This will be the single most important Community Update and call to action the Economic Development Department has written this year. College of the Desert previously promised Cathedral City that it would build the $28.5 million Roadrunner Motors at the Cathedral City Auto Center “to maximize student participation and to create a pipeline for jobs in the region. The location is within the largest concentration of automobile dealerships, repair shops, parts stores, body shops, and car rental agencies in the Coachella Valley. COD will help provide the training and skills needed for community members to access well-paying local jobs.” This location was ideal as it is located along Highway 111 providing easy access to public transportation for COD students to get to and from classes for free.
That was then. With a new College president/superintendent (Dr. Martha Garcia) and a split Board of Trustees, the college recently announced that it was abandoning the Cathedral City location after purchasing the land and spending taxpayer money on architectural plans. Construction was to begin this summer. Instead, the college decided to pivot on their promise to Cathedral City and look at a location for Roadrunner Motors in Indio depriving our students of auto technician internships and jobs while going to college, and access to public transportation options to get to and from class.
Cathedral City taxpayers voted overwhelmingly to support two COD bond measures worth almost $1 billion to build not only Roadrunner Motors in Cathedral City, but also a West Valley Campus in Palm Springs for our students to have greater access to a higher education. The new West Valley Campus would serve not only Cathedral City (2nd largest city in the Coachella Valley) but also Palm Springs and Desert Hot Springs (the fastest growing city in the Coachella Valley).
Additionally, the college has collaborated with Cal Poly Pomona to offer a Bachelor’s degree in Architecture by allowing students to get their first two years of college at the West Valley Campus and automatically transfer into Cal Poly Pomona for the next two years, and then intern their fifth and final year back in Palm Springs to learn modernism architecture. The new president/superintendent and a split Board of Trustees have pivoted on this collaboration too.
The Pause and Pivot by the new president/superintendent along with a split Board of Trustees is not happening for projects in the East Valley. In fact, it is quite the opposite. The doubling of the Indio Campus is still on track along with a new child development center there. Plus, the college has recently expanded classes in Coachella and purchased new land there. They have even spoken about building a new campus in Coachella where it is only a five-minute drive to the expanded East Valley Campus in Indio.
The new college president/superintendent along with a split Board of Trustees has given so many failed excuses for abandoning Roadrunner Motors in Cathedral City and pausing the West Valley Campus in Palm Springs. First, the new president stated that a feasibility study had not been done prior to moving forward on these projects. She later recanted that argument as the feasibility study was located by the media on the college’s website and had been done in 2016. Second, the cost for Roadrunner Motors had increased by 70% since its initial estimate of $20 million and that was the cause to abandon the project. The costs have increased as the college expanded the size of the building and construction prices have risen over time since the initial estimate was done. However, the need for the program still exists as more and more people are keeping their automobiles longer. Whether it is $28.5 million or $30 million or $35 million to build, the college has nearly a $1 billion in funds. Their argument that a new Roadrunner Motors is “too expensive” in Cathedral City, but not in Indio seems implausible. Additionally, the expansion costs of the Indio Campus has increased over 100% since its initial estimate ($30 million to $67 million) and there has been absolutely nothing said by the college about its cost overruns nor has the project been put on “pause.” Most recently, the new college president/superintendent has stated that COVID-19 has caused enrollments to drop significantly and that the new programs may not be needed now.
So, how can you help? On February 17th, the COD Board of Trustees, during its regular monthly meeting, will deliberate on moving the Cathedral City Roadrunner Motors to another location in the East Valley. Please attend via Zoom or email Dr. Martha Garcia and let her know that the West Valley deserves what was promised to us, what we have been paying our taxes for, and what we frankly deserve.
Although COVID-19 has affected every industry at some point or another, the leading West Valley industries still remain as they were before COVID-19: Tourism (Culinary, Hospitality), Automotive, Health Care, Modern Architecture, and Digital Art and Film. These industries will continue to dominate our economy today and well into the future as far as the eye can see. My argument is, if you don’t build the educational facilities, our students (young and old) cannot come to learn the skills to support these industries.
COD Board of Trustees emails and phone numbers: https://www.collegeofthedesert.edu/community/board-of-trustees/default.php
Board Agendas and Meetings: https://go.boarddocs.com/ca/cod/Board.nsf/vpublic?open
Dr. Martha Garcia: firstname.lastname@example.org