Sound Off: Pro and Con for the Coral Mountain project
Before people took to making inflammatory statements in ALL CAPS on Twitter, there was the tradition of the letters to the editor where subscribers could submit their thoughts on any given subject. While 10% of the letters often came from Flat Earth enthusiasts and alien abductees, the other 90% were most often concerns about community projects (put a stop sign at 3rd and Maple!) Development pros and cons were also a staple. However, due to the nature of print, you had to wait a week to hear a rebuttal.
This month we received two letters to the editor concerning the Coral Mountain project in La Quinta. We are publishing both right here. Right now (no waiting for print!) The anti-Coral Mountain letter came from Derek Wong of La Quinta and the rebuttal to their points from John Gamlin. Everything is published exactly as WavePoolMag received it. WavePoolMag also covered the story in this article here.
Against Coral Mountain
I have read several articles from multiple surf magazines and editorials that question the sustainability of Wave Pools throughout the world. Many have published deep-dives into the full environmental spectrum of greenhouse gasses, pollution, soil subsistence, hydrology/drought, displacement of indigenous plants & animals, contamination and so on. And while I know that many conscientious developers, architects and engineers plan builds to minimize disruption to existing communities by choosing properly zoned sites, I question those that do not abide by this standard.
Case in point: The Coral Mountain Wave Pool in La Quinta, CA. I mention this development because I live here: ~2000’ feet away at the nearest points. Now, I do not claim to have studied the environmental reports for every Wave Pool built or planned in the world or even the United States but I did do a cursory review on Google Earth of US Wave Pools and the majority, if not all are planned so as not to be inserted into the midst of thousands of residential homes.
This southern portion of La Quinta, CA (Coachella Valley) is home to numerous retirees and snowbirds and while the median income here is admittedly high, the residents purposely chose the peace and quiet of this semi-isolated area to live. We take offense in being called NIMBY’s as the rationality to change existing residential zoning to accommodate an 18M gallon Wave Pool with a 150 key Hotel, 100+ casitas, and hundreds of private residences…all eligible for 1 day minimum vacation stays is insane. Add to this, parking lots — lit all night, 17 (80’) light towers illuminating and surrounding the pool and reflecting off the mountain, a speaker system that announces the next upcoming wave (every 3-5 minutes), constant verbal commentaries, a multi-story viewing tower, large projection screen(s) because who can see barreling surfers a half-mile distant, 4+ special events per year at minimum (READ: concerts), no infrastructure increases to support the Park’s workers, READ: bus service, fire & EMT, law enforcement, two lane roads that merge into one, no substantive plan to manage after-hour noise, hours of 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM…everyday single day of every year, nonstop. Every issue raised was answered unsatisfactorily by stating that everything has been researched and all issues fall within given parameters: all Marketing speak.
Who would want this in the middle of their neighborhoods? Know this too, this Wave Pool will be the 4th one in the Valley, two are for public usage, while an even larger Wave Pool in Thermal has been approved…less than 6 miles away from Coral Mountain and both are absolutely PRIVATE. The existing Lemoore, CA pool (same KS namesake) can cost $10,000.00 per day to book so I assume the same will apply here. In addition to these four Wave Pools, one huge lagoon is also planned and all these water parks will draw fresh, potable water from underground aquifers. No one knows exactly how much water is contained within these aquifers but California and the West is and has been in an unprecedented drought. We don’t know the climate future but the precipice is in sight, so to green light all five of these water-intensive projects is asinine. By the way, as California residents, we are required to cut home water usage by 15%…so, we cut consumption, yet these Pools & Lagoons are exempt?
A couple of weeks ago, an earthquake reminded us that the San Andreas Fault line courses under us and one speculates this question: at what magnitude will this half-mile pool of water, equipment and concrete begin to deteriorate and rupture? Where does the water go when this occurs, by the path of least resistance…downhill?
City Councils want revenue, developers want to develop, economies need to grow…I get this, but things are evolving, change is required to preserve resources and to do better in all societal endeavors. Everyone wants to jump on this Wave Pool business train but I can already sense the over-saturation and the eventual closings coming…from Google Earth, they’ll look like giant scars on the planet. Future archeologists may scratch their heads as we currently question the purpose of the Nazca lines.
La Quinta, CA resident
Rebuttal to Derek’s letter
I’m writing in response to the comments submitted by a homeowner in one of the private gated golf course country club communities neighboring the proposed Coral Mountain residential and wave basin project in La Quinta, CA. I am the President of Coral Mountain Wave Development, LLC, the developer. My comments reflect both the developer’s perspective and my personal viewpoints as a long-time resident of La Quinta.
The Coral Mountain team has been unconditionally supportive of the city’s environmental process. We believe the process will result in a better project. No stone has been left unturned and the process has yielded a thorough vetting of all environmental impacts.
