The City of Palm Springs announced Monday evening that the controversial statue of former Palm Springs Mayor Frank Bogert will be removed from its longtime home in front of City Hall on Tuesday morning.
The statue will be transported to the city yard, where it will be stored. The removal of the statue is due to take place at 8 a.m. The Art Collective, a Palm Desert-based art services company, was hired to remove and transport the statue.
The statue is expected to be moved a day before a scheduled court hearing in which an attorney representing the Friends of Frank Bogert group planned to seek a restraining order that would prevent the city from removing the controversial statue.
The announcement that the city will remove the statue also comes just three days after an attorney for Friends of Frank Bogert, which is seeking to keep the statue at City Hall, filed for a temporary restraining order. A hearing on that restraining order is set for 8:30 a.m. Tuesday in Riverside.
In the filing, attorney Rod Pacheco is asking the court to restrain the city from moving the statue until the court can hear a lawsuit filed by Pacheco on behalf of the group asking that the statue be left in place. . That hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. on June 24.
“The grounds of the TRO are that the city’s stated plan to remove the Bogert statue is done arbitrarily and capriciously in violation of the city’s municipal code, the California civil code, and the quality of service law. environment of California,” reads the filing of the restraining order.
Decision to move the statue made in February
In February, the Palm Springs City Council voted unanimously to direct city staff to work with stakeholders to identify a suitable location not on city property where the statue could be relocated. They also ordered that if a pleasant location was not found, the statue would be moved to secure storage within 60 days.
This direction was taken in a vote in which the City Council voted 5-0 to reject an appeal of the Historic Site Preservation Board’s vote to grant a Certificate of Opportunity allowing the statue to be moved.
“The city has been and remains willing to work with the group to find a suitable location to place the statue. It will be stored safely until a new location is determined,” the statement read. city announcing the planned move of the statue. .
In April, Pacheco told The Desert Sun that he and members of the Friends of Frank Bogert group had conversations with Palm Springs Mayor Lisa Middleton about possible locations. Two possible sites mentioned were the Neuro Vitality Center on East Alejo and Sunrise Park. However, the city and the group could not agree on a location because the proposed sites were either too remote, as was the case with the Vitality Center, or on public land, as was the case. with Sunrise Park.
“They sneak before the hearing”
Pacheco told the Desert Sun Monday night that it was clear to him the city was moving quickly to remove the statue before the hearing.
“They sneak in before the hearing and then they’ll go into the hearing and say ‘it’s too late, we’ve already deleted it,'” Pacheco said.
The move, he said, amounts to “essentially an admission of guilt by the city.”
“They know we’re going to win this hearing for the temporary restraining order, so they’re trying to get ahead of the court so they can, I’m going to call it unethical, argue that, ‘hey, this doesn’t matter, because we already know the statue,” he said.
However, Pacheco said nothing would stop a court from ordering them to hand over the statue.
“So if they think they’re getting ahead of the game, they’re actually making a mistake. And they’re basically admitting that they don’t want the court to interfere with what they’ve already decided on. go. do,” he said. “Courts have a way of responding poorly to these kinds of things.”
Pacheco also said that “it kind of tells you who’s running the city.”
“That they make such a last minute decision in the dark at night to stop a judge from doing their job and they don’t even want to go to court, that tells you they know they’re going to lose and they really are unethical people,” he said. “I mean, that’s who we’re dealing with, it’s almost like a criminal enterprise or something. If they believe in America and the justice system, then they shouldn’t have a problem. If I remember correctly, the city attorney was directing his on how they were going to win. Well, apparently he doesn’t think they’re going to win. So he and you know, his gang of five are trying to prevent the court from hearing it. I’ve never seen anything like it from elected officials.”
Pacheco said he will be in court at 8:30 a.m. to ask the judge to hear the case on Tuesday rather than the time scheduled for Wednesday and to stop the statue from being moved. He said he attempted to notify Palm Springs City Attorney Jeff Ballinger that he was doing so, but Ballinger did not immediately return his call.
