Members of a Palm Springs board asked to determine whether removing a statue of former Mayor Frank Bogert from in front of City Hall would damage the historical value of the building and its grounds elected not to vote on the issue Tuesday evening.
“I’m very, very concerned that this was kicked to us without a complete record,” said Stephen Rose, who, along with other members of the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB), expressed frustration that the politically-charged issue of the statue’s removal was sent to them.
“It’s unfortunate that HSPB is cleaning up what the City Council created,” said board member Erik Rosenow, shortly before its members voted 4-1 to delay a decision. “We need much clearer direction. I feel very uncomfortable just granting removal.”
At issue was a Palm Springs City Council decision in September to start the legal process for removing and relocating the monument, first installed in 1990. That decision came at the end of a five-hour virtual joint meeting with the city’s Human Rights Commission, which adopted a resolution earlier this year recommending the statue of Bogert on horseback be removed. More than 130 people attended the September meeting via Zoom. Dozens offered public testimony.
A dozen people spoke Tuesday evening, urging the HSPB to keep the statue in place.
“People have the right to change their minds, but no one has the right to change history,” said Mark Bragg during public testimony. “Those people have cost the city enormous amounts of taxpayer money. They’ve created a chasm between our citizens. And they’ve wasted an incredible amount of time.”
City staff explained to HSPB members that they were not debating Bogert, who was criticized in documents considered by the City Council and the Human Rights Commission. Instead, they were only being asked to determine whether to issue a certificate of appropriateness for removing the statue. They said the certificate should be granted and would help return City Hall to its original appearance.
“[T]he proposed alteration will assist in restoring the historical resource to its original appearance,” said Ken Lyon, an associate planner with the city. “The statue itself does not meet the definition of historical resource.”