The potential location of the Navigation Center specifically could pose a conflict of interest for Mayor Holstege

Navigation Center Creates Conflict for Mayor

Mayor Christy Holstege

PALM SPRINGS —  Homeless residents and issues associated with homelessness have been planks of Christy Holstege’s political platform since she burst onto the local political scene as a political novice in 2017 at age 31. Now, she is recusing herself from discussions on a location for a new Navigation Center that would provide services to homeless residents.

Holstege likely will be left out of one of the biggest decisions impacting the homeless in recent memory due to a potential conflict of economic interest. “The Mayor last week proactively identified the potential conflict involved with one of the properties under consideration, and quite appropriately, recused herself,” City Attorney Jeff Ballinger told Uken Report.

In the absence of Holstege, the City Council narrowed the possible locations to 3589 McCarthy Road in Desert Highland Gateway Estates and 4775 E. Ramon Road. The Firm Commercial is the broker for the 2.03-acre Ramon property. Adam Gilbert, the mayor’s husband, is president of The Firm Commercial.

Both the Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce and the Palm Springs Hotel Association support locating the Navigation Center on McCarthy Road, according to city officials.

The City Council is scheduled to meet in closed session on Nov. 4 to discuss and negotiate the property at 3589 McCarthy Road, according to the City Council agenda.

“I will advise the Mayor to not participate in any discussion that involves or could affect the Ramon property as a candidate for sale to the City as long as Mr. Gilbert is a broker for the property such that he could receive a commission on its sale,” Ballinger told Uken Report.

Some critics are concerned that even if Holstege is not physically or remotely present for the discussion that she could wield what they call “undue influence” because of her position and because she has colleagues’ respect. The entire City Council has endorsed Holstege in her bid for state Assembly.

“I do not believe that the endorsements by her colleagues creates a conflict, or even the appearance of a conflict,” Ballinger said. “Endorsements are regularly given by fellow political leaders at every level of our government (state, local and federal).   Endorsements indicate general support for a candidate; usually not on a particular issue and certainly not regarding a single piece of property.  Were such endorsements enough to create a conflict, little would get done in government.”

In a staff report, City Manager Justin Clifton said that a navigation center would provide a resource that is sorely lacking when it comes to addressing homelessness in the city: a comprehensive facility where shelter, food, and the full suite of support services can be co-located. The latest buzz term is “wrap=around services.”

Clifton said a navigation center would provide housing that is more permanent than what is offered at homeless shelters and provides an opportunity for those experiencing homeless to stay there while seeking other services intended to allow them to eventually transition to long-term housing.

Clifton and city staff recommended that the city choose the 3.64-acre site with three existing buildings at 3589 McCarthy Road in Desert Highland Gateway Estates for the navigation center. The property is currently under contract to Wintec Energy President and CEO Fred Noble $5.9 million. Noble is offering it to the city for the same price.

Residents and activists of Desert Highlands Gateway Estates oppose it saying that locating the Navigation Center in the area would compound existing problems with poverty and crime.

Time is of the essence to make a decision on the McCarthy property because that property won’t be on the table forever.

“We’re really dealing with a clock issue,” he said. “We risk losing that opportunity which isn’t the end of the world if Council’s not confident in moving forward with that, but I just want to be honest about that.”







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