coachella-valley-cities

Hot Spots

Life in the desert has never been more desirable. Here’s our tour of the nine cities we call home.

Janice Kleinshmidt Current PSL, Real Estate

coachella-valley-cities
PHOTOGRAPH BY GRANT CORNETT

You can find civic pride across the nation. Green Bayers boast about their Packers. New Yorkers know everyone lusts for their museums, restaurants, and Broadway shows. And Honoluluans claim magnificent beaches and the largest (only?) pool of hula-dancing talent.

But you’d be hard-pressed to find a region whose residents use the word “paradise” as often as those of the Coachella Valley do when they describe their towns. It’s hard to escape the allure of open vistas, warm weather, and laid-back living.

From Desert Hot Springs in the north to La Quinta in the south, Coachella Valley residents love their cities. Transportation is a major reason: With a relatively low population — 380,478 in 2017, growing by about 5,000 per year since 2012 — drivability gets high marks (bicycling less so, because traffic flow allows for fast-moving cars). Residents also give kudos to walkability, local recreation and cultural attractions, affordability, and capable civic leadership.

When the worst thing you can say about your California city is that it lacks a pub (that from English-born, Rancho Mirage resident Samantha Tweddell — although we would point her in the direction of Lord Fletcher’s), you can’t deny that the living is good

Cathedral City

POPULATION

54,557

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

$41,696

HOME 
OWNERSHIP 
RATE

59.8%

MEDIAN PRICE OF DETACHED HOMES, UP 9.3% IN LAST YEAR (82.7% OVER FIVE YEARS).

$265,228

Some big projects are in the works for Cat City. A new park with amphitheater will occupy 2.5 acres at the corner of Cathedral Canyon Drive and Avenida Lalo Guerrero, and the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians are planning a “mixed-use entertainment and gaming district” on 13 acres at Date Palm and East Palm Canyon drives.
the local view

Haddon Libby
Investment adviser; resident of current 
home since 2017, desert resident since 2001
 (from Los Angeles)

“The Cove is a microcosm of the desert — a melting pot of all cultures, ethnicities, and sexual preferences. Outside of Indio, I don’t think there is another city with more family-oriented activities in the Coachella Valley. Generally, the governance of this city has been A+ under the current city council, city manager, and staff.”

Jay Juiliano
Retired customer-service rep. ; resident of current home since 2015, desert resident since 2012 (from Denver)

“I love the view, and the people who live here are very friendly. But there’s not much to do in the area. The city is trying to rebuild the downtown. There are plans to build a hotel and a casino, but it is taking forever to get going.

“We have a good police department. They’re very oriented to the citizens.”

Josie Diaz
Business owner; resident of current home since 2010, desert resident since 1960 (from Moss Landing, California)

“My favorite aspect of living in Cathedral City is its size. It is a very small, unique city. It offers a touristy feeling, but also the closeness of community residents. I feel the city governing bodies strive to create a safe city, opportunities for growth with the interest and benefits of residents, and inclusion.”

the facts

A 1,700-square-foot home that costs $286,528 in Cathedral City would cost $639,157 in San Diego; $829,153 in Irvine; and $2.31 million in Beverly Hills.

In strange-law news: It is prohibited to sleep in a 
parked vehicle 
in Cathedral City.

Busby Berkeley, Sonny Bono, Frank Sinatra, and Betty Hutton are among the celebrities buried at Palm Springs Cemetery in Cathedral City.

coachella

MEDIAN PRICE OF DETACHED HOMES, 
UP 3.1% IN LAST YEAR (84.1% IN FIVE YEARS).
$232,000

POPULATION
45,551

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME
$36,124

HOME OWNERSHIP RATE
64.9%

Coachella’s housing market saw low unit sales of 233 in 2017, despite the fact that it’s the second-largest city in the valley by population. This indicates that once people buy a home there, they hold onto it.
the local view

Irene Rodriguez
Museum executive director; resident of current home since 2008; lifetime desert resident

“Media gives the city unnecessary notoriety over highlighting some of the wonderful things the city has accomplished or is trying to accomplish. There has been an increase of parks, and developments are in progress. I would like to see more women in office, though.”

Elizabeth Peña
Administrative assistant; lifelong desert resident

“I chose my neighborhood to be close to my family and job. The thing I like most about living in Coachella is being able to visit family and taking bike rides in our nice and safe parks. However, the city needs street repairs and more front-lawn ordinances.”

Elsa Reyes
Chamber employee; resident of current home since 1960; lifelong 
desert resident

“Coachella is a friendly city where you know your neighbors.

