DESERT HOT SPRINGS — Adam Sanchez Sr., 62, who works in business development, is challenging incumbent Mayor Scott Matas for a four-year term on the City Council. The two will face off in the Nov. 3 election.

Both men have been on the City Council and both have been mayor. They have faced off for the mayor’s seat before. This is a repeat performance. Sanchez served as mayor from November 2013 to November 2015.

The city of Desert Hot Springs has five elected officials including the mayor and four members of the City Council, elected at large. Commencing in 2020, the directly elected Mayor shall serve a four-year term with a term limit of two terms pursuant to Measure “V” passed by the voters in November 2018. Members of the City Council are elected for a four-year term.

Uken Report asked each candidate identical questions. Following are Matas’ unedited responses.

Uken Report (UR): Why specifically do you want to mayor?

Adam Sanchez: I want to be Mayor to create 3,000 new canna-business jobs by lowering cultivation and dispensary taxes to 3%. This will jump start the canna-business industry by attracting investors to our over 10 million square feet of zoned land for cannabis development.

But first, the current lawsuit by the City of Desert Hot Springs and the 160 acre Coachillin Business Cannabis Campus must be resolved because it’s preventing all canna-business projects to be put on hold. All because Mayor Matas’ failed in having a State mandated Nexus Study done once annexing Riverside County Land.

Once again the City of Desert Hot Springs is facing a similar financial mess that led to being the first City in Southern California to legalize Cannabis Cultivation after the City declared a financial emergency in 2014 to stay out of bankruptcy.

In 2009, the City of Desert Hot Springs annexed 3,000 acres of Riverside County land from Dillon Road to the I-10 freeway bordered between Palm Drive and Indian Avenue.  The City has been imposing Development Impact Fees (DIF) on the annexed land that was annexed in 2010 based on a Riverside County Nexus Report from 2008 that has not been updated. All of this annexed land was not part of the City when it obtained the Nexus report in 2008.

Development Impact Fees (DIF) is charged by local governments to defray all or a portion of the costs of public facilities related to the development project.  The fees are collected at the time a building permit is issued for the purpose of mitigating the impacts caused by new development on the City’s infrastructure.

Fees are used to finance the acquisition, construction, and improvement of public facilities needed as a result of this new development. The New City Hall being built is using (DIF) fees for construction. State law requires that the City prepare and make available a summary of (DIF) revenues and expenditures summarized in a (DIF) Report each fiscal year which is available for public view.

The City of Desert Hot Springs has been aware since the 2008 Nexus Report that a periodic review and adjustment was warranted in the near future.  Mayor Matas has failed in his leadership to conduct a new Nexus Report.  According to Mitigation Act Law, a “5-year Lookback” is conducted by municipalities to ensure that exorbitant (DIF) are not charged to businesses.

The City of Desert Hot Springs has not yet done any “Lookback” or updated the Nexus Report in 11 years to prevent the City from establishing random exorbitant and unlawful infrastructure fees for development.  This currently means that the City’s current (DIF) are exorbitantly higher than allowed by State law.

The 2008 Nexus Report calculated the population of Desert Hot Springs in 2018 to be 99,000 plus people.  Today, only 1,715 new residents moved to the area between 2008 and 2019.  This justifies zero (DIF) to be charged.

These actions over the past few years have caused many City employees to leave employment and just recently two City Council Members have left their elected positions due to the fiscally and ethically responsible manner that the (DIF) was handled at City Hall by Mayor Scott Mata’s.

Today, current landowners, developers and businesses on Indian Avenue near the I-10 freeway have been paying erroneous fees.  Many properties were not annexed into the City until 2010, approximately two years after the 2008 Nexus Report was established.  That means that many parcels of land were not even included in the Nexus Report calculations.  Therefore, no (DIF) fees should have been charged to properties and developments.

Cultivators with projects in process will challenge the (DIF) calculations and payments of their fees to the City Development Department.  Legal actions will be taken with the City having to make serious decisions on the legal ramifications of outdated (DIF) fees.  Where is the transparency at City Hall?

The City of Desert Hot Springs currently has two major developments in the Nexus Project area. The first is the Desert Hot Springs Coachillin Canna Business Park which is an unfinished 160-acre project with a future planned Coachill-Inn Resort located on Indian Avenue.  It includes a 154-room hotel, spa, restaurant, fitness center, and a 2,000-seat amphitheater. It’s scheduled to open in late 2020.

The second project is Mike Tysons 400+ acre Cannabis Ranch.  The first phase includes a development that could include a 150 luxury bungalows, luxury suites, a large pool and the world’s largest lazy water river park. It plans to attract tourists with music festivals and a University that will focus on research of cannabis health benefits.

So far Tyson Ranch has submitted their grading plan and improvement plan to the City Community Development Department for their site and the construction on Varner Road from Palm Drive.  Apparently, it’s now on hold along with other business projects until the (DIF) fee cannabis financial mess is resolved.

Both of these expansive projects may now be permanently delayed due to the City’s negligent due diligence and a lack of fiscal responsibility to have conducted a required Nexus Report.  Once again, the City of Desert Hot Springs is facing a negative financial situation.

UR: What do you consider your greatest accomplishment either in or out of office?

Adam Sanchez: Leading the process to building the 26,000 square foot Health & Wellness Center facilities and to the wide range of program services that it will provide to our community.

