Save Oswit Canyon - Desert Sun Op-Ed

Oswit Canyon, photography by Markku Lahdesmaki

Oswit Canyon, photography by Markku Lahdesmaki

A great op-ed piece written by Lani Miller in support of the Save Oswit Canyon initiative has been published in the Desert Sun newspaper; see below for Lani's piece, and the original Desert Sun link is available here.

Coalition presses PS council to limit Oswit Canyon work

by Lani Miller

The Save Oswit Canyon Coalition is a group of about 2,000 Palm Springs residents and others who are backing a citizen’s initiative to protect Oswit Canyon.

An ancient alluvial plane of quiet beauty and ecological diversity, the Oswit Cone is located within minutes from any Palm Springs neighborhood, on South Palm Canyon Drive just west of Bogart Trail Road. Oswit, meaning eagle mountain, is home to a host of ecologically endangered and threatened species, including Peninsular bighorn sheep which have migrated northward from the Santa Rosa mountains due to the increasingly dry conditions in that range. This area, rich in native American history including petroglyphs, attracts hikers, photographers, and nature lovers from around the world. It is well known that ecotourism increasingly energizes the city of Palm Springs and environs and this location is prime.

Oswit Canyon already carries the designation of “Biological Sensitivity and Conservation Area” in the Palm Springs general plan, which sadly, still allows for the building of up to 350 homes in this 256-acre parcel of land. Such development would require the installation of massive levees, the length of the Empire State building, to alter the flow of water in this alluvial plane which has taken tens of thousands of years to create.

A developer from the Los Angeles area wishes to build as described above. He acquired the land in 2008 for a fraction of the previous owner’s purchase price prior to the recession. Recently, when offered full appraisal price for the land by the Coachella Valley Mountains Conservancy, he declined. The offer will stand for a year from the time of initial offer.

The Citizen’s Initiative calls on the Palm Springs City Council to change the current zoning on Oswit Canyon’s environmentally and historically significant land. If enacted, it will amend the municipal code so that the zoning will be an “Environmentally Sensitive Area” (ESA), which allows for only six homes. The Palm Springs City Council can choose to either change the ordinance to rezone Oswit Canyon ESA, as it did a few years ago at the Chino Cone in north Palm Springs off the tramway road. The Chino Cone at the entrance to Palm Springs had a similarly dense development in the planning. Or, the Council can call for a single issue, special vote within a specified period. Our hope is that with 5,000 signatures, (20 percent of the Palm Springs registered voters), the City Council will immediately update the zoning without the costly special vote. But, we need your help to reach those numbers.

You will see petitioners asking you to include your voice to help protect Oswit Canyon by adding your signature to the petition. These signatures, by law, have to be gathered in person. You can also go to SaveOswitCanyon.com for more information and other ideas on how you can help this very important community effort.

Please note, we are not anti-development, but are for responsible development which preserves our last remaining unique local habitats for all our enjoyment, now and into the future.

Help save Oswit Canyon.

Email Lani Miller, environmental activist, member of Save Oswit Canyon Coalition, retired physician at Lmillermd1@gmail.com.