Heated debate and a possible vote over a statue, a chance to weigh in on a delayed housing development, and the official dedication of a facility to aid those experiencing homelessness are all on the calendar this week in the city.
Here’s what to watch for:
By far the biggest topic of discussion in the city in recent weeks has been the proposed removal and relocation of a statue in front of Palm Springs City Hall that honors former Mayor Frank Bogert. A joint meeting of the Palm Springs City Council and the city’s Human Rights Commission is scheduled for Wednesday evening at 5:30 PM. At issue is a resolution adopted by the Human Rights Commission in April that calls for removal of the statue.
The commission, by a 5-1 vote, recommended removal of the statue, singling out Bogert and alleging he played a key role in what the California Attorney General’s office labeled “a city-engineered Holocaust” in the late 1950s through mid-1960s in an area of the city known as Section 14.
The proposal has strong backing in the city’s African-American community, including among members of the families affected by the city’s actions in Section 14 who feel their pleas were ignored when the statue was first installed in 1990.
Opponents of the removal include members of the former mayor’s family and those who knew him personally. In recent weeks, a group named Friends of Frank Bogert has blanketed the city with yard signs urging support for Bogert, who died in 2009, in addition to purchasing advertising on television, radio, and social media.
A complete agenda and instructions to view, listen, or participate in the meeting can be found here.
ACCESS CENTER RIBBON CUTTING
After moving to deny renewing the permit of a cooling center for those experiencing homelessness in the Baristo Park neighborhood, the city has contracted with Martha’s Kitchen to offer similar services at the former Boxing Club facility across from the entrance to Palm Springs International Airport.
The city plans a grand opening celebration at the Boxing Club facility at 225 S. El Cielo Rd. starting at 9:30 AM Thursday. The facility offers not only a chance for those experiencing homelessness to escape the often brutal summer heat, but also access to shower facilities and case management services, including housing assistance and help navigating federal and state benefits.
In communications with city leaders and staff, on the pages of social media, and in polling by The Post and other media serving the city, the issue of solving homelessness, specifically caring for and aiding those who suffer from it, is repeatedly called out as the most pressing issue in the city by residents. The latest Riverside County data shows approximately 189 people are identified as homeless in the city, the most of any city in the Coachella Valley.
There is no debate that a long-term solution is needed, including the possible construction of a campus within city limits offering housing and crucial services, such as counseling, rehabilitation, and job training. Until that solution arises, however, organizations such as Martha’s, Well in the Desert, and others continue providing daily survival services, such as food, clothing, showers, and some overnight accommodations.
There is some debate, however, about how the city should be spending a $10 million state grant that it received in 2020 aimed at providing help to address the issue. Members of the public have claimed the money is not being spent fast enough to provide solutions for homelessness in the community. Elected officials have defended decisions about how to use the funds, stating that spending portions of the grant to help offset the cost of permanent housing projects helps prevent homelessness.
The public will get another chance to weigh in on the Serena Park housing development, proposed for the site of the former Palm Springs Country Club, during the Palm Springs City Council’s regular meeting Thursday evening at 5:30 PM.
The city’s Planning Commission earlier this month moved the development forward to the City Council, but not before adding multiple new conditions in the process.
The developers, collectively known as PS Country Club LLC, were seeking approval of a roughly 1.5-year delay in the project’s schedule and a one-year delay in the payment of $3 million in fees that are due November 1. Those requests could be granted by the City Council following public testimony Thursday, but the Council may require the developers to:
- Thoroughly clean all garbage and dead foliage from the property and secure it within 30 days;
- Provide the city with a copy of a contract with a security company for daily monitoring of the property; and
- Pay the city $1 million free and clear this year and $2 million in 2022.
Information about participating in the meeting, as well as offering comments, can be found here.
Also on the City Council’s agenda Thursday is the opportunity for public comments about a request to grant historic designation to the “House of Tomorrow,” better known as the Elvis House, at 1350 Ladera Circle. The move to designate the home as historic was initiated after it was discovered the new owner of the home started remodeling work without first securing some of the necessary permits.