Desert Hot Springs, California

Desert Hot Springs, California
City of Desert Hot Springs
—  City  —
Location in Riverside County and the state of California
Coordinates: 33°57′40″N 116°30′29″W / 33.96111°N 116.50806°W / 33.96111; -116.50806Coordinates: 33°57′40″N 116°30′29″W / 33.96111°N 116.50806°W / 33.96111; -116.50806
Country  United States
State  California
County Riverside
 – Mayor Yvonne Parks
 – Total 23.642 sq mi (61.233 km2)
 – Land 23.615 sq mi (61.164 km2)
 – Water 0.027 sq mi (0.069 km2)  0.11%
Elevation 1,076 ft (328 m)
Population (2010)
 – Total 25,938
 – Density 1,097.1/sq mi (423.6/km2)
Time zone PST (UTC-8)
 – Summer (DST) PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes 92240-92241
Area code(s) 760
FIPS code 06-18996
GNIS feature ID 1656484
Website City of Desert Hot Springs

Desert Hot Springs, also known as DHS, is a city in Riverside County, California, United States. The city is located within the Coachella Valley geographic region, sometimes referred to as the Desert Empire. The population was 25,938 at the 2010 census, up from 16,582 at the 2000 United States Census. The area has undergone rapid development and high population growth since the 1970s, when there were 2,500 to 6,000 residents.[citation needed]



In 1913 the first successful homesteader in the area was Cabot Yerxa, who discovered hot water on Miracle Hill. Due to the San Andreas Fault bisecting the area, one side has cold water, the other has hot. His large Pueblo Revival Style architecture structure, hand built over 20 years, is now one of the oldest adobe-style buildings in Riverside County, and houses Cabot's Pueblo Museum, designated a state historical site after his death in 1965. Cabot's Trading Post & Gallery opened in February 2008.

The town was founded by L. W. Coffee on July 12, 1941. The original town site was centered at the intersection of Palm Drive and Pierson Boulevard and was only one square mile. Coffee chose the name Desert Hot Springs because of the area's natural hot springs.

Desert Hot Springs became a tourist destination in the 1950s because of its small spa hotels and boutique hotels. The city's seclusion appealed to urban "escapees."

Realtors arrived to speculate, and thousands of lots and streets were laid out over a six square mile area. Some homes were bought by retirees and the area incorporated as a city in 1963, with 1,000 residents.

Desert Hot Springs experienced periods of significant growth in the 1980s and 1990s, when most of the vacant lots were filled with new houses and duplex apartments. The city's population doubled in the 1980s and increased by 5,000 in the 2000 census.

In 1993, a 3-star hotel, Mirage Springs Hotel Resort opened in DHS. Despite good reviews and providing much needed financial revenue to DHS, Mirage Springs closed its doors in 1998. Another hotel, the Miracle Springs Resort and Spa, has since occupied the site.

Desert Hot Springs High School opened in 1999, two new public parks and several country clubs were proposed.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 23.6 square miles (61 km2), of which 99.89% of it is land and 0.11% is water.


The city has two separate aquifers separated by the Mission Creek Fault[2] (a branch of the San Andreas Fault). One aquifer has several natural hot springs in the Desert Hot Springs Sub-Basin and they support the area's spas and resorts. The second, on the opposite side of the fault, is a cold aquifer of the Mission Springs Sub-Basin.[3] This aquifer provides fresh water to the city and has received awards for exceptional taste.[4][5]


Historical populations
Census Pop.
1960 1,472
1970 2,738 86.0%
1980 5,941 117.0%
1990 11,668 96.4%
2000 16,582 42.1%
2010 25,938 56.4%


The 2010 United States Census[note 1] reported that Desert Hot Springs had a population of 25,938. The population density was 1,097.1 people per square mile (423.6/km²). The racial makeup of Desert Hot Springs was 15,053 (58.0%) White, 2,133 (8.2%) African American, 357 (1.4%) Native American, 675 (2.6%) Asian, 84 (0.3%) Pacific Islander, 6,343 (24.5%) from other races, and 1,293 (5.0%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13,646 persons (52.6%).

The Census reported that 25,820 people (99.5% of the population) lived in households, 118 (0.5%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 (0%) were institutionalized.

There were 8,650 households, out of which 3,713 (42.9%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 3,468 (40.1%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,603 (18.5%) had a female householder with no husband present, 711 (8.2%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 843 (9.7%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 206 (2.4%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,071 households (23.9%) were made up of individuals and 691 (8.0%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.98. There were 5,782 families (66.8% of all households); the average family size was 3.59.

