Construction draws mixed reaction from locals

Bruno Lopez-Vega, Staff Reporter

The San Pablo Avenue remodeling project has been underway for almost half a year, complicating traffic flow in the area and bringing new activity to an otherwise languid part of the city. Though the change in aesthetics is projected to inject new life into the area, opinions about the construction have been mixed among the denizens of Palm Desert.

Despite being a central road in city that links so many resources together, San Pablo was a very drab and uninteresting street with dinghy storefronts, empty lots and occasional vagrants.

But important changes are outlined on the project’s website, including remodeled concrete, shade trees, outdoor furniture, lighting, pedestrian crosswalks, enhanced parking and updated storefronts. In an interview with the Desert Sun, City Manager Lauri Aylaian referred to this vision of San Pablo as the “heart of Palm Desert.”

The project also reduces the number of lanes on the avenue, in favor of pedestrian and bike transit. It also includes three roundabouts to be built in the intersections of San Gorgonio Way, Magnesia Falls Drive, and the San Pablo College of the Desert entrance.

Speaking to the locals,  it became obvious that there was disagreement over the value of the project. While some residents saw it as a hindrance, local businesses were enthusiastic about the opportunities that could be brought by the new street.

Chicks Halay-ay, owner of Comic Asylum on San Pablo, said she liked the area and supports the plan to renovate, “Honestly, we love this neighborhood. It’s not corporate, it’s mom and pop small businesses. Families own it.”

Halay-ay, like the other store owners, expressed some dismay over the way construction affected her sales after access to her store was reduced, but overall they were understanding and tolerant of the construction that will hopefully help them in the end.

“It’s gonna benefit all our businesses here, especially with exposure. It’s going to be catered for pedestrians and in our season this year I think we’ll get more business,” said Halay-ay.

Ryan Segura, an employee at The Real Italian Deli, was enthusiastic about the many changes made to the area, especially the roundabout. “I love roundabouts,” Segura said, “I love roundabouts, I hate stop signs. A lot of our customers though, since they’re older, have said they don’t like it because they feel it’s unsafe. But once people get used to it I feel like it’ll be fine.”

Also important to Segura is the extra parking, previously quite the hassle. “Just the parking out in the street alone will be way more beneficial than just having this one lot. It’ll really decrease crowding by a bit.”

Owners of El Rodeo Cafe and the Circle K all share similar thoughts that the construction and fewer customers are an acceptable sacrifice that will bring prosperity to the new heart of the city. But in speaking with COD students that regularly use or live around San Pablo, it was found that many were more concerned with the way construction has and will affect traffic flow.

Many were very uncertain about the number of roundabouts, citing general ignorance about how to properly use them.

Student Alexis Carranza deals with such drivers regularly at a roundabout in La Quinta. “People just don’t know what they’re doing. I’ve seen cars yield to let other cars enter,” said Carranza.

Brothers Christian and Yonic Vazquez thought the construction was unnecessary and needlessly throttled traffic flow. “I thought San Pablo didn’t really need changes of this sort. Something small but not like this,” said Yonic Vazquez.

With the reductions to one lane, there has been an increased  on traffic, cut off entrances, and the ever-changing temporary lanes has seen cars frequently enter the wrong lane.

Roberto Davalos, who frequently walks down San Pablo, also cited how unsafe it was for pedestrians while the sidewalks were under construction, “I had to walk very close to incoming traffic and it felt very unsafe, I’m just glad it’s almost finished.” Despite this, Davalos still feels that the changes are for the better. “San Pablo has felt pretty dated for a while now, especially compared to the quality of the roads adjacent to it. It would be a weird change to adjust to, but I think the revision prioritizes the safety of the pedestrians and will overall be positive in the long run. It feels more modern and will probably benefit the stores around it anyways.”

Visit for project updates and more information about San Pablo Avenue construction.