Rancho Mirage — The City Council in this community engaged in “backroom dealings” in an attempt to “resurrect” the terminated In-N-Out project during a national pandemic, according to an attorney for Save Rancho Mirage, an association of Rancho Mirage residents.

“Those actions are not only wrongful to the residents of the city but are also actionable,” Bruce T. Bauer wrote to Mayor G. Dana Hobart and members of the City Council.

Bauer accuses the city of misusing the democratic process in its consideration of the In-N-Out project at 42-560 Bob Hope Drive on a vacant lot in the Rancho Las Palmas Shopping Center. He also alleges that the city has “demonstrated bias in proceeding with the project.”

The alleged backroom dealing, under G. Dana Hobart’s mayoral leadership, don’t stop there.

“The city has not only violated the Brown Act, the Public Records Act but also most significantly from a legal position, the provisions of … the Planning and Zoning Law), and its own municipal code.,” Bauer wrote.

You may read the entire letter here.

In-N-Out Burger terminated its development agreement with Rancho Mirage earlier this year after a group of residents, calling themselves Save Rancho Mirage, filed a lawsuit in October 2019 to stop the burger restaurant. Opponents said they had concerns about increased traffic, noise and crime and air quality from cars idling in a drive-thru lane.

The group of residents also questioned a traffic study, which was done during the summer. They also questioned the city’s labeling the development a “business in-fill project,” which negates the need for an environmental impact report.

The first of the alleged “backroom dealings” centers on an April 16, 2020 City Council meeting during the current COVID-19 pandemic. At that meeting, the City Council attempted to surreptitiously “resurrect” the project from the dead, Bauer writes. He alleges there was no mention of the burger project on the agenda for the meeting.

Moreover, no members of Save Rancho Mirage were notified or aware of the meeting,

“The city had purposely obfuscated the agenda for the April 16, 2020 (meeting), so as not to draw attention to this fact,” Bauer claims.

Unfortunately, Bauer claims, the failure to properly notify the public is not an isolated incident.

“There has been a longstanding pattern of obfuscation on the part of the city vis-à-vis the project,” Baur claims. “The city has determined that it wants the project in any form and is determined that the project will proceed no matter what obstacles are (placed) in the path of it.” can

As part of the backroom dealings, Bauer alleges, “It has become all too clear the city is not exercising independent judgment in this matter.”

Bauer also calls out Hobart’s “attacks” on Stephen Jaffe, a member of Save Rancho Mirage and City Council candidate in the April 2020 election.

“While (Hobart) attempted to couch his long-winded diatribe against Mr. Jaffe and Save Rancho Mirage as ‘him speaking personally’ it was clearly emanated from the person who was the Mayor Pro Tem,” Bauer writes.

Hobart recused himself from the original vote on In-N-Out but participated but lobbed verbal grenades at Jaffe from the dais.

The actions the City Council took on April 16 will not withstand judicial scrutiny, according to Bauer.

Image Sources

  • In-n-out Burger: shutterstock