Hundreds of minority families plan to file claims seeking millions, and possibly billions, of dollars in restitution from the city of Palm Springs for being forcibly evicted from the downtown Section 14 neighborhood in the 1950s and 1960s, it was announced Wednesday.
Section 14 was the primary residential area for people of color, with the 1-square-mile neighborhood owned by the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians from 1930 to 1965. The evictions began in late 1954 and continued for 12 years through 1966.
Attorneys representing evicted families had planned to hold a news conference in Los Angeles Thursday to announce the damages claim, but postponed it due to a conflicting event being held by newly-elected Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass.
Lisa Richardson, a spokeswoman for attorneys representing the families, said when and if the news conference is rescheduled, “You will have survivors of the evictions, who remember them vividly talking about their experiences, how happy they were, what those evictions did to them and their families, how the city of Palm Springs had their houses bulldozed and had the city fire department set fire to their homes. They will talk about what that experience has been like for them.”
An economist working for Section 14 survivors and descendants, Julianne Malveaux, was also scheduled to speak during the event about the calculated millions of dollars of harm that the evictions have caused, Richardson said. The attorneys say the overall damages could range into the billions of dollars.
The city 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.
Richardson said that despite the city’s actions last year, officials have 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.
Palm Springs City Attorney Jeff Ballinger told KESQ-TV the city hopes to keep moving forward with its efforts at amends rather than get tied up in court.
“I have been in communication with (the group’s attorney), and it is my hope that, with her assistance, we can continue focusing the City’s resources on that course of action, rather than on unnecessary litigation,” Ballinger is quoted as saying.