Plans for Disney’s Cotino development in Rancho Mirage move forward at city hall

Plans for Cotino, Disney’s mixed-use development in Rancho Mirage that officials have called one of the most important in the city’s history, continue to inch forward at city hall, as the council adopted a finalized tract map for about 10% of the community’s planned housing Thursday.The city council unanimously approved a roughly 70-acre subdivision of the project that includes lots for 187 single-family homes, running from the center to the northeast end of the property, during its meeting Thursday.The Cotino project, also known as the Section 31 development, is slated to include a 24-acre “grand oasis” lagoon, a resort hotel and around 1,700 homes on land located off Bob Hope Drive, between Frank Sinatra and Gerald Ford drives, and across from the entrance to Sunnylands Center and Gardens.The 618-acre development has been led by Arizona-based builder DMB Development LLC, and Disney joined as a partner in the project early last year, announcing Cotino as its first Storyliving by Disney community. (In March, Disney officials said they’re still exploring other U.S. locations for future developments.)The council’s unanimous vote Thursday came just a week after the city’s planning commission endorsed a set of design guidelines for Cotino’s single-family homes. Those rules will be considered by the council next month.No residents commented directly on the tract map during Thursday’s meeting, though one resident, Scott Talan, briefly spoke in favor of the project earlier in the meeting, saying he liked that members of the public will be able to access some of Cotino’s facilities, such as the lagoon, through purchase of a day pass.The council approved the item as part of its consent calendar without any further comments, though city officials have largely praised the project in past discussions. At last week’s planning commission meeting, a member hailed Cotino as “the most significant development in the entire Coachella Valley since the mid-1980s.”How we got hereCotino will offer a mix of homes, including estates, single-family homes and condominiums, as well as a 55-plus community, along with a town center with shops and restaurants. The overall plans already approved at city hall allow for up to 1,932 homes and up to 400 hotel keys in the community.Well before Disney entered the picture last year, the land’s potential was on the radar of developers and city officials. The roughly square mile of vacant land, which was long owned by the Annenberg Estate, was sold to investors in 1977, and the city later approved plans for a golfing and residential development known as The Eagle.But that project fell through due to its investors’ financial struggles, and the land was bought for $75 million in 2018 by EC Rancho Mirage Holdings, a group of investors led by a Canadian private equity firm who then brought in DMB Development to manage and develop the site.In late 2019, the specific plan and environmental impact report for the site, including the swimmable lagoon, gained approval from the city council. Since then, some residents have raised concerns about the lagoon’s water usage amid statewide drought and climate change, but those issues were not brought up during Thursday’s meeting.What’s next?While the tract maps for more than 500 homes within Cotino have now gained approval — the council OK’d the first subdivision in November 2021 — project officials still must clear several hurdles before the development takes its final shape.Although the specific plan outlining what’s allowed in the development was approved a few years ago, Cotino officials must still go through an application process for the project’s various components. The developer, for example, still had many building permits to submit as of earlier this month.“As of the date of this report, the only building permits issued for the Section 31 Specific Plan area are for the perimeter walls along portions of Bob Hope Drive and Gerald Ford Drive,” Joy Tsai, the city’s senior planner, said in a June 8 report to the planning commission.Home sales are expected to begin sometime this year, and Disney officials have previously stated the community’s first homes are expected to be finished in early 2024. It’s unclear whether they’re sticking with that timeline: Officials from Disney and DMB Development did not return requests for comment Thursday.Meanwhile, several city permits have been issued to allow for grading and street improvements as part of the project, allowing construction work to continue on the landscape and pathways through the soon-to-be community.The project will soon return to the council, after the planning commission advanced Cotino’s home design parameters last week. Those guidelines, which would allow builders to avoid lengthy permitting for individual homes that fit the approved standards, will be considered by the council at its July 6 meeting, according to city spokesperson Gabe Codding.Tom Coulter covers the cities of Palm Desert, La Quinta, Rancho Mirage and Indian Wells. Reach him at

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