City attorney says plans to remove statue have been underway for days
Ballinger, meanwhile, told The Desert Sun that the decision to move the statue was not sudden but had been in the works for several weeks.
“It’s by no means something sudden,” he said. “The city has been working over the past few weeks to put this in place. What is actually last minute is their motion. It was just filed last Friday.”
Ballinger said the city signed a contract to have the statue moved on May 3, a week before the petition was filed.
“And as you can imagine, the process of signing a contract doesn’t happen overnight,” he said. “So city staff actually worked in accordance with council guidelines in February to put this contract in place. And we haven’t heard a single word from Mr. Pacheco in the last two and a half months and so straight away. , per council direction the staff went ahead and completed the dismissal contract and then last friday they filed their motion and he didn’t even serve the lawsuit until today today.
“So if there’s anything last minute, it’s Pacheco’s paperwork,” he added.
Ballinger also said he thought most attorneys in Pacheco’s position would have assumed the city was finalizing plans to remove the statue.
“And again, if he had spoken to us he would have known, but we haven’t heard from him since February,” Ballinger said.
Ballinger said the city did not announce the date the statue would be moved until Monday because it did not believe it was appropriate to do so amid litigation.
“The board made it clear what the timeline was and when it would happen,” he said. “And in the midst of litigation, there wasn’t something that we felt was appropriate to publicize and politicize.”
Ballinger said a representative from the city attorney’s office will be in court at 8:30 a.m. Tuesday, despite being at city hall.
“It’s his right to go and ask the court to move it,” Ballinger said. “But again, all of this would be useless if you spoke to us and communicated with us.”
Bogert was mayor during the Section 14 evictions
Bogert was mayor of Palm Springs in the 1950s and 1960s, when about 200 people were evicted from their homes on Section 14, a parcel of land owned by members of the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians. At the time, the rules for how long these lands could be leased had recently changed, and the evictions, facilitated by the city, were intended to accelerate the economic development of the property.
The statue has come under renewed scrutiny during the national movement to reconsider the place of statues associated with the Confederacy and other statues that some say depict racist figures after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis .
Last year, the Palm Springs Commission on Human Rights issued a resolution recommending the removal of the statue.
“[The statue] is also widely seen as an offensive and painful public reminder of a legacy of urban renewal that banished the vast majority of people of color from city limits, and of the current realities of systemic racism born from his leadership as mayor in 1958. to 1966” read the resolution.
In September 2021, the Palm Springs City Council voted 5-0 to begin the process to remove the statue. This process involved several hearings in which the Historic Site Preservation Board considered whether city rules governing historic sites permitted its removal from City Hall. The commission ultimately voted 4 to 2, with one abstention, to issue a certificate authorizing the removal of the statue.
During the process, Pacheco repeatedly argued that the city violated its own rules governing historic sites, which state that an alteration to a historic site must not “impact or materially alter the character-defining elements of ‘a historical resource’.
City rules also state that an alteration must “help restore the historic resource to its original appearance.”
Pacheco pointed to a 2012 resolution stating that historic designation covers features and structures on the streets surrounding the site of City Hall. He said this indicates that the statue is part of the historic resource and that removing it would inherently detract from the appearance of the resource.
The statue was built by artist Raymundo Cobo Reyes and placed in City Hall in 1990. The city passed a resolution making City Hall a protected historic site in 1996.
Last month, Ballinger told the Desert Sun that Pacheco’s lawsuit appeared to be “completely devoid of any legal basis.”
“I anticipate the city will ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit, and I expect the city to prevail, as it has done in other similar cases recently,” he said. “It is very unfortunate that the petitioners and their attorney have resorted to a frivolous lawsuit such as this.”
Ballinger said at the time that he was unaware of any plans to delay the removal of the statue.
This is a developing story that will be updated.