Desert Hot Springs
A city on the move
Desert Hot Springs boasts the best views of the valley of majestic Mt. San Jacinto.
Photo by Chris Miller
Desert Hot Springs, experiencing a resurgence of energy from within, is truly a “City on the Move” that is growing into its potential. The city’s new Vortex Downtown Revitalization Plan was recently adopted by the City Council and includes a vision for the city that will transform Desert Hot Springs into a world-class health and wellness destination.
The city not only provided the vision, but also the resources to begin a transformation. The energy of development is clearly visible as you drive into the renovated downtown at Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard with new streetscape and building façades. This $4 million renovation of the heart of the city included new sidewalks and curbs that frame the freshly paved road inset by stately young palms in diamond-shaped planters.
Desert-landscaped medians with stamped concrete, river rock, antique lighting, and lush desert plants now center the streets. Street signs clearly mark the way, and building façade improvements and renovations on each corner speak of a resurgence of business and civic pride in downtown.
Mayor Yvonne Parks said, “In the past two years, we have improved some 37 miles of streets throughout the City of Desert Hot Springs and completely transformed the look and feel of our downtown. Once the Vortex Plan is completed, downtown Desert Hot Springs will be a destination for residents and visitors to eat, shop, and play.”
Desert Hot Springs was first known for its mineral hot springs, sunshine, and refreshing cool water — a vortex of wind, sun, earth, and water energy.
Today, its boutique and historic resorts and spas such as Two Bunch Palms, El Morocco Inn and Spa, Tuscan Springs, and many others have formed the Desert Hot Springs Hotelier Association to market Desert Hot Springs as “Spa City.”
The city hosts the first Wellness and World Music Festival, early 2011, with reggae icon Ziggy Marley as headliner. The event promises to “meld all aspects of wellness, healthy living, and sustainability with world music.” Musical artists, inspirational speakers, treatment specialists and noted wellness leaders will share their knowledge for “living a healthy, positive and energized lifestyle.” For more information, go online to www.visitdeserthotsprings.com.
“Our plan is to move forward with retail, restaurant, and commerce as the base that encourages people to stop, eat, stay, and play in Desert Hot Springs,” Parks says.
Often referred to as the “shining city on the hill,” the city of Desert Hot Springs is combining its plentiful natural assets of hot water, world-class drinking water, unmatched views, and cooler summer temperatures with innovative and aggressive city leaders to energetically realize its great potential and build the Coachella Valley’s “City of the Future.”
FOCUS ON HEALTH AND WELLNESS
“In addition to fiscal responsibility and economic development, City Council and staff are dedicated to improving the quality of life in Desert Hot Springs,” says Parks. “Public health is paramount to the quality of life.”
In the past, there were only 1.5 doctors for Desert Hot Springs’ 26,000 residents. Now the new Desert Hot Springs Medical Center houses three additional full-time doctors to the city. In addition, Riverside County is developing 14 acres along Palm Drive for a new regional center that will include a health clinic, workforce development, and social services offices.
On the drawing board is a new community health and wellness center that will have a gymnasium, meeting rooms, and pool that the high school will use for water polo and swim meets, as well as community use. With computer and game rooms, the Boys & Girls Clubs of Coachella Valley will also use the facilities for its programs and events.
Located between the high school and City Hall, with access from Cholla Drive, the building will meet advanced standards for green practices and energy efficiency. Collaborating with private donations along with school, county, and federal agencies for funding, the center should be open by the end of next year.
All of these programs and plans support Desert Hot Springs’ designation as a HEAL community (Healthy Eating, Active Living), the first valley city to win this California state designation.
“With schools and employers becoming involved in healthy eating, recycling, green programs, community gardens projects, and promoting a healthy community, we plan to keep that designation,” says Parks.
The community’s renaissance includes neighborhood renewal, public infrastructure improvements, and new commercial and retail projects.
The city has acquired properties on the southwest, northeast, and northwest corners of Pierson and Palm totaling some seven acres for multiuse business, residential, and hotel development. Plans call for a beautiful, functional, and vibrant downtown Desert Hot Springs.
A part of the downtown area is set aside as a natural park. Angled southwest with a dramatic view of Mt. San Jacinto, the open vista makes an aesthetically profound statement while creating a recreation area in the heart of the city.
COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT PROJECTS
Upgrading neighborhoods helps improve property values and promotes public health and safety, as well as community pride. The Community Development Department has implemented several measures to improve and beautify neighborhoods.
A neighborhood cleanup of debris took place in October of last year and February of this year. The cleanups will be quarterly, according to Mayor Parks.
