The city of Palm Springs is gearing up for a discussion this week on providing reparations for evicting minority residents from Section 14 more than 55 years ago.
"We want to see our families compensated," said Deiter Crawford. Crawford currently lives in the north Palm Springs home that his grandmother bought and finished building after she was forced by the city out of the first place she lived during the 1950s in Section 14.
"City of Palm Springs staff drove bulldozers through people's homes," said Mayor Pro Tem Lisa Middleton at an earlier council meeting. "We cannot erase our role in what happened."
In September, the city issued a formal apology for evicting families and destroying hundreds of homes, in some cases lighting them on fire.
Now, city leaders want to explore offering a reparations program – something families who were directly impacted have been asking for for decades.
A staff report published ahead of Thursday's council meeting says, "City Council briefly discussed making an allocation of $5 million for a reparations program. This amount could be safely allocated from existing [general] fund balance, enabled by ARPA funding. Council could also direct Staff to allocate any other amount that our current financial condition allows.”
"We want to actually get a check and get a payment from the property that we lost and the properties that were destroyed," Crawford said.
He said in the destruction, his family lost the value of their original home – real estate that would be worth a lot more today.
"A home today in Palm Springs goes for over $1 million on average, so our families essentially lost generational wealth that we will never be able to recoup."
The city is considering two different approaches to reparations: either a settlement, similar to a damages in a lawsuit, or atonement, focusing less on economic calculations and "more on the need to make things right."
Crawford calls reparations long overdue, and he expects to wait a while longer.
"Hopefully I'll see it before my lifetime is up," he said. "Until we actually receive the money, it's all just talk."
Several key questions will be up for discussion at this Thursday's city council meeting, including who would receive the reparations. Would it be only for people with direct ties to Section 14? Do they have to be Palm Springs residents? And of course – how much is the city willing to pay?