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Palm Springs removes statue of former mayor Frank Bogert

After more than two years of debate and lawsuits, the city of Palm Springs removed the controversial statue of former mayor Frank Bogert in front of city hall on Wednesday.

"After more than 30 years of Frank Bogert statue standing here in front of city hall in Palm Springs it was removed in less than 90 minutes and now this is all that remains rock and dust" 

"It's disheartening for both sides, but out of it, well hopefully, they will be able to move forward as a community," said Amado Salinas, a Bogert supporter.

The statue removal process started around 7:40 a.m. with the statue hauled away at 8:15 a.m.

Palm Desert-based Art Collective Fine Art Services was hired to oversee the removal process and transport the statue to the City maintenance facility to be safely stored until a new location for the statue is found, according to city officials.

The city originally planned to move the statue on May 17, however, on that morning several local residents guarded the statue and physically prevented the move.

An attorney representing the group "The Friends of Frank Bogert" filed a temporary restraining order to prevent the removal. In early June, a judge ruled in favor of the city to move forward with the planned removal.

Hours before the statue's removal, Bogert supporters put up several American flags. 

"This is not a protest. This is simply an honor to a person who we all admire and feel was wrongly being destroyed," said Norm King, a Bogert supporter.

King said he knew Bogert personally.

Dozens of other Bogert supporters joined him including Gene Autry's wife, Jackie.

"What bothers me the most is that five city council members have not bothered to listen to any of the people in Palm Springs. The 1000s of people have gotten and supported frank sent letters protested, showed up and they don't care," said Jackie Autry.

Those in favor of removing the statue cheered. They say in the fifties and sixties, Bogert was part of forced evictions of hundreds of people from a one-square-mile block of property in downtown Palm Springs known as section 14. Betty Mayfield Taylor is one of the section 14 survivors.

"He allowed so much to happen as far as the destruction that was caused, people will see that you don't glorify someone like that," Taylor said. "To see his statue that represents such a negative, be removed from the city property. That's full circle for us."

So what comes next?

An attorney representing the group "The Friends of Frank Bogert" filed a temporary restraining order to prevent the removal. In early June, a judge ruled in favor of the city to move forward with the planned removal.

Before the judge's final decision, The Friends of Frank Bogert group held a press conference to propose relocating Bogert's Statue to the Village Green in Palm Springs from its current location in front of city hall. Bogert's widow, Negie Bogert, said the proposed location is logical – and she hopes to put this painful chapter behind her.

“The time has come to relocate the statue,” said Negie Bogert, the widow of Mayor Frank Bogert. “Sadly, by continuing to drag residents through this fight, our leaders risk further tearing this city apart.”

Who is Frank Bogert and what's the controversy over his statue?

Bogert was one of Palm Springs' most famous cowboys and a major figure in the city's history. He served as the city's mayor from 1958 to 1966. He returned for a second term as the city's first-ever directly mayor from 1982 to 1988.

Bogert died in 2009 at the age of 99.

For nearly two years, Bogert has been the subject of controversy with public outcry for his statue to be removed following accusations that he was part of the removal of hundreds of people from a one-square-mile block of property in downtown Palm Springs referred to as Section 14.

From 1954 to 1966 about 200 structures were demolished and burned. The actions displaced hundreds of low-income residents and people of color to make room for hotels and further tourism. The city did not have a plan to relocate the residents, forcing many of them to move to the north part of town and throughout the county.

Check Out: City of Palm Springs Citywide Historic Context Statement & Survey Findings

The demolition of Section 14 was described in a later California Department of Justice report as "a city engineered holocaust."

In April 2021, the Palm Springs Human Rights Commission voted to recommend the city council remove the statue from city hall. In Sept., the City Council voted to begin the process to remove the statue and issue an apology for the city government's role in the destruction of Section 14.

The process to remove the statue was a lengthy process, as city hall is a Class 1 (Landmark) historic resource.

On February 1, 2022, the City’s Historic Site Preservation Board (HSPB) voted 4-2 (with 1 abstention) to approve a certificate of appropriateness for the removal of the statue. The board added a strong recommendation that the City Council ensure relocation of the statue to a suitable, publicly accessible site in perpetuity.

Days after the board's decision, attorney Rod Pacheco filed an appeal of the decision on behalf of his client, the group "The Friend of Mayor Frank Bogert." The group advocated for keeping the statue where it is. Frank Bogert's widow, Negie Bogert, said the campaign to move a statue of her husband is full of slander and lies.

"I don't think that he was perfect but he was not by any means what they portray him as being," Negie told News Channel 3's Jake Ingrassia in Sept. 2021.

The appeal was broken down into three categories:

  • The City did not follow the municipal code in approving the Certificate of Appropriateness;
  • Appellant’s assertion that the issuance of the Certificate of Appropriateness
    violates the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”); and
  • Appellant’s assertion that federal and state laws regarding visual art on public
    display bars the proposed City action.

Check out the full appeal here

On Feb. 24, the city council unanimously voted to deny the appeal and upheld the HSPB's decision.

Councilmembers directed staff to work stakeholders to identify an appropriate location, not on City property, for the Bogert statue within 60 days. If no alternative location was found, the Bogert statue would be removed to secure storage until a new home is found.

City officials said the council authorized City Attorney Jeff Ballinger to enter into an agreement to extend the statute of limitations by 30 days, but the Friends of Mayor Frank Bogert group did not request any such extension. As a result, during that time, City staff made arrangements for the removal of the statue, in accordance with the City Council’s February 24 decision.

On Friday, Pacheco filed a motion for a temporary restraining order to prevent the removal of the statue, city officials said.

Despite plans to remove the statue on Tuesday, a hearing on that motion is scheduled for Wednesday.

"The City has been, and remains, willing to work with the group to find an appropriate location to place the statue. It will be safely stored until a new location has been determined," reads a notice by Palm Springs city officials.

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Marian Bouchot

Marian Bouchot is the weekend morning anchor and a reporter for KESQ News Channel 3. Learn more about Marian here.

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