A row of trees separates a historically African-American neighborhood from a city-owned golf course in Palm Springs. Many old-time residents believed the trees were planted in the 1960s mainly for racist purposes. City officials are now looking- and vowing- to rectify the situation.
During an informal meeting with residents on Sunday, local officials led by Palm Springs Mayor Robert Moon and council member J.R. Roberts promised the residents that they would remove as soon as possible the tamarisk trees and a chain link fence along the Crossley Tract property.
The trees separating the community from the golf course are considered as a lasting remnant of the history of segregation in the city. Residents have long complained that the invasive tamarisks blocking the views of the Tahquitz Creek Golf Course and San Jacinto mountains, are responsible for artificially depressing the property values, and more importantly, prevented black families from gaining wealth in their property over the recent five decades or so.
Roberts expressed apologies to the Crossley Tract residents for any “wrongdoing” the city may have caused them in the past. Moon also said they were only made aware of the problem recently. Both officials vowed to support and lead the necessary changes to ensure that future generations would not have to deal with what the present residents are contending with.
For the trees to be fully removed, however, would require the approval of the entire council. The project would have to go through bidding due to the significant city funds it would need. The soonest the trees could be torn down is within three months. The cost for such project is estimated to be roughly around $169,000.
Projects or costs amounting to anything beyond $20,000 would require the approval of the entire council. With a tight budget stretched thin as it is by rising security costs and hundreds of millions of unfunded pension liabilities and retiree health costs, city officials have to determine where the funds for the tree removal project will be allocated from.
Residents have other demands as well but Roberts wants to start with the trees as the first step and will proceed once the project is achieved.
Some of the downtown Palm Springs’ most lucrative real estate, especially the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians’ reservation hosting the convention center, casino, and hotels used to be home black and Latino residents running in thousands. The blacks and Latinos then were evicted. Their homes were bulldozed and burned when the city cleared the land for new development.
The Crossley Tract was founded by Palm Springs’ first African-American resident Lawrence Crossley in 1956. He first intended for the 20-acre tract to be a place where black families who worked in Palm Springs but were not allowed to live there could stay.