The city has bought foreclosed homes for rehabilitation and resale, promoting home ownership. New ordinances stipulate that agents managing foreclosures are now required to keep the houses looking presentable. Also, owners of multiple properties or multifamily housing are required to manage their properties in accord with a Safe Housing Program. The program is aimed at increasing safety awareness of residents and providing quality housing.
City leaders recognized that neighborhood renewal was imperative to improving the quality of life for residents. A strategic effort of ridding the city of code violations was enacted. Additionally, a graffiti abatement plan was adopted, and graffiti has been eradicated.
“There used to be a problem with graffiti. Now with our 24-hour graffiti hot line and increased code enforcement, neighborhoods are clean, and there is a new sense of pride,” says Parks. The Neighborhood Renewal Program offers grants up to $15,000 for homeowners for home improvements such as new weatherization, landscape, paint and stucco repair, roofs, and installation of energy-efficient measures like new air conditioning units.
In cooperation with Riverside County, millions have been spent creating more affordable homes. The city has redeveloped several properties such as Desert Willow, a formerly failed condominium development.
Redevelopment and improvement contracts must use local labor and goods.
“Desert Hot Springs’ unemployment rate is above the county average,” Parks says. “Community development projects are also designed to invigorate our own economy by hiring local workers and purchasing local goods and equipment to encourage local employment.”
“Parks and community buildings are extremely important for the health and well-being of the community, as young and old congregate for sporting events, recreation, education, and relaxation,” says Parks. “Improving the quality and safety of our parks helps bring our community together.
Mission Springs Park was reconfigured from combination soccer and baseball fields to an exclusive soccer park, now offering a dedicated place for American Youth Soccer Organization clubs. A new walking path, beautiful landscaping, and smaller play areas make the park a destination for young and old.
Wardman Park was renovated with new dugouts, bleachers, and lighting, providing Little League teams a world-class baseball park.
The Tedesco Park Lozano Community Center was renovated by adding a full kitchen and meeting rooms to better serve the community. Service providers and organizations — such as Gilda’s Club — use the center to offer programs to the community. The park also houses a neighborhood police office and Citizens on Patrol, establishing a strong police presence in the park and neighborhood. I-10
FREEWAY CORRIDOR EXPANDS DEVELOPMENT OPPORTUNITIES
In February, the city officially annexed 4,000 acres that connects the city to Interstate 10 at Palm Drive and at Indian Avenue. Now, when motorists exit I-10, they are in Desert Hot Springs.
Acreage alongside the interstate will also afford Desert Hot Springs new commercial possibilities for such developments as a regional auto mall, shopping centers, hotels, and industrial areas — another way to increase goods and services to residents while also increasing the city’s sales tax revenue for public safety and community services.
“This affords Desert Hot Springs more opportunity for exposure along the I-10, which some 150,000 people travel daily,” says Parks. “The annexation provided additional economic development opportunities by expanding the community’s job base.”
City officials are also working with the Coachella Valley Association Governments with respect to the Multi-Species Habitat Conservation Plan that affects a large portion of the newly annexed area by setting aside from development natural areas for threatened and endangered desert plant and wildlife species.
ADDED SAFETY MEASURES:
TOOLS FOR POLICE AND TIGHTENED CRIME PREVENTION
The City Council’s top priority is to promote public safety. Over the past two years, voters overwhelmingly approved two tax measures dedicated to public safety. The measures provide funding for additional officers and the tools they need to fight crime. The city has installed 32 community cameras in key areas such as parks and major intersections. Desert Hot Springs police cars are now equipped with mobile computers connected to the cameras so that they can zoom in to see a situation in real time, pinpoint location, and respond faster and smarter.
A recent sting operation known as Operation Falling Sun removed some 125 gang leaders when 700 law enforcement officers descended upon targeted areas in Desert Hot Springs. The operation received a state award. The Riverside County District Attorney was successful in acquiring two gang injunctions that prohibit gang members from associating on public streets. Additional measures approved by the City Council are geared at ridding the city of parolees and sex offenders.
WEST VALLEY ENTERPRISE ZONE AND OTHER COALITIONS
In partnership with Cathedral City and Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs has applied for a West Valley Enterprise Zone. The Enterprise Zone Program exists to stimulate business investment in depressed areas and create job opportunities by offering state tax credits and incentives to businesses operating within the zone and hiring new employees.
These incentives combine to form a powerful economic development tool for expanding existing and luring new businesses to the area and spurring economic growth.
The mayors of the three cities are working together to address the issues they have in common and are thinking more regionally about what benefits the west end of the valley.
Mayor: Yvonne Parks
Mayor Pro Tem: Scott Matas
Council Members: Russell Betts, Karl Baker, Jan Pye
Year Incorporated: 1963
Median Household Income: $36,379