness and swimming pool areas. In addition, spa and dining facilities may be provided within the resort for resort residents and hotel guests so that upon arrival, everything is provided and there is no need to leave the resort.
- Temporary Events – The project anticipates that the Wave basin and resort will be used to host occasional temporary events and gatherings for hotel guests, resort residents and public visitors by reservation. These events may be held up to 4 times per year and are restricted to 4 days duration with attendance by a maximum of 2,500 guests per day. Examples of temporary events include farmers markets, festivals, pop-up food competitions or tastings, surf competitions, classic car shows, and similar activities.
Planning Area IV (PA-IV)- Open Space
PA-IV consists of approximately 27 acres to accommodate low-impact active and passive recreation activities such as hiking and biking trails. This Planning area will be retained largely in natural open space to preserve the rugged beauty of Coral Mountain as a backdrop for The Wave basin.
I will be publishing more information on the plans as the city makes documents available. Also planned is a question-and-answer interview with Garrett Simon, a partner at Meriwether.
Below is previously published information on this web site…
March walking tour
On March 10, two dozen Trilogy residents did a walking of the site with Meriwether partner Garrett Simon. Here is a summary of what they learned:
- Because a CVWD water line bisects the property, the wave basin will need to be located to the south side of the site.
- The wave basin starts at about mid-point of Coral Mt. and runs to within 400 feet of homes on Avenue 60, but is set far back from Madison.
- The basin will cover 16 to 20 acres (roughly 1/2 mile long) and will hold 18 million gallons of water.
- Twenty-five people can ride a wave at a time for 50 seconds.
- Noise from the wave machine is about 86 decibels — similar to a lawnmower. The sound will dissipate as you get further from it.
- Noise studies required by the city will test how to mitigate sound that bounces off Coral Mountain.
- Daily music will not be blaring like a surf championship in Huntington Beach. That would disturb homeowners and hotel guests.
- Jet skis will only be used for safety, not to move riders, as shown in the Lemoore video
- No outside memberships to the wave basic will be offered in the beginning so homes can be sold. Some homes will not have wave basin access.
- Casitas and the hotel sit way back on the site and face Coral Mt. and the wave basin. Merriwether will own the hotel and have a major brand (not yet identified) manage it.
- For large-scale events, parking will be either in a lot on Avenue 60 or outside the resort with use of a shuttle bus.
- Perimeter wall and landscaping will be built first according to City of La Quinta requirements, along with the hotel and wave basin.
- The community will be gated and have a guard at the main entrance.
- X-treme sports area will be at the spot noted on the map as “The Farm.” Preliminary maps show that as being midway between Avenues 58 and 60.
- Rock climbing wall will be inside a building; pump track. Dirt jumps will be outside. There is no riding track, but some hiking trails.
- Electrical power will be provided underground from the IID station on Avenue 58.
- Approximately 60,000 square feet of commercial space will be offered on the corner of Avenue 58 and Madison. That property is currently owned by Merriwether. There is no determination of stores yet, but a market is in the plans. No gas station.
- First public hearings with the city will probably not take place until July or August
February meeting at Trilogy
On Feb. 20 Garrett Simon made a presentation at Trilogy and answered questions for more than an hour from more than 200 people in attendance. Below is a summary of key topics from that meeting:
• Up to 600 residences are planned. Pricing is expected to range between $1 million and $5 million. Owners can make their homes available as short- and long-term rentals.
• A two-story hotel would have up to 150 rooms.
• A 20-acre, half-mile-long water feature would mimic ocean waves, creating an environment for surfing enthusiasts. The wave park is not open to the public. It is for residents and their guests, hotel guests and members. They intend to initially operate 12 hours per day, likely between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. It would operate year round.
• 60,000 square-feet of commercial/retail is planned for the southwest corner of Madison and Avenue 58. Specific tenants or uses have not been determined at this time, but Mr. Simon ruled out a gas station.
• It would be a gated community, with the main entrance on Madison, closer to Avenue 58 than Avenue 60. Secondary access would be located on Avenues 58 and 60. The main service entrance would be on Avenue 60.
• The development will have a restaurant. It will primarily serve residents and hotel guests, but would be made available to the public with reservations.
• City departments are reviewing the plans. Mr. Simon anticipates that the Planning Commission will begin its review in July. Public hearings will be held before that body and the city council.
• Should the commission and council approve the plans and mitigation requirements, Mr. Simon hopes that construction could begin in the first quarter of 2021, with completion of the hotel, wave facility and initial housing in two years. Residential housing will be built in phases. Full buildout, according to documents, may not occur until 2040.
Mr. Simon answered dozens of questions from Trilogy residents. Here is a sampling:
• Wall and landscaping. Mr. Simon said that because the community is gated, there will be walls surrounding the property with perimeter landscaping. He declined to say when the walls and landscaping would be completed. He did say that perimeter landscaping along Madison would be a high priority to help market the high-end homes.
• Events. Mr. Simon said the development application proposes four major events per year, with an estimated attendance of 2,500 for each event. There are no plans for major concerts or construction of an amphitheater.
• Noise. Mr. Simon said they intend to mitigate as much as possible noise from the wave feature and restaurant. He said his company must create an environment that is conducive to residents, which would benefit neighbors such as Trilogy, PGA West and Andalusia.
• Traffic. Like most developments, the city requires and traffic impact analysis for surrounding streets and intersections. That study is under way and will be analyzed by the city as part of the review process.
• Hiking. Once the property is developed, the unauthorized hiking trail that goes near Coral Mountain would be off limits.
• Petroglyphs. Mr. Simon said his company would protect these ancient drawings from further defacing
The property is 377 acres of vacant land west of Madison Street, between Avenues 58 and 60. The land originally was to be developed as part of Andalusia under a city-approved approved plan to build another golf course and more housing. However, in 2018, T.D. Desert Development LP sold both Andalusia sites to Sunrise Company, based in Palm Desert. Sunrise, in turn, sold the vacant property west of Madison in May to Meriwether Companies of Boulder, Colorado.
Meriwether Companies is a Boulder-based real estate investment and development firm that focuses on luxury hospitality and residential projects in resort markets. Founded in 2010, Meriwether currently has 10 projects and over $300 million in planned development in Lake Tahoe, Steamboat, Telluride, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage, Fredericksburg, TX and Costa Rica. According to an article in the Desert Sun: “The company co-owns the Ingleside Inn and Melvyn’s Restaurant in Palm Springs. Meriwether Cos. also had a hand in the Villas of Mirada, a 46-unit housing development in Rancho Mirage.”
The City’s Role
The city’s Design and Development Department has the initial role. La Quinta’s Planning Commission and City Council will weigh in later after other city departments assess and comment on the plan, including impacts on traffic, safety and noise. The City Council has the final say.
According to the city, the land in question is currently zoned for Low Density Residential and Golf Course. The existing 2003 plan for the site allows for residental development and a golf course. Hotels and wave parks are not allowed. That means the city would need to amend the existing plan. The city’s General Plan and zoning designations would also need to be changed.
An environmental review of the Andalusia plan was conducted and approved in 2003. State law will require an addendum to that plan or a fresh mitigation plan. The Coachella Valley Water District will also need to review the development’s requirement for water.
How You Can Be Involved
The city will hold public hearings before the Planning Commission and City Council. Those dates have not been determined, but are likely to occur later this year.