A Reparations Effort in Palm Springs


Palm Springs used to have a neighborhood called Section 14, where many of the desert resort’s gardeners, janitors, construction workers and housekeepers, most of them Black or Latino, lived with their families.

Section 14 was a place for the working poor, a far cry from the glamorous Palm Springs that catered to stars like Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe and Lucille Ball. Hemmed in by discriminatory housing policies, residents of color built a community of modest houses, trailers and small businesses on leased land with few services and mostly unpaved streets.

And then it was destroyed.

Section 14 was razed in the 1960s to make room for commercial development, with little notice or recourse for the displaced residents. Now they and their descendants are asking for compensation for their losses, as well as damages for racial trauma.

But it’s a complicated situation, as my colleague Audra D. S. Burch reported this week.

The city of Palm Springs has apologized for its role in the evictions and said it was committed to pursuing a program of reparations, but negotiations stalled. Some current residents of Palm Springs say they oppose any kind of financial settlement without an independent assessment of what happened, saying the city has been unfairly blamed for the destruction of Section 14. And the land belongs to a Native American tribe, the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians, which has not said publicly where it stands on the evictions or the question of compensation.

“So much about this is complex — it’s at the intersection of race, wealth and power,” the Rev. Daniel Kline of the Church of St. Paul in the Desert told Audra.

Audra’s full article about the quest for reparations in Palm Springs illustrates how difficult it can be to turn symbolic support for reparations into real action.

California created a task force in 2020 to explore possible reparations for Black residents of the state, to remedy the wrongs of systemic racism and the legacy of slavery. The task force ultimately released a lengthy report, recommending more than 100 state policy changes and, most notably, billions of dollars in direct cash payments.

State lawmakers introduced a dozen proposals this year as part of a reparations legislative package, but none are for direct cash payments.

For more:

Kitchens for Good, a nonprofit group based in San Diego, offers state-certified apprenticeship programs to people who have trouble getting jobs because they have a criminal record or are dealing with mental illness, KGTV in San Diego reports.

The program provides 10 weeks of kitchen training and then places students with local businesses to finish their apprenticeship. Eight hundred people have graduated from the program since it started in 2014.

Thanks for reading. I’ll be back tomorrow. — Soumya

P.S. Here’s today’s Mini Crossword.

Halina Bennet, Briana Scalia and Lauren Hard contributed to California Today. You can reach the team at CAtoday@nytimes.com.

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