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Palm Desert is a city in Riverside County, California, United States, in the Coachella Valley, approximately 14 miles (23 km) east of Palm Springs, 121 miles (194 km) northeast of San Diego and 122 miles (196 km) east of Los Angeles. The population was 48,445 at the 2010 census, up from 41,155 at the 2000 census. The city was one of the state's fastest growing in the 1980s and 1990s, beginning with 11,801 residents in 1980, doubling to 23,650 in 1990, 35,000 in 1995, and nearly double its 1990 population by 2000. A major center of growth in the Coachella Valley, Palm Desert is a popular retreat for "snowbirds" from colder climates (the Eastern and Northern United States, and Canada), who swell its population by an estimated 31,000 each winter. In the past couple of years Palm Desert has seen more residents become "full-timers", mainly from the coasts and urban centers of California, who have come for both affordable and high-valued home prices.
The area was first known as the Old MacDonald Ranch, but the name changed to Palm Village in the 1920s when date palms were planted. Local historians said the main residents of pre-1950 Palm Desert were Cahuilla Indian farmers of the now extinct San Cayetano tribe, but a few members of the Montoya family of Cahuilla/Spanish descent were prominent leaders in civic life.
The first residential development occurred in 1943 in connection with an Army maintenance camp in the area. That site was later developed into "El Paseo", an upscale shopping district not unlike Rodeo Drive. In 1948, the Palm Desert Corporation began to develop real estate, and in 1951 the area was given its present name.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 27.0 square miles (70 km2), of which, 26.8 square miles (69 km2) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) of it (0.76%) is water.
The elevation (City hall) is 224 feet (68 m) above sea level. Elevations vary from the lower northern half once covered in sand dunes to the upper slope southern cove (300–900 feet or 91–274 metres) all the way to the ridgeline at 1,000 feet (over 300 meters). Palm Desert is located in the Coachella Valley, the north-western extension of the Sonoran Desert.
Sun City Palm Desert, California lies on the northern side of Interstate 10 from Palm Desert itself, but is unincorporated and not part of the City of Palm Desert (the original name was Sun City Palm Springs from 1991 to 1996).
The climate of the Coachella Valley is influenced by the surrounding geography. High mountain ranges on three sides and a south-sloping valley floor all contribute to its year-round warm climate, with the warmest winters in the western United States. Palm Desert has a tropical desert climate: Its average annual high temperature is 89 °F (32 °C) and average annual low is 62 °F (17 °C), but summer highs above 108 °F (42 °C) are common and sometimes exceed 120 °F (49 °C), while summer night lows often stay above 82 °F (28 °C). Winters are warm with daytime highs between 73–84 °F (23–29 °C). Under 5 inches (130 mm) of annual precipitation are average, with over 348 days of sunshine per year. The mean annual temperature at 75.8 °F (24.3 °C) makes Palm Desert one of the warmest places in the United States. The hottest temperature ever recorded in Palm Desert was 125 °F (52 °C) on July 6, 1905. The surrounding mountains create a thermal belt in the southern foothills of Palm Desert, leading to a micro-climate with significantly warmer night-time temperatures during the winter months. The University of California maintains weather stations located in this thermal belt as part of their ecological project in the Philip L. Boyd Deep Canyon Desert Research Center.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Palm Desert had a population of 48,445. The population density was 1,793.3 people per square mile (692.4/km2). The racial makeup of Palm Desert was 39,957 (82.5%) White (70.4% Non-Hispanic White), 875 (1.8%) African American, 249 (0.5%) Native American, 1,647 (3.4%) Asian, 55 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 4,427 (9.1%) from other races, and 1,235 (2.5%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11,038 persons (22.8%).
The Census reported that 48,137 people (99.4% of the population) lived in households, 98 (0.2%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 210 (0.4%) were institutionalized.
There were 23,117 households, out of which 4,253 (18.4%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 10,253 (44.4%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 2,177 (9.4%) had a female householder with no husband present, 811 (3.5%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,227 (5.3%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 373 (1.6%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 7,948 households (34.4%) were made up of individuals and 4,370 (18.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.08. There were 13,241 families (57.3% of all households); the average family size was 2.65.
