Plans for Luxury Surf Resort in Impoverished Coachella Valley Desert Community Spark Inequity Battle

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A luxury surf resort is proposed for a site in Thermal, Calif., where many farmworkers live in aging mobile homes and endure prolonged power outages, bad roads and undrinkable water. (Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

A luxury surf resort is proposed for a site in Thermal, Calif., where many farmworkers live in aging mobile homes and endure prolonged power outages, bad roads and undrinkable water.
(Credit: Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

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In the driest reaches of the California desert, a fight is brewing over a proposed luxury surf resort that would rise in a deeply impoverished part of the eastern Coachella Valley.

The proposed Thermal Beach Club is being billed as a first-of-its-kind destination, where a 22-acre surf lagoon with ocean-simulating waves would anchor a development with hundreds of high-end private residences and fancy clubhouse amenities. It would be the kind of place where, according to environmental planning documents, residents would be picked up by staff-driven golf carts and dropped off at the amenity of their choosing.

The development would take shape on what is now vacant land in Thermal, an unincorporated community in Riverside County about a dozen miles from the edge of the Salton Sea.

But to call the proposed Thermal oasis incongruous with the existing surroundings would be an understatement of comic proportions, and the plans have drawn fierce opposition from local community activists.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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