The Coachella Valley Conservation Commission (CVCC) recently spent a day touring some of the 93,000 acres of open desert that have been conserved for habitat and sand transport areas.

The CVCC was formed more than 10 years ago as a sister agency to CVAG. It is responsible for managing the Coachella Valley Multiple Species Habitat Conservation Plan, a 75-year vision to conserve land and protect 27 plants and animals, including Peninsular bighorn sheep, desert tortoises and the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard.

The January 10th tour included stops in Thousand Palms, Whitewater and Desert Hot Springs, where CVCC is working to protect the aquifer by removing mesquite.

It ended at the CVCC's current acquisition: A long-coveted stretch of nearly 480 acres that are located east of Snow Creek Road and south of Highway 111 at the base of Mount San Jacinto.

The property is considered critical habitat, as the four parcels link two other biological corridors. The property is surrounded on three sides by existing conservation land. It is a spectacular property with an intact sand dune ecosystem and mountainous land at the toe of the slope.

Despite its importance to protected species - including the Coachella Valley fringe-toed lizard, the Coachella Valley milkvetch, the Palm Springs pocket mouse and Coachella Valley round-tailed ground squirrel - the property has been previously eyed for development of a boutique hotel.

More than 30 people participated in the tour, including La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans and Coachella Mayor Steven Hernandez, who are the newly elected CVCC chair and vice chair. The tour was held in partnership with some of the CVCC's conservation partners, including the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, the Friends of the Desert Mountains and the Sierra Club.

The CVAG Homelessness Committee, chaired by Palm Desert Mayor Sabby Jonathan, and Riverside County Supervisor V. Manuel Perez this week co-hosted a special presentation on regional solutions to addressing homelessness.
The presentation highlighted recommendations from Barbara Poppe & Associates, who was hired by the Desert Healthcare District/ Foundation to conduct an independent analysis of the Coachella Valley's programs and services. The analysis resulted in a report titled "The Path Forward," which can be found here.
The report showed that the Coachella Valley is providing a disproportionate share of emergency shelter beds for Riverside County. Instead of investing in additional beds, the report outlined eight  recommendations that are data-driven and have been successful in other parts of the country.
The priority recommendations include creating a Collective Impact Collaborative, which would bring together public agencies, non-profit groups and philanthropic organizations for a unified approach. 
The report also recommended additional funding for diversion assistance or "assisted rapid resolution" programs, which would include creative solutions for to help those who have just lost housing.
CVAG oversees the regional CV Housing First program, which includes rapid rehousing opportunities, emergency rental assistance, crisis stabilization options, outreach teams and other supportive services. While much of the existing program aligns with the findings from "The Path Forward," the CVAG Homelessness Committee will meet next month to further consider the report's recommendations.
CVAG is a regional agency coordinating transportation plans, green energy programs, conservation efforts and social services. 

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CVAG sends its deepest sympathies to the family, friends and colleagues of Cathedral City Mayor Greg Pettis, who passed away on Tuesday.

Mayor Pettis was first elected in 1994 and was the City's longest-serving Council member.

During his tenure, Mayor Pettis was an active member of CVAG and was a member of the Transportation Committee. He was a steadfast champion of bringing transportation funding to the Coachella Valley, and had been an advocate for improved transportation opportunities such as safe active transportation routes and more frequent train routes.

Mayor Pettis also was active in regional efforts to bring more cap and trade funding to the Coachella Valley. And, when he was chair of the Mobile Source Air Pollution Reduction Review Committee, he had helped secure funding for regional street sweeping efforts.   
His work helped make the Coachella Valley a better place to live, work and play. He will be missed.
The South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) this month awarded $1.15 million to CVAG for its regional street sweeping efforts.

The funding is the largest, lump-sum award the program has ever received. The funding will be used to fund the program for up to five years. In addition to funding CVAG's requested amount, the AQMD Board provided funding for a study that will help CVAG ensure it is using the most efficient sweeping schedule.

CVAG's street sweepers cover nearly 900 curb miles valleywide.
Since the early 1990s, Coachella Valley leaders have identified street sweeping as a proactive way to keep the air clean. A major source of PM10 (particulate matter of less than 10 microns) is dust-generating activities, including vehicles traveling over paved or unpaved streets and construction. Blowsand - the natural process that involves wind movement of desert sand - also can contribute to PM10.

The valley's reputation for having clean, dry air has been one of the many reasons that tourists flock to the Coachella Valley. It's also critical for public health, which is why street sweeping remains one of the most significant air quality control measures to reduce PM10.

In addition to grants, the street sweeping program is funded through AB 2766 revenue that its member jurisdictions receive to fund programs that reduce air pollution.