The population was spread out with 7,534 people (15.6%) under the age of 18, 3,333 people (6.9%) aged 18 to 24, 8,731 people (18.0%) aged 25 to 44, 12,924 people (26.7%) aged 45 to 64, and 15,923 people (32.9%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 53.0 years. For every 100 females, there were 88.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.4 males.
There were 37,073 housing units at an average density of 1,372.4 per square mile (529.9/km2), of which 15,171 (65.6%) were owner-occupied, and 7,946 (34.4%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 5.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 16.8%. 30,667 people (63.3% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 17,470 people (36.1%) lived in rental housing units.
According to the 2010 United States Census, Palm Desert had a median household income of $53,456, with 9.2% of the population living below the federal poverty line.
According to the 2000 United States Census of 2000, there were 41,155 people, 19,184 households, and 11,414 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,689.1 people per square mile (652.0/km2). There were 28,021 housing units at an average density of 1,150.0 per square mile (443.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.8% White, 1.2% African American, 0.5% Native American, 2.6% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 6.5% from other races, and 2.4% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.1% of the population.
There are 19,184 households in Palm Desert, out of which 18.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.5% were married couples living together, 7.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 40.5% were non-families. 32.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.1 and the average family size was 2.7. The demographics of Palm Desert shows a rising population of children and young adults.
The age distribution of the population was 17.3% under the age of 18, 6.2% from 18 to 24, 22.7% from 25 to 44, 26.3% from 45 to 64, and 27.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 48 years.
The median income for a household in the city was $48,000 and the median income for a family was $58,183. Males had a median income of $42,257 versus $32,202 for females. The per capita income for the city was $33,463. About 5.9% of families and 9.2% of the population were below the poverty line, including 12.1% of those under age 18 and 4.3% of those age 65 or over.
According to the City's 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Rapid growth and several annexations in the 1980s and 1990s have made Palm Desert a major shopping destination and the main center of business activity in the Coachella Valley. The city has evolved as a major shopping destination following the development of Westfield Palm Desert which opened in 1983. This development was followed by One Eleven Town Center, Town Center Plaza and Desert Crossing which included Target and other national anchors.
El Paseo Drive is downtown Palm Desert's main shopping street. The area around the street has evolved into an upscale shopping district featuring 150 boutiques, art galleries, and restaurants. El Paseo is often compared to Beverly Hills' Rodeo Drive due its concentration of posh retail outlets and lush landscaping. The street runs parallel to State Route 111, which serves as the main thoroughfare stretching from Palm Springs to Indio.
Palm Desert residents have shown concern in protecting the desert environment by promoting natural landscaping and artistic sculptures. Fred Waring Drive has been expanded into a six-lane major traffic fare, encouraging new retail centers and commercial zones.
The city's first golf course and tennis club was Shadow Mountain in 1952, followed by Marrakesh in 1954, the Palm Desert Greens mobile home park golf course in 1961, and the Palm Desert Country Club in 1962. The latter, located five miles (8 km) east of the original city, was formally annexed in 1992. The total number of golf clubs (more than 30 located within 10 miles from the city) have made Palm Desert known as the "World's Golf Capital."
Desert Willow Golf Resort is the City Of Palm Desert's municipal golf course, and has two championship courses: Mountain View and Firecliff. It is associated with the Westin Desert Willow Resort at the golf course location. The Firecliff course is listed at #13 in Golf Magazine's 'Best Courses you can Play' 2010 list for California.
In the late-1970s and 1980s, a spate of private golf clubs, destination resorts and hotels appeared in the northern half of Palm Desert, such as the four-star JW Marriott Desert Springs Golf Resort and Spa in 1987 and the four-star Desert Willow Golf Resort in 2002. The city has over 30 motels and 5,000 motel rooms, since lodging and hospitality is a major portion of the local tourist-based economy.
