Palm Springs campus still on track for 2027 opening, College of the Desert leaders say

An aerial view released in June 2023 of the planned College of the Desert Palm Springs campus.
An aerial view released in June 2023 of the planned College of the Desert Palm Springs campus.

College of the Desert leaders affirmed Wednesday that the college is again moving forward on planned campuses in Cathedral City and Palm Springs and that classes are now slated to begin there at the start of 2026 and 2027, respectively.

Those dates were offered during a “community update event” on planning for the two campuses at the Hilton Hotel in Palm Springs.

Construction of both campuses has been delayed by years, making them the subject of community controversy and accusations that the school had broken promises about when — or even whether — the campuses would be built.

However, both the college’s interim president and the administrator tasked with overseeing facilities in the western Coachella Valley said multiple times during a lengthy presentation Wednesday that the campuses will be built.

Scott Adkins, COD’s director of education centers for the west valley, said a schematic design was finished earlier this year for the Palm Springs campus and it's now in the design development phase, where greater detail is fleshed out. That phase is expected to be completed in November.

Construction work will begin and be visible at the campus site at the intersection of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Farrell Drive “sometime next year,” Adkins said. He said the campus will then be ready for move-in by the end of 2026, with classes to begin in early 2027.

“I know it seems far away, but we’re closer than we were a couple of years ago,” he said. “So we’re really excited about that.”

Beyond ‘east vs. west’

While much of the meeting was focused specifically on plans for the embattled west valley campuses, Interim Superintendent and President Laura Hope also took the opportunity to tout what she described as a new approach to thinking about and marketing the college — an approach built around unifying the Coachella Valley.

“There’s been too much discussion in my view about east vs. west, about who deserves what,” she said. “We need to try to serve everyone that our college needs to serve.”

Those comments were references to longsimmering tensions among COD board members, city council members and other leaders centered on whether new COD’s investments and facilities were being distributed equitably throughout the valley.

Some board members and leaders with ties to the east valley have criticized the new planned campuses as unequally concentrating resources in the west valley.

Hope, who was addressing many of Palm Springs’ movers and shakers who have often been critical of the college’s administration for the first time after starting in the interim role this summer, also seemed to acknowledge the turbulence of the short administration of her predecessor, Martha Garcia, in explaining how she was approaching her role as interim president.

“I also have real clarity about what my goal and our goal needs to be: Unify the community internally and externally and get the college back on track,” she said.

Hope began her portion of the presentation by showing a slide from the college's new marketing campaign that included a slogan intended to capture that message of unity: “Your Community. Your College.”Ron Oden, a former Palm Springs mayor who was elected to the college’s board of trustees representing Palm Springs and a sliver of Cathedral City earlier this year, also spoke about the need for the campuses to be finished and his optimism that they soon would be. He cited the example of a woman who grew up in poverty on Section 14 in Palm Springs but attended COD and later became the school’s first Black student trustee and went on to get a master’s degree from USC and become a successful entrepreneur.

“It is so important for this campus to be built…” Oden said before noting that there need to be more stories like that. “That's why we need to make sure that we as a college, and I say this as a member of the board of trustees, that we maintain the promises we made initially. And I am excited about the team that we have currently and the board members because I believe that we are going to get a lot of things done.”

Cathedral City campus

A slide showing a rendering of College of the Desert's planned Roadrunner Motors campus in Cathedral City is shown during a presentation to the community at the Hilton hotel in Palm Springs on Oct. 4, 2023.
A slide showing a rendering of College of the Desert's planned Roadrunner Motors campus in Cathedral City is shown during a presentation to the community at the Hilton hotel in Palm Springs on Oct. 4, 2023.

Atkins said the schematic design phase, was recently completed and offered the following timeline for the Cathedral City campus:

  • Secure state approval to build it by March 2024

  • Complete the bidding phase in June 2024

  • Begin construction in August 2024

  • Have campus ready for use by December 2025

His announcement that classes are slated to begin at the facility in 2026 drew loud applause from the crowd, including a group that identified themselves as being from Cathedral City and briefly interrupted the presentation to express frustration that the topic of that city's campus had not yet come up.

That campus will consist of a 30,000-square-foot building that will be focused on training for automobile-related jobs, although Hope said other non-automotive programs will also have a presence at that campus. That campus will be located near the intersection of Highway 111 and Perez Road, adjacent to the Cathedral City Auto Center.

Councilmembers, ‘Promises Made, Promises Broken’ founder hopeful

Among the event’s attendees were Palm Springs Councilmembers Lisa Middleton, Christy Holstege, Ron deHarte and Jeffrey Bernstein. In recent years, the city council has questioned COD’s commitment to building the Palm Springs campus and criticized the lack of progress.

Following the meeting, Bernstein said he was impressed with the presentation, which he said included a lot of detailed information that a lot of the community had been waiting for.

“It’s been a long time coming, but I finally see that it's really going to happen,” Bernstein said.

Bernstein was complimentary of both Oden, who he called a breath of fresh air, and Hope.

“She knew what she was talking about, she fielded questions well and they all seemed committed to building both the campus in Palm Springs and Roadrunner Motors, which is key,” he said.

Also in attendance was Bruce Hoban, the founder of “Promises Made, Promises Broken,” a group of residents who described themselves as community watchdogs and criticized the lack of progress on the west valley campuses.

Hoban said following the meeting that he believes the projects are now on course to finally be delivered and also praised the leadership of Hope and Oden, who he said have been pivotal in getting plans back on track.

Paul Albani-Burgio covers breaking news and the city of Palm Springs. Follow him on Twitter at @albaniburgiop and email him at

This article originally appeared on Palm Springs Desert Sun: COD says Palm Springs campus still on track for 2027 opening