Fireworks erupt over controversial alley reconstruction.

CATHEDRAL CITY — Long before Independence Day dawns here, fireworks exploded at the City Council meeting on Wednesday over a controversial alley reconstruction project that just happens to run near Councilmember Ernesto Gutierrez’s restaurant.

While considering a $970,221 contract to pay for roadway Capital Improvement Projects (CIP) throughout Cathedral City, Councilmember Raymond Gregory asked how an alley reconstruction project got added to the list seemingly at the last minute.

The alley in question runs behind Tortillas Restaurant, which is located at 32123 Cathedral Canyon Drive. Gutierrez owns it. The alley is located south of Ramon Road, west of Cathedral Canyon Drive and near Roundup Road.

Gregory demanded to know how this particular alley moved up on the list of projects and said he was concerned about some projects leapfrogging over others that have been on the list longer.

Fireworks Erupt in Cathedral City Ahead of Fourth

Raymond Gregory

“(It) appears to be what happened,” Gregory said “In fact, one of these projects doesn’t show up on the Capital Improvement Program at all, it’s just now added in. So, can you go over the criteria that was used to select these roadways?”

Andrew Lee, assistant civil engineer, punted the questions to John Corella, director of engineering and public works, who offered a variety of answers, including that there had been many complaints from businesses about the alley.

“I’m not diminishing what you’re saying. It’s not an easy process to put these puzzle pieces together to make sure it works from a budget standpoint,” Corella said. “… It’s a constant manipulation on how much money we’re going to have. And then we look at the projects that we have now in the budget.”

“So, are you saying that alley is the only project, out of all of the needs we have in the city, that you could dedicate that $128,000 to,” Gregory asked Corella. “The concern I have is when you get a big pool of money, there needs to be consideration as to equity and some line of reasoning as to why or how you pick projects and where you dedicate that money and when.”

The list of city-wide repaving projects in the $970,221 contract are:

  • East Palm Canyon Pavement Rehabilitation – The project consists of the rehabilitation of pavement, signing and striping along East Palm Canyon Drive from Perez Road to Auto Park Drive.
  • Da Vall Street Improvements – The scope of this project is to reconstruct the pavement on Da Vall Drive from Ramon Road to approximately 1,500 feet south of the intersection and reconstruct four curb ramps, to be compliant with the American Disabilities Act (ADA).
  • San Eljay Pavement Rehabilitation –The scope of this project is to reconstruct the pavement on San Eljay Avenue from McCallum Way to Ramon Road.
  • Public Alley reconstruction.

“Three things match, one thing doesn’t really match,” Gregory said. “So, to me it’s suspect. And then when you look at how this has played out, I’m not at all satisfied with that.”

“I’m all for moving forward on these, but I want to be assured that there’s a well-thought-out process going on and we’re just not picking this roadway or that roadway without considering other places the money could be used,” Gregory said.

“I assure you the process is pretty well thought out,” Corella said.

Cathedral City resident Chip Yarborough addressed the issue during public comments.

“This is just reeks of stench that all of a sudden an alleyway that is not used very much and happens to financially benefit a City Council member, all of a sudden shows up on the agenda, and as Council Member Gregory just said, without your knowledge,” Yarborough said. “… What it appears is that you have a very aggressive City Councilmember who makes no bones about complaining and asking for things. He got somebody’s ear and that’s why this is on the agenda tonight.”

“I hope that the four of you have the courage to stand up and say, ‘This is not right, it was not done correctly, and we should not vote on that one.’ ”

Gregory made a motion to approve all projects but the alley. His motion failed for lack of a second. Ultimately, the Council voted 3-1-1 to approve the four projects.

Mayor Rita Lamb and Councilors Mark Carnevale and Nancy Ross voted yes, Gregory voted no, and Gutierrez abstained.

Image Sources

  • Raymond Gregory: Raymond Gregory
  • Alley-Reconstruction in Cathedral City: Cathedral City