Palm Desert was incorporated as a city in 1973 and designated a charter city in 1997. It operates on a council-manager form of government. Residents of Palm Desert elect five non-partisan council members who serve four-year staggered terms, with elections occurring every two years. The position of mayor is non-elected and rotates annually among the members of the city council. The council serves to pass ordinances, approve a budget, and hire the city manager and city attorney. A city manager oversees administrative operations and the appointment of department heads.
In the California State Legislature, Palm Desert is in the 28th Senate District, represented by Republican Jeff Stone, and in the 42nd Assembly District, represented by Republican Chad Mayes.
In the United States House of Representatives, Palm Desert is in California's 36th congressional district, represented by Democrat Raul Ruiz.
The Riverside County Sheriff's Department has a station located in Palm Desert which provides police services to the municipalities of Palm Desert, Rancho Mirage, and Indian Wells, as well as the surrounding unincorporated areas.
The city of Palm Desert contracts for fire and paramedic services with the Riverside County Fire Department through a cooperative agreement with CAL FIRE. Palm Desert currently has three fire stations, which are Station 33, (Town Center), Station 67 (Mesa View), and Station 71 (North Palm Desert). Each fire station provides an engine company and a paramedic ambulance. Fire station 33 also has a truck company.
Palm Desert is the home of the Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, a combination zoo and botanical garden featuring an extensive collection of desert plants and animals and a state-of-the-art animal hospital.
Palm Desert is also the site of the main campus of College of the Desert, the local community college, which has expanded greatly in size since the campus opened in 1961 and one of the buildings was built by donations from the local Cahuilla Indian tribal nations. The state higher education system opened an extension campus duplex (the Indian Wells Education center for both California State University, San Bernardino and the University of California Riverside.
The primary high school is Palm Desert High School (with 2200 students) which is part of the Desert Sands Unified School District. The main Middle School (with 1100 students) is Palm Desert Middle School, a charter school. The four elementary schools in the city are: George Washington Charter, Abraham Lincoln, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. The northernmost part of Palm Desert is served by the Palm Springs Unified School District, so the students can attend Rancho Mirage High School in Rancho Mirage, or Nellie Coffman Middle School and Cathedral City High School in Cathedral City, California. Some students in the eastside are zoned to La Quinta High School and Colonel Mitchell Paige Middle School.
The Riverside County Department of Education operates San Cayetano Community School, a grade 1 to 12 educational facility. Palm Desert has 8 private schools in the immediate area : Desert Adventist Academy, Palm Desert Presbyterian School, Sacred Heart Catholic Academy, The Palm Valley School, the Learning Tree Academy, Xavier College Preparatory High School (Catholic-Jesuit), the Hope Academy, and the Desert Torah Academy, a Jewish community school and its social recreational Jewish Community Center. It also has meetings by the Jewish Federation of the Desert based in Palm Springs. serving an estimated 35,000 Jewish people in the Coachella Valley.
Electricity in Palm Desert is served by Southern California Edison.
Modern transportation services include:
Palm Desert has 14 city parks.
South of Palm Desert is the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto Mountains National Monument and North of Palm Desert is the Coachella Valley National Wildlife Refuge.
The Desert Memorial Park in Cathedral City is maintained by the Palm Springs Cemetery District. Also in Cathedral City is the Forest Lawn Cemetery, maintained by Forest Lawn Memorial-Parks & Mortuaries.
Many celebrities keep homes in Palm Desert, including Rita Rudner and more recently, the current home of professional golfer Michelle Wie and one of the homes of Bill Gates. Film producer Jerry Weintraub called Palm Desert his second home before he died.
The city is home to the Palm Desert Scene, a musical genre that has been heavily influential internationally since the early 1990s. Many of the Palm Desert bands are credited for starting the rock/metal subgenre known as stoner rock. Bands including Queens of the Stone Age, Kyuss, and Eagles Of Death Metal have become well known rock bands.
Palm Desert had been in the sister cities program, as designated by Sister Cities International. Six to nine cities that are or were associated with Palm Desert:
Palm Desert has a community exchange program with
Also a community exchange relationship with the major city of Concepcion, Chile, so far the most populous one.
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