Board agrees with technical merits of request to remove statue, urges it be relocated to ‘publicly accessible’ site
The city’s Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) on Tuesday elected to take the next step forward in what could be the eventual removal of a controversial statue in front of City Hall, but not without considerable angst as it struggled with what, exactly, it was deciding.
The move followed the review of a report prepared by a firm hired to determine whether removing the statue would impact the historical significance of City Hall, a Class 1 historic site. The HSPB asked for the report last November after being tasked with considering a “certificate of appropriateness” for the statue’s removal.
The question before the board appeared simple, but was ripe with political overtones as the community remains divided on the issue: Does removing the statue, a bronze sculpture of former Mayor Frank Bogert on horseback erected in 1990, alter the historical significance of City Hall, which was completed in 1952 and designed by architect Albert Frey? Both the report and city planners concluded the answer was no.
Not at issue, the HSPB was reminded, was whether it was right to honor Bogert with a statue on city property in the first place or to approve the statue’s removal last September. That decision was made when the Palm Springs City Council voted unanimously to move forward with the process required to remove the statue. That process included review by the HSPB, which is tasked with making decisions about the city’s historic properties.
“The thing that we are looking at was not to question the value of the statue,” said Ken Lyon, an associate planner with the city who recommended approval of the certificate, “but rather what happens when you take this object off this site in terms of the historic site, which is the building.”
Some on the HSPB disagreed, adding that the statue’s presence should be considered more broadly when debating what makes City Hall significant. They pushed back on the report, claiming it did not address the statue’s overall value to the site’s history as previously requested.
“Is that statue not a feature of the entire site?” asked Board Member Jade Nelson, adding later that “City Hall is an ongoing historical resource.”
After an hour of debate, the HSPB ultimately voted to grant the certificate by a 4-2 vote, with Nelson abstaining. Board Chair Katherine Hough and Board Member Stephen Rose cast no votes. A “strong recommendation” that city officials move the statue to a publicly accessible site, possibly the Village Green Heritage Center on South Palm Canyon Drive, was added to the motion.
The City Council’s vote last year came at the end of a five-hour virtual joint meeting with the city’s Human Rights Commission, which had adopted a resolution recommending the statue be removed. More than 130 people attended the September meeting via Zoom. Dozens offered public testimony.
Bogert, who died in 2009, was a prominent businessman who served as mayor twice, including during one of the ugliest periods in city history – the late 1950s through the mid-1960s. During that time, residents of tribal-owned land in the center of the city — known as Section 14 — were forced out of their homes when business owners sought to develop the property following the adoption of a federal law that allowed tribes to enter into long-term leases.
Many of the residents forced out of Section 14 were members of the city’s African-American community. Some who experienced the forced removal firsthand spoke during public comments during the meeting Tuesday, urging removal of the statue.
“I’ll never forget the extremely traumatic, cowardice act of our family being herded like cattle with no place to go and no relocation fees to get to where we were going,” said Alvin Taylor, a member of the Section 14 Survivors Group. “It makes me cry every time I pass by and see [the statue] there.”
CONCERT IN THE PARK: A series of free public concerts begins tonight at the new Palm Springs Downtown Park, located at the intersection of Belardo Road and Museum Way. The concerts, hosted by The Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce in collaboration with James Elliott Entertainment, are scheduled to run the first Wednesday of every month at 7 p.m. through July. Tonight’s performance will be by TLR – Experience the Eagles Music, an Eagles tribute band from Los Angeles. Other tribute groups scheduled to appear include those devoted to the music of Elton John, Madonna, Tina Turner, Fleetwood Mac, and Creedence Clearwater Revival. The public is invited to bring chairs and blankets and enjoy the show.
MIZELL CENTER: The Mizell Center, 480 S. Sunrise Way, offers 10 programs and classes today, starting at 8 a.m. You can find a complete list of all today’s offerings online here.
HORA DE CUENTOS: La bibliotecaria Nancy Valdivia lee cuentos, canta canciones y enseña conceptos de aprendizaje temprano (miércoles en español y jueves en inglés) para estudiantes de preescolar de 10:30 a.m. a 11:30 a.m. Puedes ver los videos en YouTube aquí.
PALS CAFE: PALS (Planning Ahead for LGBTQ Seniors) holds an informal drop-in discussion via Zoom about any topic on participants’ minds from 4 p.m. until 5 p.m. More information about the organization can be found here. To participate in the discussion, check out the Zoom link here.
LIBRARY BOARD: The city’s Library Board of Trustees meets virtually at 5:30 p.m. More information on the meeting, including an agenda and how to view it, can be found here.
BOOK CLUB: The OutBook Book Club meets via Zoom at 6:30 p.m. The club is supported by The Palm Springs Cultural Center and the Palm Springs Public Library. Selections are chosen by group members and highlight a mix of new LGBTQ+ releases and influential classics. Complete information on attending the book club, including current selections, is available here.
CELEBRATE BLACK HISTORY
Black history celebrations and events abound in Palm Springs and the surrounding area all month long. We’ve put together a list of some of those events, organized by date. Want your event included or need to point out an error or omission? Email us here. In the meantime, you can FIND THE COMPLETE LIST HERE.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
DANCE STUDIO BENEFIT: Dance With Miss Lindsay Dance Studio in Palm Springs has pledged to support the Andréa Rizzo Foundation’s nationwide fundraising effort “Dance Across America” for the seventh year. Dancers at the studio will be holding a dance party on Friday, Feb. 4, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. at the studio. Anyone wishing to make a pledge to the event is invited to call Lindsay Kaufmann at 760-413-6931 or email her at Lindsay@dancewithmisslindsay.com.
NEXT ART EXHIBIT: The Desert Art Center in Palm Springs opens one of the largest shows of the season on Friday, Feb. 4, with all new works from gallery artists plus an art pop-up in the Studio Gallery featuring the work of Janis Buller and Cathy Parker. Every art lover is welcome to join on the 4th from 5 p.m. until 7 p.m. for refreshments and the largest selection of local fine art in the Coachella Valley. DAC is located at 550 North Palm Canyon Dr. in Uptown Palm Springs. Community support feeds the organization’s outreach to schools with art classes and scholarships.
TOUR DE PALM SPRINGS: Registration for the annual Tour de Palm Springs, planned for Feb. 12, remains open. The event features walking and cycling routes, some as long as 100 miles, kicking off between 6:30 a.m. and 10 a.m. All of the routes start and finish on South Palm Canyon Drive near Tahquitz Canyon Way. More information about the event, which is expected to draw around 4,000 cyclists this year, can be found here.
MODERNISM WEEK: The city’s annual celebration of midcentury modern design, architecture, art, fashion, and culture takes place Feb. 17 through 27 at multiple locations. Modernism Week features more than 350 events, including the Modernism Show & Sale, home tours, films, lectures, double-decker architectural bus tours, and more. Tickets and additional information are available here.