“Our city council has brought new business to the city, 
so many upgrades are being made, including a new library and 
our first hotel, which is much needed. 
The city still needs some face-lifting here and there and needs to fill some old, empty buildings with businesses.”

the facts

Coachella was meant to be called Conchilla 
(Spanish for “little shells”), but the printer misspelled it on the town prospectus in 1901. Rather than delay announcement 
of the new town, founders adopted the incorrect name.

Coachella in January 2016 adopted ordinances setting forth zoning regulations for medical cannabis cultivation and processing. The city has designated more than 300 acres of land for cannabis cultivation and facilities and has at least 10 development projects in the works.

desert hot springs

POPULATION

29,111

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

$34,059

HOME OWNERSHIP RATE

45.5%

MEDIAN PRICE OF DETACHED
HOMES, UP 13.7% IN LAST YEAR
(105% OVER FIVE YEARS,
THE HIGHEST GAIN OF THE
DESERT CITIES).

$199,000

 

Desert Hot Springs is the only city in the region that has more households renting than owning, based in part on low household income. Median rent is $899 per month (vs. $725 in Indian Wells, $973 in Palm Springs, $1,055 in Indio, and $1,381 in La Quinta).
the local view

Jeffrey Rosenberg
Insurance broker/agent;
 resident since 2012 
(from Los Angeles)

“My neighborhood is very residential, with full-time residents and well-kept homes. My favorite things to do in Desert Hot Springs are to walk the trails by my house right into the hills and eat at great restaurants. You can get the same type of meals a lot cheaper [than in other Coachella Valley cities].”

Richard Duran
Retired from the hospitality industry; resident of current home since 2004; desert resident since 1987 (from Cloverdale, California)

“My Mission Lakes neighbors are mostly working-class families, a few retired couples, and a few younger couples. The thing I like most about Desert Hot Springs is the low-key lifestyle, fresh air, no traffic congestion, and view of the valley below.

“I would like to see our city officials bring more business to the community.”

Danny Holt
Concert pianist and music teacher; part-time resident since 2010; full-time since 2014 (from Los Angeles)

“Desert Hot Springs could use more and better parks. Thankfully, we enjoy easy access to hiking trails. The thing I like the most about living here is that it feels very remote but isn’t actually isolated.

“There is a burgeoning interest in the arts here, and 
I would love to see city officials do a better job of branding the city.”

the facts

Desert Hot Springs came in third in the category of Best Municipal Water at the 2018 Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting competition.

The first major new Coachella Valley hiking trail in more than a decade opened to hikers, bikers, equestrians, and dogs in March just outside of Desert Hot Springs. The Kim Nicol Trail is a 5.6-mile loop.

Desert Hot Springs has the greatest percentage of detached housing, 
13.9%, of the nine cities.

indian wells

POPULATION

5,450

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

$96,961

HOME OWNERSHIP RATE

85.9%

MEDIAN PRICE OF DETACHED HOMES, UP 0.6% IN LAST YEAR. THE HOUSING MARKET IN INDIAN WELLS IS THE WEAKEST OF THE NINE CITIES, WITH MEDIAN PRICE OVER FIVE YEARS DOWN 6.7%

$840,000

Indian Wells has the highest median income in the Valley and an extraordinarily high average income of $179,602. This accounts for the home ownership rate of 85.9%, among the highest in the nation.
the local view

Frank Gaeta
Retired CEO of industrial distribution companies; part-time resident since 1981; full-time since 1997 (from Kansas)

“Desert Horizons Country Club residents represent a wide variety of ages and ethnic backgrounds. They are a very friendly and caring group of people.

“The thing I like the most about Indian Wells is that they keep it so pristine.”

Gloria Alvarez
Retired exercise instructor; resident since 2006 (from Florida)

“Toscana Country Club has amazing facilities. We are now experiencing the growth we needed; it is not like in the ‘early days,’ when we all knew each other, but it is wonderful to meet new people.

“Indian Wells has everything that a big city has but wrapped into a small town, and it is easy to get around.”

Cynthia Cottrell
Retired schoolteacher and journalist; part-time resident since 1990; full-time since 1997 (from Fullerton, California)

“There are several families with children, but generally ours is a neighborhood of retirees and part-time residents. As Indian Wells residents, we are offered reduced 
rates at Indian Wells Golf Resort and local hotels.”

the facts

$466 MILLION: Total gross economic impact on the region of the 2017 BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament.

Developer TMC Group is reportedly planning a $130 million project at Miles Avenue and Highway 111, adjacent to the Tennis Garden, that will consist of a five-story boutique hotel, 56 condos, and more than 30 vacation villas.

indio

POPULATION

88,718

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

$49,551

HOME OWNERSHIP RATE

64.5%

MEDIAN PRICE OF DETACHED HOMES, UP 9.1% IN LAST YEAR (62.2% OVER FIVE YEARS).

