While technically a county road, SJ citizens had a lot to say
■ Kyle Selby / Reporter
The heated topic at the San Jacinto City Council meeting this week was not cannabis, but related to the closure of Gilman Springs Road, after a council member requested it be discussed by Council.
By the end of the night, City Council voted unanimously 5-0 to keep Gilman Springs Road open to the public.
When the Council picked off of their consent calendar Tuesday evening, Mayor Pro Tem Alonso Ledezma pulled item 3.1.3, which was intended for the Council to approve the minutes transcribed from their last meeting on Oct. 17.
The recorded minutes stated that Ledezma had requested to “closing the road at Golden Era.” However, Ledezma said that was an error.
“I did not request this,” clarified Ledezma. “To my knowledge, it was brought up by Councilman Andrew Kotyuk. So there is an error here, and I never asked for this item.”
City Manager Rob Johnson quickly chimed in and clarified that that section of the meeting’s minutes was a typographical error that would be revised. It was in fact Kotyuk who requested the item.
“I really think it’s time that our council and our city start discussing the safety of that road, and possible closure, or alternatives that we can do with that,” Kotyuk suggested on Oct. 17.
The suggestion was made in response to a recent car accident involving Lynn Peterson from the San Jacinto Historical Museum. Peterson, who volunteers with numerous nonprofits in the San Jacinto Valley, was driving westbound on Gilman Springs Road, making a left turn into Golden Era Golf Course, when another vehicle allegedly T-boned her. Peterson suffered injuries to her neck, breaking it in two places. She is still in the hospital and will soon be evaluated by a neurologist, according to a post on a GoFundMe account set up for Peterson.
Kotyuk’s suggestion packed the council chambers full Tuesday evening. Eleven speakers came forward to address their strong oppositions to closing the road, as it is a “major corridor” into the city. Nobody spoke in favor of closing the road.
“This topic came up several years ago with the old city council…the response then was no, and the response now, is no,” said Rose Salgado, who used to use the road every day for three years to get to her job in Palm Springs. “That road is really a major corridor for many people that commute.”
Some pointed fingers at the Church of Scientology, whose Gold Base headquarters are located along the stretch of Gilman Springs Road that was the subject of potential closure. This is not the first time closing part of Gilman Springs Road has been discussed.
In 2009, Golden Era spokesperson Cathy Fraser requested that Gilman Springs Road, from state Route 79 to Soboba Road, be closed due to “issues of safety,” according to an Aug. 14, 2009 article in The Valley Chronicle as reported by Charles Hand. Fraser clarified that the road would remain open to emergency vehicles.
Some speakers at Tuesday’s meeting, including Hemet resident Erin Plumb, remembered the 2009 closure attempt and spoke about it, stating that she believes the Scientologists want the road shut down permanently.
“This has been going on for 20-some years,” said Plumb.
Others pointed fingers at Kotyuk himself for making the suggestion.
“In any case, I think this is nothing but a ploy to gain votes for your upcoming 2018 election for State Assembly,” commented Jim Pangrazzi, San Jacinto citizen. “This shouldn’t even be before City Council here in San Jacinto, because this road is not in the jurisdiction of San Jacinto, it’s in the jurisdiction of Riverside County. You cannot close it, the county told me that.”
A representative for Golden Era wasn’t sure why it was being discussed during the City Council meeting.
“I don’t know if we even want to respond,” said Muriel Dufresne, community affairs director for Golden Era Productions. “It’s not even the city’s issue, because it’s a county road.”
“I don’t believe we should be discussing closing Gilman Springs Road,” said City Councilwoman Crystal Ruiz. She then briefed the room on the story of Peterson’s accident. Ruiz recently paid Peterson a visit, and asked for Peterson’s opinion on the road closure. “She looked me straight in the eye, and she said, ‘do not close that road.’”
Ruiz said that Peterson’s alternative ideas were to “have something to slow [the drivers] down.” Ruiz described that she had already spoken to Riverside County Third District Supervisor Chuck Washington about potentially installing speed bumps or additional stoplights.
“It’s not that we can demand anything. It’s out of our jurisdiction,” concluded Ruiz.
“The motion is 100 percent supported, keeping Gilman Springs open, in addition to directing staff to look at corridor circulation,” announced Mayor Scott Miller, which was welcomed by thunderous applause from the audience.
The meeting adjourned with a moment of silence in honor of the victims and families of the recent terror attacks in Las Vegas, New York and Texas.