INDIO — The Indio Planning Commission on Wednesday night unanimously denied a San Jose couple's request for a temporary parking permit that would have allowed them to operate a parking lot on their land across from the Empire Polo Club during two of the city's largest music events.
The 5-0 vote upheld an earlier denial by city staff to Sara and Victor Cuecuecha's permit request.
The couple says they will appeal the decision to the City Council.
“I feel really that my property rights have been usurped. I can't do anything with my property. I have a lot of issues with this,” said Sara Cuecuecha.
The couple lives in San Jose, but owns the property at 50-200 Monroe St. For the past six years, they have used the nearly four-acre vacant lot as a parking area where attendees of the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival and Stagecoach could pay $20 to park.
On a good night, they say, they made more than $8,000 pulling in as many as 400 cars.
Those two events bring in hundreds of thousands of people from across the world.
For the first time this year, Coachella has been expanded to two weekends and will run April 13-15 and 20-22. Stagecoach runs April 27-29.
Since Sara Cuecuecha is the aunt of Councilwoman Lupe Ramos Watson, who was co-owner of the land up until a few years ago, it's unclear how her participation in the appeal would work. Watson could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
One of the main reasons city staff denied the request is that there was a change in traffic and pedestrian flow that does not allow people to walk along Monroe Street into the concert area.
“We've made several changes this year. There is no pedestrian access between Avenue 49 and Avenue 52,” said Joe Lim, planning manager.
The city has been working with residents in the area to address concerns such as jaywalkers and trespassers who urinate and defecate on property and ride people's animals.
Eliminating walking along that street will help reduce those problems, he said.
Also, additional parking has been added by the venues so there is plenty of parking and no need for the Cuecuechas' parking lot to handle overflow.
City officials said they are also worried about what so many more cars would do to the flow of traffic after the festival.
Over the years, though, the Cuecuechas have invested time and money in improving their parking lot and believe they should have the right to run such an operation on their property despite the city's concerns.
The vacant lot surrounded by palm trees has large parking lot lights, a few generators to provide electricity during the concerts and temporary fencing and bathrooms that are brought in during the events.
The couple says they purchased a tractor to prep the space before and after the events.
“We've made a lot of investments to make this work,” said Sara Cuecuecha.
The Cuecuechas also are concerned about the loss of jobs that will be suffered by temporary workers they hire for the events.
Angelica R. Olivares, a tenant of the Cuecuechas who lives in front of the lot, works for the couple during the events. She relies on the extra income to pay her electricity bill.
“There's a lot of people that work there too, they benefit from it,” said Olivares.