DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – It usually begins with over-inflated hype. A little truth stretches a long way to hide the bamboozle. Past city leaders have a history of falling for and suffering embarrassing deceits, unfortunately defining the city as the chump that keeps on asking for more.
A few names remain etched in our city’s development history not for fame but for notoriety; Brian Bescoby, Michael Krzyzaniak and Roger Schnellenberger are a few.
Some drove fancy cars and talked a good game promoting themselves with slick websites and prospectus while working the back room of council meetings on the lookout for vulnerabilities to exploit.
Prior to their projects appearing on the agenda these developers were not shy about scheduling private meetings to charm council members by floating hopeful dreams of castles in the air …or on hillsides.
A well-known developer now returns to take another bite out of the apple, promoting his plan to carve up the foothills with a project brazenly named The Foothills.
Doing so will cost the city precious time and money, especially since this is BLM land not located in the city but in the county. There is considerable public expense to incorporate and provide public works such as sewer and water for certain developments.
One problem plaguing the city has been the lack of oversight examining the track record of developers accompanied by an inability to hold developers accountable to get ambitious projects finished.
So, let’s use our wayback machine to pierce the veil of a recent past and pull the wool away from covering our eyes.
The same Walter Luce is a writer of fiction (http://www.walterluce.com/
Today another hillside in Desert Hot Springs – and favored by hikers and dog walkers – is in the sights of Walter Luce who was the CEO of the former Mayer Luce development company. This time it’s a 161 acre project named The Foothills. By all appearances it is non-fiction.
Behind the eye-candy of a flashy website are compelling details luring investors and financiers to buy into believing. This is called forward thinking.
“Our Senior community encompasses over 1500 units and will be placed on forty acres in the middle of a secure and scenic valley surrounded by 120 acres of untouched desertscape,”
The sole purpose of the website is the promotion of The Foothills. The name of the company associated with the project is Rising India Inc. (http://www.risingindiainc.com/
By the way, none of this has gone before any city or county planning commissions.
The questions are will The Foothills happen? And should it?
Willow Crest and The Vineyards Left Unfinished
Tuscan Hills is not the only unfinished project left behind by Walter Luce in late 2006. Also unfinished and abandoned were Willow Crest Condos, located on Pierson Boulevard in Desert Hot Springs and The Vineyards in Indio.
Inexplicably the Rising India website lists all three projects - Tuscan Hills, Willow Crest and TheVineyards - as "Management's past personally complete projects."
Willow Crest and The Vineyards were eventually completed, but not by Walter Luce or his former Mayer Luce development company.
After sitting idle for two years, Willow Crest was purchased by a private developer and completed. Scripps took possession of the partially constructed Vineyards project. Lubin said his company decided to go ahead and finish the development without Meyer Luce.
Tuscan Hills was only a graded hillside with construction not far enough along for Scripps to finish. In the process to take possession, Scripps was the highest bidder, taking control of the property with a bid amount of $38,448,256.59, the amount of the unpaid debt Meyer Luce owed Scripps on the project.
Tuscan Hills, however, eventual sold again in foreclosure with Scripps and its investors taking a multi-million loss on the project that was once planned to be a 505-acre gated county club featuring 2,000 single family homes and condominiums surrounding an 18-hole golf course that was said to be designed by professional golfer Johnny Miller. Once more big names on big plans but ending with nothing.
Unfinished Developments Plague City
Projects like rehabilitating the Pink Flamingo Hotel and developing Palmwood are joined by Tuscan HIlls, The Terraces and Hacienda Heights as grand ideas left unfinished and costing public funds.
Brian Bescoby, having no experience as a builder or contractor, was given one of those $250,000 checks signed by former mayor Yvonne Parks. Instead of rehabilitating the Pink Flamingo Hotel Bescoby left it in ruins and skipped town.
Only recently the property was finally purchased and is now undergoing a complete renovation by an experienced builder at no expense to the city. Still, the city’s quarter million dollars is gone, leaving another smelly financial mess.
Michael Crosby promoted the impressive Palmwood Development at the edge of the city promising two 18 hole golf courses, hotels, condos and homes with an outlet mall located on public land north of North Indian Canyon Road between Mission Lakes Boulevard and Highway 62.
That stink ended up costing the public over a million dollars after Crosby was exposed as Michael Krzyzaniak, a convicted felon and his project just another pipe dream. Today Krzyzaniak remains behind bars in a federal penitentiary after another fraud conviction.
Walter Luce was once the most prominent developer in Desert Hot Springs, with his first project in the city the completed Hacienda Heights residential development on east Hacienda Drive.
It is impossible to say this project is finished as it leaves the city of Desert Hot Springs on the hook for maintenance costs due to an improperly constructed flood control channel running through the development.
Also in the Walter Luce’s Desert Hot Springs portfolio was The Terraces located on Hacienda Drive. This was also left incomplete but was later purchased by Hitzke Development who finished the project by converted to low income housing. For an unknown reason that Meyer Luce project is not listed anywhere on their portfolio or website.
To read more see... http://www.desertvortex.com/