Pink Phoenix Rising After Public Funds Lost
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – Another long stalled construction project is on a new track to completion. The Village shopping center sat for years blighted and unfinished. It is now complete. Now the old pink Flamingo Hotel is on a similar track for a comeback.
In both instances, private developers purchased the properties and poured private funds into what seems a massive undertaking to take the worst of Desert Hot Springs construction disasters in efforts that will not just finish them but make them look beautiful.
By all accounts The Village shopping center is beautiful now that it is finally complete. If plans for the 33 room Flamingo Hotel come to the same successful conclusion as The Village, Desert Hot Springs will have a second eyesore property turned into a big plus for the city.
“I own it now free and clear,” said Victor Butte, the new owner of the pink Flamingo Hotel. Butte is the owner of Victory Tile and Marble located on Perez Road in Cathedral City. In addition to his retail tile and marble business, Butte also has years of experience in the Coachella Valley purchasing and renovating properties.
Butte admits the Flamingo Hotel, located at 66221 Pierson Boulevard, is a major undertaking. It sits on the hot-water zone, has seven pools and a restaurant, as well as spectacular views. He estimates repair costs of close to a million dollars are necessary to bring the hotel back into working condition. Butte said that is not just as a functioning hotel but one that matches the standards of the city’s other boutique spa hotels and equal to top boutique hotels everywhere.
Desert Hot Springs is unique in that several of its hot water spa properties have top ranking in independent Trip Advisor reviews. The city is known for its hot and odorless mineral water pumped from the ground at temperatures as hot as 160 degrees and used to supply water to spa pools at its hotel and motel properties for therapy and relaxation.
The Flamingo Hotel has one of those wells and when completed will join the ranks of motels that have hot natural mineral water but without need of a traditional mechanical pool heater anywhere on the property.
The unique flow-thru design of these spa pools in the city, where hot water is constantly entering the pool with the overflow sent to percolate back into the earth, means that less chlorine is needed.
The pink Flamingo Hotel is not without a checkered political history in Desert Hot Springs – there are few things it seems in Desert Hot Springs that have not been touched by political controversy of one sort or another.
In 2008, the Flamingo was the subject of an effort by the city to renovate the property through an economic development incentive program. The renovation by Butte is the second attempt at a make-over.
In 2008, the city manager provided $250,000 to renovate the Flamingo as an economic development project. The city’s effort at economic development, however, led to near fatal disaster for the Flamingo.
The contractor and beneficiary of the economic development funds, Brian Bescoby, proved to have no experience in motel renovation. His efforts left the pink Flamingo Hotel a mess. Bescoby’s utter lack of construction experience lead to his hiring unlicensed contractors in spite of the city contract prohibiting that. A small fire resulting from an unlicensed welder led the city to red-tag the project for doing construction without building permits. A second red tag brought the project to a dead halt.
Bescoby then skipped town with the $250,000 the city had provided as economic development funding.
The problems for the city on the project did not only involve the $250,000 the city lost on the project. When Bescoby bailed out, he left behind an unfinished construction mess. With the motel sitting abandoned, the construction holes became a way for vagrants to check in.
For the last four years the pink Flamingo Hotel has been the subject of constant city attention.
In addition to vagrants, the abandoned property fell victim to copper thieves who stripped the building of its copper plumbing, wiring and anything else that contained copper. And then on June 22, 2012 the property was set on fire by the vagrants who had been living there. The fire engulfed half of one wing of the property. It took only an hour to bring the blaze under control. What was left behind, however, seemed to be the final death blow to the Flamingo.
The city was forced to take more forceful action to secure the abandoned hotel.
“People were using it, vagrants, transients, kids having parties, and it became a danger for children in the neighborhood,” Daniels said. “We beefed-up code enforcements and cracked down on LWL with citations, fines and investigations of the property. Whang responded by putting a fence around it.”
Those economic development funds are not likely to be recovered, even though as recently as February of 2013 city manager Rick Daniels said at a public Finance Committee meeting that the $250,000 in public funds he gave Bescoby would get returned to the city. Daniels had been selling that same story to the city for several years.
“The city financial tie to the property lies in a claim against the property,” Daniels said in a report by Jackie Devereaux published in a June 22, 2012 in the Desert Star Weekly. “The $250,000 the city gave Bescoby back in 2008 is expected to be recouped.”
For that to have happened, the city would have had to secure its position on the title at the time the city handed over the $250,000. A city lien was never recorded by the city as multiple title reports obtained by this writer over a two-year period show.
It was only a year ago that they city filed a lien against the property but that was a lien that had no standing in a foreclosure proceeding and was dismissed. Through a receivership action, the property was purchased by Stephen Whang, president of LWL Investment Group of Los Angeles. At that point the $250,000 city lien was lost. Although all this was public record it was never reported. To the public Daniels kept the story spinning that the public funds would be returned to the city.
Eventually the City entered into negotiations with Whang who submitted ideas, concepts and plans to finish the renovations but nothing came of that.
Finally, Butte took an interest in the property and purchased the Pink Flamingo.
Butte estimates construction will take a year and he is working closely with the city to bring the Flamingo Hotel back to life. No ribbon cutting is yet planned but at the moment that ribbon is cut city officials will surely breath a sigh of relief as a five year long ordeal comes to a close and the doors open once again at the Flamingo Hotel.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader.
In 2014 he was appointed Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs, California.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Desert Hot Springs, California.