The population was spread out with 8,064 people (31.1%) under the age of 18, 2,712 people (10.5%) aged 18 to 24, 6,893 people (26.6%) aged 25 to 44, 5,781 people (22.3%) aged 45 to 64, and 2,488 people (9.6%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31.0 years. For every 100 females there were 100.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 98.4 males.

There were 10,902 housing units at an average density of 461.1 per square mile (178.0/km²), of which 4,166 (48.2%) were owner-occupied, and 4,484 (51.8%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 8.6%; the rental vacancy rate was 16.6%. 11,533 people (44.5% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 14,287 people (55.1%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[6] of 2000, there were 16,582 people, 5,859 households, and 3,755 families residing in the city. The population density was 713.2 people per square mile (275.4/km²). There were 7,034 housing units at an average density of 302.5 per square mile (116.8/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 68.2% white, 6.1% black or African American, 1.4% Native American, 2.0% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 16.4% from other races, and 5.8% multiracial. 40.4% of the population was Hispanic or Latino.

There were 5,859 households out of which 38.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 39.3% were married couples living together, 17.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 35.9% were non-families. 27.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 9.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.8 and the average family size was 3.5.

In Desert Hot Springs the age of the population was spread out with 33.3% under the age of 18, 9.7% from 18 to 24, 29.4% from 25 to 44, 16.5% from 45 to 64, and 11.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 30 years. For every 100 females there were 96.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.6 males. Desert Hot Springs has a reputation as an active adult community, where many retirees choose to live.

The median income for a household in the city was $25,987, and the median income for a family was $29,126. Males had a median income of $27,873 versus $21,935 for females. The per capita income for the city was $11,954. About 22.4% of families and 27.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 37.1% of those under age 18 and 15.0% of those age 65 or over, one of the highest for cities over 10,000 in southern California.[7]

Desert Hot Springs has a diverse population for a city its size. Several racial or ethnic groups live in Desert Hot Springs, with the largest group of Mexican and Central American ancestry. Ethnic areas such as the Korean American section of 8th Street and Cholla Drive, thousands of American Jews made the city their home, and according to the Desert Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the city's population is over 10 percent black. The city has a high proportion of Native Americans, most of whom are members of the Cahuilla tribe in proximity to the Agua Caliente Cahuilla tribal board in Palm Springs (see also Mission Creek Indian Reservation).


In the state Legislature, Desert Hot Springs is located in the 37th Senate District, represented by Republican Bill Emmerson and in the 80th Assembly represented by Democrat Manuel Perez. Desert Hot Springs is located in California's 41st congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +9[3] and is represented by Republican Jerry Lewis.

Desert Hot Springs is represented at the County level by 5th Riverside County Supervisor District served by Marian Ashley.

While the city is located in one of the areas hardest hit by the nationwide mortgage meltdown that has found many cities in financial difficulty, in the 2008/09 fiscal year, the city was the only city in the Coachella Valley to have a balanced budget. At its mid-year review, Desert Hot Springs posted a balanced budget. Revenues had fallen just 5 percent but the city had made ongoing spending reductions amounting to 7 percent.

The city is a city manager form of government.

Desert Hot Springs is served by Mayor Yvonne Parks, Mayor Pro. Tem. Russell Betts, and Council Members Scott Matas, Jan Pye and Karl Baker. Its city manager is Rick Daniels.

The city is presently undergoing extensive infrastructure improvements, including repaving of over 37 miles (60 km) of residential streets. After years of focus on undeveloped areas of the city, the city government has shifted its focus towards downtown revitalization, including a multi-million downtown façade program. While Desert Hot Springs is a California charter city, the city council requires all city funded projects to pay prevailing wage. Many California cities seek charter city status specifically for the purpose of avoiding payment of prevailing wage rates.

City Hall is located at 65950 Pierson Blvd, Desert Hot Springs, CA 92240

Public safety

The Desert Hot Springs Police Department was established in 1997 after residents complained to the Riverside County Sheriff's Department about being underserved by a part-time deputy from the Palm Desert regional station. The police department is headed by Desert Hot Springs Police Chief Patrick Williams who was hired in 2006. Williams in credited with a significant drop in the city's crime rate. Desert Hot Springs is unique among California cities in that it has continued to hire sworn police officers while other California cities are cutting reducing their police forces over budget concerns. The city has hired 12 additional officers in the last two years (2009/2010).

In two separate municipal ballot measures, Desert Hot Springs residents approved a utility users tax and a public safety tax by majorities of over 75 percent. Both measures provide added funding to the police department and other public safety services.

The City contracts out for fire protection and emergency medical services (EMS) with the Riverside County Fire Department through a cooperative agreement with CAL FIRE California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. Riverside County Fire Station 37 has 1 paramedic engine company. Riverside County Fire Station 36 covers the west end of the city with a paramedic engine company.

