Special City Council Joint Meeting with the Human Rights Commission slated for Sept. 29 to discuss proposed removal of Frank Bogert statue and Section 14 apology

PALM SPRINGS — More than a year after a Palm Springs man started a petition drive to remove the statue of former Mayor Frank Bogert, which stands prominently in front of City Hall at 3200 E Tahquitz Canyon Way, the City Council appears poised to make a decision.

The issue was strategically shelved during the 2020 re-election campaigns of Christy Holstege and Lisa Middleton.

To date, 2,911 people have signed the petition.

Frank Bogert was one of the “founding fathers” of Palm Springs, a Hollywood actor who moved to the Desert oasis and became one of its bigger boosters, starting around 1930. In 1958, Bogert was elected to the Palm Springs City Council and served as mayor from 1958-1966.

Many members of the local Black community opposed Bogert’s statue at the time it was installed.

According to the petition, it was during this time that Palm Springs had one of its greatest failures to the non-White residents of the City, particularly in Section 14, a square mile of land next to downtown that was part of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation, according to the petition. Through a series of schemes that he operated with attorneys, some tribal members and the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bogert and the City Council evicted many lower income and almost exclusively Black residents of Section 14. The homes they rented were torched with the assistance of the Palm Springs Fire and Police Departments, and many were “relocated” to Desert Highland Estates on the north end of town.

There is much more to this history, but the bottom line is that Frank Bogert, who was instrumental in these atrocities against Palm Springs residents, has been memorialized by a prominent statue of him in front of Palm Springs City Hall that was installed in 1990, David Weiner, a political activist, writes in the petition.

In a counter move, Friends of Frank Bogert was established to “communicate the true character of Frank M. Bogert and Palm Springs history” and respond to “a false, slanderous, and overtly political attack on Bogert including a suggestion that his statue in front of city hall be destroyed or relocated,” according to a press release the group issued.

In April, the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission passed a resolution recommending the removal of Bogert’s statue from the front of Palm Springs City Hall, citing Bogert’s involvement with the forced evictions from Section 14 during Bogert’s time as mayor.

The monument is “widely perceived as an offensive and painful public reminder of a legacy of urban renewal that banished the vast majority of people of color from the city limits, and the present realities of systemic racism born out of his mayoral leadership from 1958-1966,” according to the resolution.

Palm Springs residents are encouraged to participate in a City Council Joint Meeting with the Human Rights Commission on Wednesday, Sept. 29 to discuss the proposed removal of the statue of former Mayor Frank Bogert astride his horse in front of City Hall. Also to be discussed is the Human Rights Commission’s recommendation for a Section 14 apology.

Section 14, a 1-square-mile plot of land east of downtown Palm Springs that’s part of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation, had been home to mostly Black and Latino families who were asked — then ordered — to leave before their houses were destroyed to make way for redevelopment.

The 5:30 p.m. meeting will be held by teleconference, via Zoom. Public comment is desired and welcome. Residents who wish to speak at the meeting may submit their comments to the Office of the City Clerk prior to the meeting no later than 5 p.m. The phone number is (760) 323-8204. At the appropriate time, a staff member will call members of the public to provide testimony.

Written comments may be submitted to the City Council electronically. Materials may be emailed to cityclerk@palmspringsca.gov. Any correspondence received during or after the meeting will be distributed to the City Council and retained for the official record.

Residents can watch the Council meeting live online by clicking here, on the City’s YouTube channel, or on Palm Springs Community Television Channel 17. To review the Council agenda, click here.