The background leading up to the development of this project started with preliminary plans in the late 1980’s, then progressed in the mid-1990’s, when Roy Kellerman was director of the Desert Hot Springs Boys & Girls Club. After Roy left to accept a position out of state in 2000, as his replacement, I inherited the responsibility of continuing the forward momentum.

Our initial steps involved coordination with our County Supervisor at the time, Marion Ashley, who helped secure over $300,000 to  purchase a portion of the ultimate site that is located between Cholla Drive and Ed Wenzlaff Elementary School. This acreage was expanded to the current land configuration thanks to the additional acreage donated by the City and property donated to the City by the Mission Springs Foundation.

Starting in 2002, the Boys & Girls Club of Desert Hot Springs began writing letters to our elected State and Federal representatives to ask for their assistance to build the Health & Wellness Center.

In 2003, Mayor Matt Weyuker and I traveled to Washington, D.C. to meet with Congressman Jerry Lewis for the purpose of discussing the concept of a “Health & Wellness” facility for our community that would also include a Boys and Girls Club. Congressman Lewis came through “BIG” for us, he was successful in securing in excess of $3 million in Federal appropriation monies.

In 2005, U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer visited the Boys & Girls Club to present the Club’s staff with an “Excellence in Education Award” for their dedicated work in improving the reading and math scores of over 400 kids in the community. Based on her visit and personally viewing the success of the education programs, Senator Boxer pledged $500,000 towards the future Health & Wellness Center for the City.

During the same time, the Desert Healthcare District commissioned a study of the health needs of city residents, which identified that the community was grossly underserved, with the final report recommending the need for a community-wide Health & Wellness Center. Specifically, the completed study advised the need for increased recreational opportunities for youth and families, as well as health education, fitness services, chronic disease management and support.

The Desert Healthcare District emphasized that a Health & Wellness Center for the City would provide children and families nutritional education, athletic opportunities, and exposure to positive life outcomes for the community. The fitness center will have heavy use and the city will see millions of dollars in savings over the next few years in health care costs.

The City Health & Wellness Center consists of five (5) main components – (1) a Health & Wellness Center, (2) a Boys & and Girls Clubhouse, (3) an athletic center with a gymnasium, (4) an aquatic center, and (5) a learning center. The general public has access to all of the components. The 8,000 square foot athletic center will feature a gymnasium with an all-purpose flooring suitable for basketball, volleyball and other sports and activities.

I personally extend my “Thanks” on behalf of the Desert Hot Springs community for the foresight of many organization and thoughtful individuals who have help make our “Health & Wellness Center” a reality.

The following lists those generous and helpful organizations and individuals who helped make the center come into being, including the Desert Healthcare District, Santa Rosa Del Valle, Supervisor Marion Ashley, Congressman Jerry Lewis, the Mission Springs Foundation, the Mission Springs Water District Board members, and members of the City of Desert Hot Springs City Council.

Individuals include past city managers Bob Wilburn, Corky Larson, Rob Parkins, Joe Guzzetta, Ann Marie Gallant, and Rick Daniels, the Women’s Club, Marge Cook, Steve Sobotta, John Soulliere, Roy Kellerman, Dr. Jim Chase, Audrey & Courtney Moe, Max Lieberman, Judy Shea, Manny Aragon, Debbie Hadden, Council Members Mary Stephens & Hank Hohenstein, Fred Deharo, Judith Gargyi and Dr. Allen & Lisa Lawrence.

UR: How do you define leader and leadership?

Adam Sanchez: Leadership is the art of working with groups of people on a mutual goal with a strategy designed for success.

UR: Do you fit this definition?

Adam Sanchez: I worked for over 10 years to reach our vision to build an $18 million dollar Health & Wellness Center in the City.

UR: What are your top three goals for DHS?

Adam Sanchez:

  1. To resolve the current lawsuit between the 160 acre Coachillin Business Cannabis Campus and the City of Desert Hot Springs because it puts in peril the potential to develop new jobs for residents. This has affected the 418 acre Mike Tyson project which is now on hold due to the City lawsuit.  Both projects can create over 6,000 jobs when built out.
  2. Bring back the Boys & Girls Club and work in partnership with a Desert Hot Springs Police Activities League to serve our children and youth. According to data sources the estimated City medium income is $36,000 while the California average is $72,000. The percentage of people living in poverty is 37%. This is why the City needs cost effective enriching program for youth to learn, compete, and be enlightened in a caring and safe environment.
  3. To revitalize the downtown business district to create small business development. The plan is to create a small business task force to begin having discussions on how to bring in small business downtown. Through collaboration, downtown Desert Hot Springs can again be vibrant with businesses.

UR:  If you could change one thing about DHS, what would it be?

Adam Sanchez: To bring back the Desert Hot Springs Boys & Girls Club to continue working with families to create programs and activities benefitting our children and youth by providing a safe environment after school. We should of protested louder when Mayor Parks & Council Members Jan Pye and Scott Mata’s voted for a $15,000 capital plan feasibility study to recommend merging the City Health & Wellness Center with the Boys & Girls Club of Coachella Valley.

UR: Anything you would like to add?

Adam Sanchez: During the pandemic, let’s support the police, fire, dispatchers, and our medical providers in the current health environment as well as their families, friends, and the people in the community who are suffering privately or in public. Together, let’s work on supporting each other to create a Health & Wellness City here we all live and work while raising our families.

Image Sources

  • Adam Sanchez Sr.: Adam Sanchez Sr.