The submittal to your publication was a disjointed assemblage of unsubstantiated statements and opinions, not facts. They are reminiscent of similar comments made during the public comment period of the Draft Environmental Impact Report this past Spring. Without exception, all are addressed in the Final Environmental Impact Report (FEIR), which the city will publish later this month. Therefore, I will refer interested readers to the city’s website, where the FEIR will be linked. We are confident in the FEIR’s conclusions regarding environmental impacts associated with the development of Coral Mountain being mitigated below thresholds of significance.
I’ve segregated the writer’s comments into the following categories and can offer brief, cogent responses:
• – Environmental Impacts
• – Sustainability
• – Project impacts and Public Service Costs
• – Zoning and Land Use
The elegance of an EIR is that impact assessments are largely quantifiable. Data is collected, analyzed, and modeled. It is black and white. Noise measurements, traffic studies, modeling of light and glare—all performed according to accepted standards and practices. In summation, unless contrarian studies prepared by qualified parties ultimately contradict the technical studies prepared for the EIR, then the EIR’s conclusions are found to be defensible.
We understand the sensitivity to topics like water use, and there is a deep discussion of this within the pending Final EIR. Suffice it to say, long-term planning for the groundwater basin by the local municipal water provider—which includes the demands of our project—and approved by the State of California, finds the groundwater basin to be sustainable.
It seems somewhat ironic to see criticisms about water use coming from parties residing in golf course communities that exhibit water consumption characteristics that are tenfold of what our Wave Basin will use. The neighboring golf country clubs, including the community the author lives in, are said to have pumped an estimated 800 million gallons of groundwater from the aquifer last year. The use of the same water sources used by the neighbors, which are not suitable for drinking without treatment, and as such meet the definition of non-potable. To my knowledge, this is the case with all the other proposed surf projects in the Coachella Valley.
An aspect of Coral Mountain that we have not yet brought into the public realm is its significant commitment to reducing carbon footprint. A sustainability consultant, Mazzetti, was hired as an integral part of the project design team.
We will be presenting information at the upcoming public hearings that evidence meaningful progress through a combination of architectural design features and deployment of advanced technologies in micro-grids, renewables, and battery storage. To my knowledge, this is a first in the Coachella Valley.
Project impacts and Public Service Costs
Contrary to what has been stated, the project pays its own way for the improvements and the cost of ongoing governmental services. All infrastructure required to serve Coral Mountain will be paid for by Coral Mountain. We either build these improvements ourselves as a condition of development or pay impact fees to governmental agencies, which will be in the millions of dollars. None of this responsibility is borne by other residents or taxpayers in the city, and it is a bold misstatement of fact to say so.
Regarding the ongoing cost of governmental services like police, EMT, fire and general services, the writer inferred that Coral Mountain will create the need for additional city services for which it will not pay. Coral Mountain has been studied by the city in a Fiscal Impact Analysis and is “revenue positive” to the city in all phases of development. So, this is an unequivocally false statement and another point of irony.
Our Coral Mountain neighbors do not currently pay for any city services, as the County of Riverside keeps the property tax revenue from those communities. Thus, their service costs are red ink every year on the city’s budget. In an ideal world, where everyone is expected to pay their fair share, there would probably be a supplemental property tax assessment levied by the city to cover these service costs. Fortunately, Coral Mountain will generate surplus tax revenue to fund not only its own city service costs but will help offset city budget deficits attributable to providing these services to our neighbors.
Zoning and Land Use
Finally, there is the topic regarding whether the surf project is appropriate within the context of existing development patterns. The primary difference between our project and the neighbors is the shift to a different core amenity than the “traditional” thinking of the past. Coral Mountain merely displaces the golf course mantra with a recreation amenity that is much more water efficient/responsible and has a smaller land footprint in contrast to the positive economic activity it creates.
Scrutiny of Google Earth quickly reveals that destination resort area land use patterns in the Coachella Valley are a patchwork of hotels, country clubs, second home communities, and residential neighborhoods. These zoning classifications are compatible with one another, and there are numerous examples where they co-exist nicely by design, including within the City of La Quinta. Thus, it has been for a hundred years.
In summary, Coral Mountain has attracted a lot of unwarranted attention and misperceptions due to the uniqueness of the Kelly Slater Wave Systems technology as the primary community amenity. Our community is broad in its amenity focus and will include a host of additional amenities focused on socializing, wellbeing, and adventure sports. While highly differentiated in our approach, we are confident future residents of Coral Mountain will contribute greatly to the quality of life in the City of La Quinta, be good neighbors, and a credit the Coachella Valley-at-large as a lifestyle choice and destination.
Our steadfast approach to the environmental process is proof of our commitment to delivering a sustainable community.
John Gamlin, PresidentCoral Mountain Wave Development, LLC