“They are [leasing] the places for flat-out moochers,” said Mayor (Frank) Bogert.
“These people are not interested in improving themselves,” (Councilman Edgar L.) McCoubrey added.
— Quotes from an article justifying the demolition of as many as a thousand homes
belonging to working class minority residents in Section 14. Desert Sun, Volume 42,
Number 92, 19 November 1968
Palm Springs has an incredibly complex history, but aside from the tales of Hollywood stars and
wunderkind architects, much of its history has been left untold. For instance, many people don’t
know that this incredible world class tourist resort emerged from the unusual circumstances of
having two totally separate but equal governing bodies in charge: The City Government of Palm
Springs, and the Tribal Council of the Agua Caliente Tribe of Cahuilla Indians. This should be a
source of tremendous pride for everyone who calls Palm Springs their home.
Unfortunately though, for the first half of Palm Springs’ history, the Tribe had little control over
this community or even over their own lands, upon which so much of Palm Springs rests today.
It wasn’t until the late 1950’s that the Federal Government finally ceded control of the land back
to the Tribe, but under the paternalistic condition that non-Indian conservators oversee the
property and its proceeds.
One large parcel managed by these conservators is Section 14, located Downtown along Indian
For decades before the 1960s Section 14 was home to hundreds of families who leased lots
from the Tribe and built homes there. The residents of this neighborhood were the working class
of Palm Springs. They washed clothes, dishes and floors at the nearby hotels and restaurants.
They were mechanics, waiters, maids, carpenters, hair stylists and gardeners. The homes they
built were as varied as the skills of the families who built them – some were little more than
shacks, others were solidly constructed single family homes.
As Palm Springs became the “Playground to the Stars,” the Mayor and the City Council along
with the Conservators (who were one and the same in most cases) realized that Section 14
provided an excellent opportunity for expansion of the downtown business district. They
condemned Section 14, with it’s mostly minority residents, as squalid. Ostensibly on the Tribe’s
behalf, the Conservators and the City created a plan to replace the neighborhood with new
developments such as the Spa Hotel.
The City took charge of the evictions and the clearing of the land. 30-day eviction notices were
supposedly sent to all the residents, but many families later testified that notice was never
served, or if it was, the evictions were enforced the day the notice arrived. Every home in the
neighborhood was burned to the ground, often with all of the families’ belongings still inside.
Not surprisingly, no paper trail was kept by either the City or the Conservators, but estimates
indicate that over two thousand mostly African American and Latinx citizens were driven from
Palm Springs in this City-managed purge.
By today’s standards, the methods used in this diaspora would be considered a human rights
violation. But even in its own “less woke” era, the destruction of Section 14 was so egregious
that it instigated both State and Federal investigations.
One of the damning conclusions of the State Attorney’s investigation in 1968 was, “The manner
in which the demolition of Section 14 was accomplished, makes it a classic study in civic
disregard for the rights and feelings of minority citizens.”
The burning of Section 14 was not one event, it started in 1958 and continued until 1966, the
exact years that Frank Bogert was the Mayor of Palm Springs. Although others may share
some responsibility, Frank Bogert was the man in charge during the City’s purging of the
minority population of Palm Springs. And he is the only one involved who has a statue in front of
City Hall. This statue cannot be separated from the entirety of Mr. Bogert’s record. It represents
both the good and the bad of his tenure as the City’s leader. For many, it serves as a reminder
of the greed and racism that is a shameful chapter in Palm Springs’ history. Nothing will ever
change what happened, but we can honor the African American and Latinx families who were
victims of this abuse of power by removing the Frank Bogert statue.