Another year without

Robolights sculpture


The holiday light display, previously staged at Kenny Irwin’s home on Granvia Valmonte in Palm Springs, had been open to the public for more than 30 years. But it became the subject of litigation regarding neighbor complaints about trash, crowds and traffic.

We used to go to Robolights a few blocks from our house as a Christmas tradition. Once we took the senior group from our swim team. The last time we went, we took our current Christmas Crew. It’s a very different type of Christmas display made with recycled goods to aliens, microwaved microwaves and a carousal of toilets. The highlight in my opinion is touring the one-acre lot with millions of white lights dazzling above.

Someone moved across the street from Robolights and complained to the city. I heard they even stole some of the million lights that were in storage bins. The city decided it was a fire hazard and shut down Robolights.

This year we walked during the daylight to Robolights and I took photos of the sculptures around the perimeter of the estate.

Irwin and the City of Palm Springs reached an agreement in November 2018, ending a two-year legal fight. Irwin agreed to move the exhibit to a commercial location, and the city agreed to provide $125,000 to help cover the move.

In 2019, Irwin purchased two parcels of land— one 7.5 acres and another 2.5 acres — in Desert Hot Springs behind Cabot’s Pueblo Museum off Miracle Hill Road for $350,000 and hoped to begin developing the site. At present, the land is home to an abandoned structure and the road leading up to it is blocked to the public.

The cost to begin development is estimated at $1.5 million, including $300,000 for the first phase of planning and there is no projected opening date.

sculptures at Robolights made out of recycled parts.

Photos from our walk around Robolights.

What are your thoughts of moving into a neighborhood with a 30-year-nationally known exhibit and complaining to the city to shut it down?

21 thoughts on “Another year without

  1. Sorry to disappoint, but I stand firm with the homeowner. Once he purchases the house, he is a standing member of the community, and as a result, has every right to expect privacy and reasonable peace from excessive noise. It is residential, not commercial, and since they are moving to a commercial area, then they have had this option the entire time. Unless someone can show indications that he was informed that this would happen before he purchased, and not just an expectation that he would “conform”, then yeah, he did exactly what I would do.

    • Our house was across the street from a hotel. It changed ownership and they started having outdoor entertainment until 2 am. Tough place to raise kids or sleep. I did find a law that stated we were entitled to the peaceful enjoyment of our home so we went to court and won against the noise. I guess that’s where the Robolights neighbor was coming from too.

  2. There has to be clear policies and boundaries in place in a residential neighborhood. Just because a fun, smallish and creative display works once or twice that doesn’t mean bigger and showier is better. I think you become *one of those neighbors* when you focus only on being the standout. It only causes problems down the road.

  3. I can see both sides and I am not familiar- thank you. I assume that these creations are up year round – maybe not lighted. I further assume the owner never visited their property prior to purchase. I’m from Baltimore, on 34th st there are 2 blocks that go all out each Christmas. Before a house can be purchased in these 2 blocks the new owner has to sign paperwork acknowledging the disruption, noise and chaos and has to agree to participate.

    • You’re correct about the lights only being on for Christmas week. That was the only time the public could enter the exhibit. So it was one or two weeks of traffic. The new neighbor probably didn’t know.

  4. When you mention “the land is home to an abandoned structure” I think he is making good use of the land and structure that was abandoned. “A carousel of toilets” sounds odd and not something I would want to see in my neighborhood unless it was to be carted off by the garbage people. Awkward that the lights in a bin were stolen by someone greedy and well aware of the cost of the lights. From your photos, neither looks tacky but just something you might see in that part of California. It sounds like the city needs monies and this will become a money making venture and is now part of the area. If there will be a charge to see the exhibit, it appears the city provided the monies to help him move : 125,000$ because they might expect revenue in the form of visitors.

    • The artist worked on the exhibit for at least 30 years in town on his Aunt and Uncle’s estate. The city helped move him out to the land with the abandoned structure but he hasn’t installed his art there yet. The toilet carousel was only visible touring inside his estate.

      • Odd choice for the toilet carousel. I can understand how that would disturb the neighbors. Lots of disposable income for this artist. Seems like he can set up anywhere.

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