Palm Desert's city council is pushing back on the governor's reopening plan – asking him to allow The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens to welcome visitors back.
The zoo has been closed since mid-March and is losing millions of dollars in revenue – missing out on hundreds, sometimes thousands of visitors each day.
"(We closed) in the middle of spring break, which is our busiest time and when we generate most of the revenue that helps us get through the rest of the year, like in the summertime when the visitation is so much lower," said Living Desert President and CEO Allen Monroe.
He said the zoo has lost $3.5 million so far.
"In the governor’s roadmap to reopen businesses, zoos were placed in Stage 3 with other high risk locations such as concert venues, night clubs, bars," Monroe said, adding because of the zoo's sprawling and entirely outdoor campus, its well suited for social distancing.
"Outdoors, it's about as safe as you can get," he said.
Thursday night, Palm Desert city council voted unanimously to send a letter to Governor Newsom, adding their support to the list of other local leaders including the city of Indian Wells, Supervisor Manuel Perez, Assemblyman Chad Mayes, and La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans.
"We're trying to mention that one size does not fit all, and that this is a very unique and extremely well run place, and I think we should emphasize that," said Councilmember Susan Weber.
The Living Desert has also implemented a COVID-19 preparedness and response plan, which includes a one-way path through the zoo marked by painted arrow decals on the ground, as well as an online ticketing system that will spread visitors out through different time slots.
"This is part of the rationale about opening up to allow people in the Coachella Valley to have a safe place to get outside, do a little bit of exercising and do it in a safe fashion," Monroe said.
The zoo is currently spending about $22,000 per day on animal feeding costs alone.