$300,000

The Indio Fashion Mall has new owners, Haagen Co., who plan “to redevelop and expand the property into a “vibrant retail, dining, and entertainment destination.” 
The adjacent 20 acres of land will be incorporated into the project.
the local view

Liberty Naud
President of an education nonprofit; resident of current home since 2006; desert resident since 2004 (from active military duty)

“My neighborhood is diverse with regard to family types: nuclear, LGBTQ, stepfamilies, multigenerational families, and a spectrum of ethnicities. I love being 10 minutes from polo and festivals. But I’m disappointed that the city has not found a way to revitalize Old Town. You can’t help but feel how much fun it could be with a nightclub, community center, and eateries.”

John Branstetter
Artist; resident of current home since 2012; desert resident since 1986 (from Missouri)

“I moved to my community for cheap commercial space and a promising, emerging art scene. I am pleased with progress in development and governance. They have started working on an art-in-public-places program.

“The thing I like most about Indio is the ethnic diversity. If forced to say something negative, I would say that it lacks a competent planning commission.”

Patty Schwartz
Retired from special education; resident of current home since 2016; desert resident since 2001 (from San Bernardino, California)

“We sold all three of our properties to move to Trilogy at The Polo Club. Trilogy offers us so much of what we need; however, it’s still close enough to get anywhere we want in Palm Desert in a short period of time.

“The city is doing a great job at growing our economy. The addition of new restaurants and shopping centers has been wonderful.”

the facts

The population of the Coachella Valley has increased by 23,398 people in the last five years. Indio, the largest city, accounts for 41% of that gain.

The Empire Polo Club — which has 12 grass fields (including one lit for night games), an indoor polo arena and stadium, two exercise tracks, and stables for more than 650 horses — turns newbies on to the sport through an activity of its own invention: 
golf cart polo.

la quinta

MEDIAN PRICE OF DETACHED HOMES, UP 9.3% IN LAST YEAR (41.8% OVER FIVE YEARS).

$425,300

POPULATION

40,677

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

$71,338

HOME OWNERSHIP RATE

69.7%

La Quinta had the strongest housing market of the nine cities last year, with 1,326 detached homes sold.
the local view

Mark Johnson
Part-time water resource consultant; resident of 
current home since 2005; desert resident since 
2004 (from Illinois)

“The quality of the schools, convenience of shopping and highways, and new construction convinced us to buy in the gated community of La Quinta Del Oro. The thing I like the most about La Quinta is the outdoor recreational opportunities and the scenic beauty.

“I am satisfied with our governance. City leaders allow citizen input and use modern communication mediums to keep residents informed.”

Mary Ellen Blanton
Retired school administrator;
resident since 2003 (from Anaheim Hills, California)

“Our Rancho La Quinta Country Club neighbors are similar to us, although we are the senior citizens on our street. Half of our immediate neighbors are from Canada.
“My favorite things to do in La Quinta are to walk in our safe neighborhood and play golf on our country club’s top-quality courses.

“La Quinta is a mid-size city with good administrators and a fine city council and chamber of commerce.”

the facts

25: The number of golf courses in La Quinta.

The original casitas at La Quinta Resort & Club — the city’s oldest resort, dating back to 1926 — were painted white with bright-blue doors and windows because of a belief held by the Cahuilla Indians that blue would bring good luck and protection against evil spirits.

Look for La Quinta’s official bird, Gambel’s quail, in the early morning and late afternoon, when they are active, foraging on the ground in large groups.

palm desert

MEDIAN PRICE OF DETACHED HOMES, UP 5.8% IN LAST YEAR (27.1% OVER FIVE YEARS).

$375,000

POPULATION

50,740

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

$53,701

HOME OWNERSHIP RATE

60.1%

Palm Desert has the lowest population growth rate of the nine cities, up by only 1,700 people in five years.
the local view

Erin Moore-Sullivan

Assistant VP and branch manager for a staffing agency; resident of current home since 2016; desert resident since 2008 (from Burbank, California)

“The Avenues of the States neighborhood is close to schools, shopping, and main streets, as well as the freeway. Also, the area is popular for rentals, so I know I have the ability to turn my home into a rental without fear of it being vacant for any long period of time.

“If forced to say something negative about Palm Desert, it would be that there are not enough sidewalks.”

Frank Walker
Retired special education specialist and realtor; resident from 1989 to 1998 and 2006 to present (from Costa Mesa, California)

“The people on my street, with three exceptions, are senior citizens and empty nesters. I am the only one who identifies as LGBT. However, there are more like me in Canyon Cove and surrounding areas.

