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Section 14 survivors and descendants react to a Palm Springs City Council statement

News channel 3 reached out to the Palm Springs City Council to explain some of the components of a statement regarding Section 14, which they shared with the community on Thursday after a Closed session. Local descendants and survivors of Section 14 remain hopeful they will continue to find solutions to what the city has called a past wrong.

Statement from Mayor Jeffrey Bernstein regarding Section 14
The council agreed on the following actions:

  • My colleagues and I recognize that City funds were used to clear land which housed individuals
    and families who were tenants on the property, including minority groups. We know that we as
    a city need to right that wrong and in today’s Closed Session we collectively agreed on a
    number of steps to accomplish that goal.
  • First and foremost, we will build more affordable housing by contributing to a Community Land
  • We also agreed to focus our collective efforts to explore ways that we can increase economic
    opportunities; especially with small businesses in underserved communities. The first step we
    will be taking is asking Staff to review the results of our new small business entrepreneur pilot
    program with Caravanserai – and potentially expand funding.
  • In addition, the City of Palm Springs will explore the feasibility of a healing or cultural center,
    dedicated to Section 14. We are directing Staff to coordinate with county, state, and federal
    governments for possible funding.
  • The Council previously approved hiring a consultant for a historical context study -- and in
    today’s Closed Session we reaffirmed our commitment and asked Staff to come back within 90
    days on the hiring of that consultant and next steps.
  • The Council discussed other potential programs which would include the possible renaming of
    a community park, dedication of an art installation, and/or creating a Day of Remembrance.
  • My City Council colleagues and I are committed to continuing the conversation with the
    survivors of Section 14 and all residents of Palm Springs as we work together to address the
    inequities of the past.
  • The City of Palm Springs recognizes that marginalized and minority communities have been
    negatively impacted by City actions from the past.
  • Finally, the City Council has given direction to the City Attorney with regards to the claims
    made to the City by the residents of those displaced from Section 14.

The Section 14 group Civil Rights attorney, Areva Martin, shared a statement before the closed session took place.

"On behalf of the Palm Springs Section 14 Survivors, we are encouraged that the City of Palm Springs has heard our call for justice and has committed to taking tangible steps to make the Section 14 Survivors whole. We look forward to working closely with the City Council to reach a reasonable and just resolution, so that we can turn a page on this chapter of Palm Springs’ history and move forward.”

Updates from the City:

The City wishes to respond to your clients’ latest proposal and dollar figures. The City Council’s last offer was to pay monetary damages for verifiable real and personal property losses of those evicted from Section 14 in the 1960’s.  At our March 8 meeting, you indicated that you believe that there were approximately 1,850 houses demolished on Section 14, but that for the sake of settlement, you would be willing to agree to the number of 350 houses.

You also indicated at that meeting that you believe that the houses were worth approximately $18,000 each in 1965, and that the present value of those houses would be $490,000 to $1,000,000 per house.  Multiplying these numbers by 350 results in a real property dollar figure of $171,500,000 to $350,000,000.

With regard to personal property dollar amounts, you indicated that you believe that the 1965 value of a household’s personal property would be approximately $4,200, with a present value of $45,000.   At 350 houses, this would result in $15,750,000.

Therefore, in real dollars, your clients’ latest offer is $187,250,000 to $365,750,000.

The City’s review of public records demonstrates that the City was involved, in some way, in the demolition/burning of no more than 145 houses, following eviction by the landlords.  Moreover, based on the official court records of the Leonard case, a more realistic value of a house in 1965 is $2,000.  Assuming an additional $1,000 worth of personal property in each such house, $3,000 in 1965 has a present value of $29,494.81.   

Therefore, the City is willing to compensate up to 145 households an amount of $29,494.81.

If federal, state, or other outside funding sources become available for additional amounts, the City would be willing to consider seeking out such funding and supplementing the above-referenced amounts with such sources.  The City would welcome your client’s cooperation in seeking such additional funding.

As we have discussed recently, the issue of verification of persons entitled to these payments, the City is willing to make payments to households or their descendants of the 145 houses identified in public records as having been demolished, as long as such household or their ancestors were living in any such house. 

As you have expressed, the Section 14 discussions have been going on for some time now.  I think you will agree that this offer of monetary damages, and the potential for a resolution of these issues, for these Section 14 Survivors is a historic move.  In addition to the offer of monetary payments referenced above, the City is embarking on a concrete set of actions with definite timeframes, aimed at addressing many of the impacts of the Section 14 displacements, including many of the items requested by your clients. 

As such, it is my and the City Council’s sincere hope that your clients give this offer serious consideration for what could be truly a historic resolution in reparative justice. 

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Miyoshi Price

Miyoshi joined KESQ News Channel 3 in April 2022. Learn more about Miyoshi here.


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