Several Coachella Valley community events and festivals have fallen victim to the struggling economy.
The Cathedral City Chamber of Commerce would have filled town square with thousands of Oktoberfest revelers this weekend, but canceled the event because of a lack of sponsorship.
"All companies are under pressure to plug holes in their dikes," said Steve Morris, president and CEO of the Cathedral City Chamber of Commerce.
Community events are especially vulnerable, he said, and may have a tough time securing enough sponsors into the foreseeable future.
"With community festivals, you're always expected to have a bank sponsor and now your bank may no longer be in business," he said.
Another festival that deflated because of sponsorship was the Red, White and Blue Polo and Balloon Festival at Eldorado Polo Club and Fantasy Springs Resort.
"When you lose some of your major sponsors like the city of Indio ... it makes it hard to go forward," said Randy Russell, president of Polo America, which puts on the event.
This January would have been the fourth year for the festival.
"The money is tightening up, that's what it's all about. I just think people are cutting back," said Indian Wells resident Walter McIntyre, who for years has been keeping track of valleywide events.
Home sales to rise and prices will fall in 2009
A new forecast released last week by the California Association of Realtors predicts 2009 will see lowering home prices and rising sales, especially among entry-level properties.
The 2009 Housing Market Forecast states that California's median home price will drop another 6 percent to $358,000 in 2009 and home sales will rise 12.5 percent.
The forecast is based on the assumption that the financial markets start stabilizing later this year and early next year.
While the forecast is not specific to the Coachella Valley, local real estate experts say the same trends will dominate the valley's market in 2009 as well.
"The market is in a recovery process," said Greg Berkemer, executive vice president of the California Desert Association of Realtors and one of several local real estate leaders in Long Beach on Wednesday for the forecast's unveiling.
"It's just going to take a little longer for us to get through all the problems. But the good news is we stopped creating these problems."
The 2009 forecast anticipates that the economy's "weakest period" will last through the second quarter, with association president William Brown describing the time as "recessionary economic conditions."
But the large number of foreclosures and short-sale distressed properties should peak in early 2009, helping the state's housing market regain momentum.
All told, the association is predicting that 445,000 existing single-family homes will be sold statewide in 2009, up 12.5 percent from the 395,600 expected to be sold this year.
The association focuses on the resale market, not new construction, which is typically not sold through the multiple listing service.
"We see that sales are up (statewide) as bargain hunters are coming into the market," Brown said in a phone interview with The Desert Sun.
"It is a buyer's market. That's the reality of the situation. We're concerned with the home buyer that wants to move into the house. At the current levels, looking out on the three- to five-year horizon, they will make a lot of money on their home."
Palm Springs is now regulating event homes
Owners of vacation and event homes in Palm Springs are now required to register their properties and pay taxes.
The vacation rental and event home laws were approved by the City Council last month and go into effect Friday. Owners have 60 days to register their vacation homes with the city.
The cost will be around $100, City Manager David Ready said.
Both laws seek to limit occupancy, curb loud parties, traffic and overflowing trash bins left by renters.
"I live next door to a vacation rental that is well managed," said John Williams, chairman of the Palm Springs Neighborhood Involvement Committee.
"It hasn't been an issue. There have been others in the neighborhood that have been problem houses ... (with) music and people screaming and yelling."
Williams said his organization, which represents more than 20 neighborhoods in the city, has worked with local officials for two years to create a vacation rental ordinance.
He said the group is pleased with the outcome.
The valley's economy discussed at summit
Hundreds of Coachella Valley leaders and economic experts gathered in Indian Wells on Friday for the Coachella Valley Economic Partnership's Economic Outlook Summit.
The annual event at Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa typically draws hundreds of attendees.
This year's theme was "Leave No Stone Unturned," and officials discussed where the valley is headed as a region and what is needed for a balanced, prosperous future.
Modernized Riviera Resort reopens its doors
The Riviera Resort & Spa officially opened its doors Wednesday after a monthslong $70 million makeover.
Training for the Riviera work force of 200 began on Oct. 1, with a soft opening.
Trial runs have been made to prepare for Wednesday's opening of the property that has released keys to 169 of the 406 guest rooms, Schoenfield said. The estimated time for completing all the rooms is Dec. 1.
The ribbon-cutting ceremony on the 24-acre resort will be Tuesday.
Once a celebrity playground for the likes of former Palm Springs residents Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Elvis Presley, the Riviera will feature more than 45,000 square feet of meeting and event space, with the ability to accommodate small receptions and events or large meetings with up to 1,000 attendees.
The Riviera, set amid lushly landscaped gardens with courtyards anchored by fire pits, noted room rates from $289 for standard guest rooms to $4,800 per night for the lavish, two-level presidential suite, according to a statement released Wednesday.
The resort is at 1600 N. Indian Canyon Drive in Palm Springs.
Unemployment rates in double-digits for 3 cities
A state report out Friday shows unemployment rates throughout the Coachella Valley improved or stayed the same in September.
Three valley cities - Coachella, Desert Hot Springs and Indio - continue to show double-digit unemployment rates, but each of them slightly improved, the Employment Development Department reported.
The highest unemployment rates are historically seen during the summer months and then to improve come September, said Joe Briceno, labor market consultant for the EDD in Riverside. That's when job gains are usually seen in education and government, he said.
This September was a little higher compared to the past, he pointed out.
Riverside County's overall unemployment rate also improved from 9.7 percent in August to 9.5 percent in September.
The state's rate remained unchanged at 7.7 percent.