“Palm Desert is a well-run, progressive city. But city leaders are too concerned about having everything look great 
for ‘the season.’ What about full-time residents?”

the facts

Rep. Raul Ruiz, D–Palm Desert, has crafted a bill that would direct the FCC to expand broadband internet access for tribal communities locally and across the U.S. The Tribal Broadband Deployment Act has cleared the House of Representatives and is headed 
to the Senate. Ruiz has cited an FCC report stating that 35.4 percent of Americans on tribal lands lack access to high-speed internet, vs. 2.1 percent of Americans in urban areas.

palm springs

POPULATION

47,379

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

$46,059

HOME OWNERSHIP RATE

58.7%

MEDIAN PRICE OF DETACHED HOMES, UP 11.3% IN LAST YEAR (64.7% OVER FIVE YEARS).

$579,000

REMOTE OWNERSHIP OF DETACHED HOMES.

53.9%

REMOTE OWNERSHIP OF ATTACHED HOMES.

74.3%

Miralon, a 309-acre community of 1,150 homes, is due to open by year’s end at North Indian Canyon Drive and Sunrise Parkway. The “agri-hood” will include a 70-acre olive grove, to be harvested and pressed by the Temecula Olive Oil Company. Homes, all with solar panels, will range from the high $300,000s to the mid-$700,000s.
the local view

Mara Gladstone
Museum curator; resident of current home since 2015, Palm Springs resident since 2012 (from New York)

“Chino Canyon [aka Little Tuscany] is an old neighborhood with history. I also see it as an emerging neighborhood, with lots of Palm Springs icons, like Rick’s and Billy Reed’s [restaurants] alongside cool new ventures.

“If forced to say something negative about Palm Springs, 


James Coogan
Healthcare worker; resident since 2001 (from New Jersey)

“El Rancho Vista Estates is truly our sanctuary from the outside world. Our favorite pastimes are sitting in our backyard looking at Mount San Jacinto like it’s the first time we ever saw it and taking afternoon cocktail walks through the neighborhood.

“I live and work in Palm Springs and rarely, if ever it seems, have to leave.”

Joan Gand
Music business owner and musician; part-time resident since 2002 
(from Illinois)

“Vista Las Palmas is a nice mix of straight and gay, fun, creative types.

“The thing I like most about the city is the natural beauty, the beauty of the architecture, and the weather. I want to see more limits on vacation rentals and noise from leaf-blowers and anything possible done to keep it peaceful.”

the facts

66%: Increase in homeless population in Palm Springs from 2016 to 2017, according to the Point-in-Time Homeless Count.

The Lee R. Baxandall Bridge, better known as the “Bridge of Thighs,” is a pedestrian overpass that once connected the Desert Shadows Resort & Villas nudist resort to condos on the other side of North Indian Canyon Road. Neck-high canvas walls ensured a G-rated crossing.

rancho mirage

MEDIAN PRICE OF DETACHED HOMES, UP 7.9% IN LAST YEAR (35.6% OVER FIVE YEARS).

$658,250

POPULATION

18,295

MEDIAN HOUSEHOLD INCOME

$66,083

HOME OWNERSHIP RATE

79.1%

Del Webb at Rancho Mirage, a community for “active adults” aged 55 and older, is expected to open this year, with more than 1,000 homes selling from about $364,000 to $611,000 each.
the local view

Gary Kott
Artist/writer/producer;resident since 2005 (from Hollywood)

“My Mission Hills Country Club neighbors are second-homers who pop in every now 
and then. I’ve met many of them; but I forget their names, so I just wave.

“My city’s claim to fame is its pristine cleanliness. In 13 years, I’ve never seen a cigarette butt on the ground or McDonald’s wrapper blowing in the wind.”

Ernie Santora
Insurance agency owner; resident of current 
home since 2010; desert resident since 1996 (from New York)

“I love the small number of homes [64] in the Vista Mirage gated community. We have gay couples on either side of us, and there are several others in the complex.

“Rancho Mirage has an outstanding library and city hall, but I would like to see some younger leaders in our city council. We need some new blood and ideas.”

Pam Weekley
Accountant; resident of current home since 2012; full-time desert resident since 2010 (from Nebraska)

“I was convinced to buy a home in the Tamarisk neighborhood because it is quiet and well maintained. Walking, biking, and driving are safer in Rancho Mirage than other cities in the valley because it is mostly residential. The upkeep makes me proud to live here. If forced to say something negative about my city, I would say that it lacks diversity.”

the facts

The Rancho Mirage Observatory, which opened in March, is the first public telescope in the Coachella Valley.

A Canadian private equity firm in March reportedly paid $75 million for a square mile of property once owned by Walter Annenberg, across Bob Hope Drive from Sunnylands. The highly desirable 618-acre parcel is targeted for a hotel and residential development.