Most of Palm Springs is built out, and new land development generally consists of sensitive lands, such as hillsides and open desert, or smaller in-fill properties. As an older city, Palm Springs also expects that a large inventory of existing buildings is likely to be redeveloped in the coming years to upgrade structural and mechanical systems as well as reposition or replace buildings for new and future uses. Land development is a complex process that requires considerable expertise and a willingness to honestly deal with neighbors and the City. We have summarized six important aspects of land development below, and we invite your questions, clarifications and suggestions. Topics covered:
- Permitted Uses and Development Standards
- Pre-Application Review
- Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan
- Design Review
- Subdivision and Maps
- Planned Development Districts
- Vacant Land
- Economic Development
Permitted Uses and Development Standards – The first planning question facing a developer is what General Plan and zoning designations apply to the property. All properties have both a General Plan land use designation and a zone. These designations provide the overall limits to development, including allowed uses, maximum intensities (units per acre or Floor Area Ratio), height limits and other standards The easiest way to find out about your property’s development standards is to call the Planning Department (760-323-8245) with the location of your property. The planner can identify the applicable rules and give you the information you need to go forward.
If you like, you can check the rules yourself by reviewing the City’s General Plan, zoning map and zoning ordinance for your particular property:
|City Zoning Map|
|City Zoning Ordinance|
Pre-Application Review - For complex projects, the City encourages the use of a “pre-application” review. This review allows you to submit a preliminary development concept to the City. We submit your proposal to several city departments – public works, fire, engineering, building & safety, and planning – and produce a summary of issues, conformance concerns and preliminary conditions. This report should help you design a better project and submit a formal application that has an improved chance of success with the City:
Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan - On October 2, 2008, the Coachella Valley Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan (CVMSHCP or “Plan”) became effective, and the City of Palm Springs, along with Riverside County and other Coachella Valley cities, is now implementing the Plan. The CVMSHCP is a comprehensive approach to conserving protected species and their habitats. Without the Plan, development projects could be subject to lengthy and costly environmental review by State and Federal Wildlife agencies. Instead, the Plan establishes a simple and uniform mechanism for mitigating the effects of development through the payment of a Local Development Mitigation Fee (“Fee”). The Fee applies to all projects within the Plan’s jurisdiction, including all of the City of Palm Springs.
Design Review – Any new development – whether a large multiple-residential complex or a single, stand-alone restaurant – will require review by the Planning Commission, and potentially by the City Council. All vacant or redeveloped sites will be reviewed for all proposed improvements, including the overall site plan and arrangement of buildings, traffic circulation and parking, building design and architecture, landscaping and lighting, and signs. The minimum process for any new development (exempting certain single family dwellings) is Major Architectural Approval:
Any existing building that is of historic importance will be evaluated for possible preservation, rehabilitation or adaptive re-use. Check at the Planning Counter if you think you have a building that has possible historic merit. Additional information can be found at the web page, Historic Resources.
New residential developments that are subject to design review or other discretionary reviews are encouraged to use alternative energy sources. To that end, solar photovoltaic (PV) systems are given preference as a requirement of the discretionary review process for new residential development in accordance with a City Council Policy Statement adopted January 3, 2018.
Subdivision and Maps – Many developments involve the subdivision of land into smaller parcels for resale. The technical aspects of mapping are largely overseen by Public Works; however, processing a tentative map is managed by the Planning Department, where applications are received and prepared for review by the Planning Commission and City Council. A civil engineer or surveyor must be part of your team in order to submit a complete map application:
Planned Development Districts – The City of Palm Springs has a unique zoning process for complex development proposals, called the “Planned Development District” (PDD). The PDD is used most often for larger subdivisions, mixed use projects or especially unique uses on large parcels. The PDD provides applicants an opportunity to request deviations from zoning standards without seeking a Variance. With a PDD, the project can propose its own setback, parking, lot coverage and other standards (except height). The project is reviewed for its overall arrangement and design, rather than with a checklist of zoning regulations.
The use of a PDD has a special requirement called “public benefit” which the City Council has determined to be an appropriate a trade-off for the additional flexibility inherent in a PDD. The public benefit is something which the PDD project provides to the community over and above the project itself. Examples of public benefits are described in the following Council policy:
If you believe that a PDD might work for your project, please contact the planning department for a consultation. You may also want to submit a pre-application (see above) for an early look and response from the City about your concept.
Vacant Land – Land within the urbanized area of the City that is vacant – whether undeveloped or in the process of development – must be maintained so that neighbors are able to enjoy their homes or businesses with minimal disturbance. The City works with land owners to secure vacant sites against dust erosion, vandalism and other problems. For additional information, contact Code Enforcement or the Planning Department. You may also want to review the policies regarding dust control in the Building Department and the use of temporary fencing:
Economic Development – The City of Palm Springs has a pro-active interest in the economic growth and development of the community. We have developed special programs for a variety of issues – from affordable housing to hotel development. The City also has an active Redevelopment Agency (RDA) which can participate in select new developments to help bring about the kinds of improvement desired by the community. For more information on these programs, we encourage you to contact the Department of Economic and Community Development at 760-323-8228.
Any questions? Please feel free to visit us at the office, call 760-323-8245 or email any of our staff members for further assistance.