I listened to the Rancho Mirage City Council meeting on Thursday, July 16 and was appalled at the hypocrisy I heard.

The first order of business was a presentation by Katie Stice, executive director of the Rancho Mirage Chamber of Commerce. She said the Chamber of Commerce will be telling the story of how Rancho Mirage is small, quiet, pleasant, clean and quaint — she said this is what people are looking for. How does this fit with a fast-food, high-volume restaurant next to residential homes? The qualities she describes are exactly what brought my wife and me to Rancho Mirage 20 years ago. Zoning prohibited fast-food, drive-through restaurants in the Rancho Las Palmas Shopping Center until the Council decided to change it.  How can anyone say In-N-Out is small, quiet and pleasant for nearby residents? The Council applauded Ms. Stice’s presentation.

Next was the approval of two proposed homes that would have two-story structures. Rancho Mirage has a strict policy against two-story homes. The applicant, Ms. Geri Goodell, submitted plans to the Rancho Mirage Planning Division. A presentation was made by the Department and approval was recommended notwithstanding the 22-foot height of the homes. During public comment, Councilmember (Iris) Smotrich asked to be heard as a “private citizen” and was allowed to speak despite the fact she recused herself because she lives within 500 feet of the proposed homes. Ms. Smotrich was not in favor of either home. She asked the question that when a home or business is built, does it add value to the surrounding homes. Or, does it take away value? The insinuation was that values would go down.

After public comment, four of the Council members discussed the proposed homes. Mayor (Dana) Hobart started the discussion saying that Rancho Mirage is a one-story community. In Mr. Hobart’s words, he “grew up, so to speak, with the understanding that Rancho Mirage was a one-story community….” How does this reconcile with the prohibition of drive-through restaurants until In-N-Out arrived on the scene?  He went on to say that it would be a mistake to change what Rancho Mirage has been and is – and should not have a mixture of multi-story homes. What really stood out was his statement that “if any one of us lived there, we would be furious.” He elaborated that “we would be very unhappy,” that privacy would be compromised and “our lives changed” by allowing the homes to be built. Councilmember Charles Townsend said the “project doesn’t fit in the neighborhood.”

I want to know how this is different from the proposed In-N-Out Burger restaurant on the corner of Highway 111 and Magnesia Falls that would be 150 feet from the nearest home?  The restaurant would impact the privacy, quality of life and property value of the adjacent neighborhood. This is precisely the argument dozens of homeowners made to the Council that fell on deaf ears.

Those of us opposing the In-N-Out location have been called “NIMBY’s” (Not In My Backyard). Yet there are literally hundreds of people that would be impacted by it. The two candidates who recently ran for City Council against Mr. (Ted) Weil and Mr. (Richard) Kite garnered more than 3,800 votes between them. Although there were other issues they ran on, it is safe to say those voters were opposed to the proposed location for an In-N-Out. I can understand the NIMBY label if it was one or two people, maybe even a dozen – but not hundreds. While I dislike the acronym “NIMBY” due to its pejorative use, the opposition by Ms. Smotrich certainly qualifies.

The hypocrisy exhibited by the Council is beyond the pale. I suppose it’s the old saying that it depends on whose ox is being gored — or whose pocket is being picked.  Is the Council really protecting the value of our homes, the quiet, the clean nature of our city? Or are they looking out for a select few?

Following is a link to the July 16 Council meeting: Click here to watch.

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  • hypocrisy: Shutterstock