JOSHUA TREE — Residents and business owners came down on both sides of the question of a 55-unit Airstream hotel proposed for downtown Joshua Tree.
Residents both in support and opposed went to the Bob Burke Government Center to take part in a county planning commission hearing on the project Thursday. After hearing public comments, the five commissioners all voted to approve the project.
The project will be located on 26.15 acres north of Twentynine Palms Highway, south of Verbena Road and east of Sunburst Avenue, close to an apartment complex and the Morongo Basin Transit Authority bus terminal.
It will include a clubhouse and meeting area made from Quonset huts, according to plans.
Autocamp, the developer behind the proposal, operates in three locations in California: Santa Barbara, the Russian River and the Yosemite Valley.
Project manager Sam White called the camp an alternative type of hotel. He said the company partners with local vendors to help its guests explore the surrounding communities.
“We think of Autocamp as a base camp to explore the community,” he said.
“I am in favor of it,” local business owner Darren McGarvey said. “I think it is an amazing project. I think it is a benefit to the community.”
Resident Susan Hogervorst expressed concern about the fire pits to be placed with each of the Airstream trailers. She worried about smoke and particulate matter from all those open fires.
Resident Jet Tucker, who lives a few blocks up the hill from the development site, said she was in favor of the development but thought 55 units might be a bit too many. She worried about noise, particularly construction noise.
“It all filters uphill,” she said.
“There are a number of people who are concerned about this,” resident Jane Jarlsberg said. “Hopefully the water use of this project will be kept to a minimum.
“I am not convinced you are not going to have an impact on the traffic,” she added.
“There is a real need for development,” architect Steve Bardwell said. He suggested developers use solar power and improve water efficiency by doing laundry on-site and using the gray water for landscape irrigation.
Stephanie Smith said she would rather see 55 legal Airbnbs located in one spot than 55 illegal trailers spread out across the community.
“I like the design,” she said. “It’s not like a big-box Motel 6. It’s designed for creative folks.
“It will draw much-needed development to downtown Joshua Tree,” she added.
“I am pro smart development,” Miriam Seger said.
She expressed concerns about several aspects of the proposal, from the use of sail cloth on outdoor structures to the possible disturbance of native vegetation.
“It’s going to increase traffic 24/7, I object to that,” Pamela Goodchild said. “Headlights will hit all the homes in the area.”