Municipal bankruptcy

In 2001 the town filed for a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.[8] The bankruptcy was resolved in 2004[9] by selling municipal bonds when it faced a legal judgment[note 2][10] of almost $6 million.[11]

Boutique hotels and spas

Desert Hot Springs is home to a number of hot mineral water spas. During the 1950s and 1960s the town had over 80 spa hotels, often called "spa-tels." From the late 1990s to the present a number of these boutique hotels have been renovated and revived. With their mid-century modern architecture they appeal to those wanting a unique hotel / spa experience.

Several spa hotel properties cater to the Asian population, primarily Korean.

One famous spa hotel property in Desert Hot Springs is Two Bunch Palms Resort. In the 1990s it appeared in the movie The Player.

Other spas in Desert Hot Springs include Aqua Soleil Hotel & Mineral Water Spa, Bella Monte Hot Springs Resort and Spa, Miracle Manor Retreat, The Miracle Springs Resort and Spa, the Desert Hot Springs Spa Hotel and The Spring Resort and Spa.[12]

In 2008, two Desert Hot Springs spas were listed on Tripadvisor's list of top ten "Best Hidden Gem" spas: El Morocco Inn and Spa and the Living Waters Spa.[13]

In 2009, two Desert Hot Springs spas were listed on Tripadvisor's list of top ten "Best Hidden Gem" and "Best Service" spas: Sagewater Spa, and the Living Waters Spa.[14]

Most spa hotel property in Desert Hot Springs feature natural hot mineral water that is unique in that it has no sulfer odor as is common at other hot springs type resorts.

Modernist architecture

Originally, there were 43 small spas (6 to 10 guest rooms) in the city. Some were located atop the center of the hot water aquifer on Miracle Hill, where Cabot Yerxa, the first settler lived. His house is now a museum. Across the street is Miracle Manor Retreat, one of the first spas built (1949) in the town and the first on Miracle Hill. It was built by the Martin Family who eventually sold it in 1981 to a local legend, Lois Blackhill. Upon her passing in 1996, her family sold it in 1997, to two longtime regulars and close friends of Lois', trans-media designer April Greiman and architect-educator Michael Rotondi. It was restored to its original state, with improvements and renamed Miracle Manor Retreat. They are credited with pioneering the 'boutique spa' movement in the city. Desert Hot Springs is the home of the Desert Hot Springs Hotel, designed by architect John Lautner. The hotel was purchased and restored in 2000 by Steven Lowe.[15]

In 2006 the architectural firm of Marmol Radziner + Associates designed a sustainable, modernist prefab home featured in the November 2006 issue of Dwell magazine.[16] The home served as a prototype for the firm's efforts to develop a series of prefab homes.


  1. ^ All data are derived from the United States Census Bureau reports from the 2010 United States Census, and are accessible on-line here. The data on unmarried partnerships and same-sex married couples are from the Census report DEC_10_SF1_PCT15. All other housing and population data are from Census report DEC_10_DP_DPDP1. Both reports are viewable online or downloadable in a zip file containing a comma-delimited data file. The area data, from which densities are calculated, are available on-line here. Percentage totals may not add to 100% due to rounding. The Census Bureau defines families as a household containing one or more people related to the householder by birth, opposite-sex marriage, or adoption. People living in group quarters are tabulated by the Census Bureau as neither owners nor renters. For further details, see the text files accompanying the data files containing the Census reports mentioned above.
  2. ^ The city issued $12.78 million in 40-year bonds to pay a $10.85 million debt. Of that amount, $8.85 million paid to Silver Sage Partners, Ltd., which had successfully sued the city for discrimination under the Federal Fair Housing Act and $2 million was paid to other creditors. The remainder was put into the general fund or used for other purposes.


  • Coffee, L. W. (1948 (republished 2008)). Desert Hot Springs: Why?. Desert Hot Springs: Cabot's Museum Foundation. 

Further reading

  • Brown, Richard E. (editor); Yerxa, Cabot Abram (2011), On the Desert Since 1913, Desert Hot Springs: Cabot's Museum Foundation, ISBN 978-0-615-45570-9  - a partial compilation of Yerxa's commentaries and articles published in the Desert Hot Springs Desert Sentinel from 1951 to 1957
  • Hunt, John J. (2006 (revised and updated edition)). The Waters of Comfort (The History of Desert Hot Springs California). Little Morongo Press. ASIN B000W6EMS8. 
  • Minckler, Karen; Schroeder, Bethany; Eyraud, Cole (1986). The Legend of Cabot Yerxa. Desert Hot Springs: Cabot's Museum Foundation. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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