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Palm Springs, CA may spend $169,000 to remove "racist" trees.

Palm Springs will remove the trees blocking a historically black area from a city golf course

A row of tall tamarisk trees separates the Crossley Tracts neighborhood from the city-owned Tahquitz Creek Golf Course. (Photo: Jay Calderon/The Desert Sun)



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A row of Tamarisk Trees have segregated a primarily black neighborhood from the rest of Palm Springs for decades.

Palm Springs will remove a row of tamarisk trees blocking a historically African American neighborhood from the city-owned Tahquitz Creek Golf Course. 

At an informal meeting with neighborhood residents Sunday, Mayor Robert Moon, council member J.R. Roberts and other city officials promised residents they would remove the trees and a chain link fence along the Crossley Tract property lines as soon as possible.

Many longtime residents of the neighborhood previously told The Desert Sun they believed the trees were planted for racist reasons in the 1960s, and remained a lasting remnant of the history of segregation in the city. Residents said the invasive tamarisks, which block views of the golf course and San Jacinto mountains, have artificially depressed property values and prevented black families from accumulating wealth in their property over the past half century.

Roberts apologized to the Crossley Tract residents for any wrongdoing by the city in the past and said he and the rest of the council wanted to make the necessary changes to ensure future generations didn’t have to deal with the same problems current and past residents faced.

“You asked why it took us this long,” Roberts told about 50 residents gathered for the meeting on a vacant lot on Lawrence Street. “I can’t answer that. But guess what? We’re here now.”

Moon said Sunday he and Roberts had only a combined four years on the council and the problems posed by the trees only recently come to their attention. Moon said after he became aware of the issue, he visited the neighborhood to get a first-hand idea of what residents concerns were.

Both Moon and Roberts assured residents that the neighborhood had the support of the entire council.

“It’s a new city council and a new time,” Moon said.

City Manager David Ready said the tree removal wouldn’t be immediate as the full city council would have to approve the matter. Arborists would also have to be consulted and the project–like any requiring significant city funds–would have to be put out to bid, Ready said. But he estimated the trees could be down within three months.

Ready previously said estimates the city had received for removing the trees were about $169,000. Approval of expenditures over $20,000 have to go to the city council for the thumbs up, and city officials also have to figure out where, in a city budget stretched thin by rising public safety costs and hundreds of millions of unfunded pension liabilities and retiree healthcare costs, that money will be allocated from.

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