Hundreds of Black and Mexican families announced the filing of an amended claim Tuesday asserting that the city of Palm Springs caused up to $2 billion in harm to families who were forcibly evicted from the downtown Section 14 neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s.
Section 14 — a one-square-mile neighborhood owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians — was the primary residential area for people of color from 1930 to 1965. The evictions began in late 1954 and continued for 12 years through 1966.
Attorneys representing evicted families held a news conference in Los Angeles to announce the damages claim. The event included survivors of the evictions, “who remember them vividly and … what those evictions did to them and their families,” Lisa Richardson, a spokeswoman for attorneys representing the families, told City News Service.
“Until now, `Section 14′ has largely been a shameful secret confined to the city limits of Palm Springs, when it should be mentioned alongside Tulsa, Rosewood and Bruce’s Beach,” attorney Areva Martin said in a statement. “These facts are not in dispute. It is unconscionable that Palm Springs is not engaging with all its energy on making these families whole again. How much longer should they wait? Many of the survivors of these events are in their 70s, 80s and even 90s. They can’t afford to wait for justice.”
The city of Palm Springs formally apologized in September 2021 for the evictions, and the City Council asked its staff to develop proposals for possible economic investments that could act as reparation for the destruction of the Section 14 neighborhood. The city also removed a statue of Frank Bogert — who was Palm Springs mayor at the time — from the front of City Hall.
A resolution approved by the council last year stated that “Mayor Bogert and Palm Springs civic leaders persecuted their lower-income constituents who resided on the land owned by local Tribal Members. Attempting to dispossess the Indians of their tribal lands, and erase any blighted neighborhoods that might degrade the city’s resort image, Palm Springs officials developed and implemented a plan that included having non-Indian conservators appointed by a local judge to manage the Indians land claiming they were unable to manage it for themselves. The successful implementation of this plan resulted in the removal of the city’s people of color and restructured the race and class configuration of the city.”
An estimated 200 homes were destroyed in the mass eviction process, according to the city.
“Over the past two years, the City Council and staff have set out on a course aimed at making right what happened during that period,” Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton said in a statement. “While this process may seem to be taking longer than some might like, the city has an obligation, not only to those who were displaced, but also to its residents, businesses and taxpayers, to thoroughly investigate the history as it develops remedial programs that are fair to everyone.”
Richardson said that despite the actions last year, the city has yet to provide any compensation or restitution to anyone impacted by the evictions. She said there are more than 500 survivors and descendants of those who were evicted.
On Nov. 21, the city posted a request for proposals from qualified firms to help develop a reparations program for those affected by the evictions. The proposals are due by 2 p.m. Dec. 20. More information can be found at pbsystem.planetbids.com/portal/47688/bo/bo-search.