The hot potato issue of how to move forward with removal and relocation of the statue of former Mayor Frank Bogert from in front of City Hall is back in the lap of the Palm Springs City Council.
In an 18-page letter filed with the city Feb. 10, Rod Pacheco, who represents The Friends of Mayor Frank Bogert, claims that the city violated its own rules regarding historic site preservation, failed to follow California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) rules, and that state and federal law governing visual art on public display bars the city from removing the statue from its current location.
Pacheco’s letter was submitted in appeal of a Feb. 1 decision by the city’s Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) to allow the removal and relocation of the statue to move forward. The appeal will be heard by the City Council at its next meeting on Feb. 24.
Pacheco claims city staff proceeded to “materially contort both the facts and the application of the law” while providing guidance to the HSPB as it debated whether removal of the statue would impact the historical significance of City Hall, a Class 1 historic site.
“What is of particular concern and exemplifies the great extent of staff machinations in this matter is that the historic experts hired by the City were specifically instructed by staff not to evaluate the legacy of Mayor Bogert and were further instructed not to evaluate the artistic value of the Mayor Bogert statue,” wrote Pacheco. “But clamping down on the experts was not enough, staff went so far as to take the reins from the HSPB by dictating to those appointed officials what they could discuss and evaluate and what they could not regarding the Mayor Bogert statue.”
Both City Attorney Jeff Ballinger and Deputy City Manager Flinn Fagg recommended the Council deny the appeal in a staff report prepared for the Feb. 24 meeting.
In their five-page rebuttal of Pacheco’s arguments, they argue the city was within its rights when the City Council elected to move forward with the statue’s removal last year, that there is no requirement for state environmental review, and that state and federal laws do not apply to the removal of the statue because the city is not proposing to deface, mutilate, alter, or destroy it.
“The statue of Frank Bogert was placed in the front yard of City Hall in 1990,” their report concluded. “The statue is not a character-defining feature of the building or site. It does not reflect the period of significance when the City Hall was designed and built. The statue itself is not a designated historic resource.
“Its removal will assist in returning the appearance of the City Hall site to the way it appeared during the period of significance shortly after its completion in 1965.”
More information: The appeal will be heard during the regular meeting of the Palm Springs City Council. A complete agenda for that meeting is available here.