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Palm Desert is a city in Riverside Countymarker, Californiamarker, United Statesmarker, in the Coachella Valley, approximately east of Palm Springsmarker. The population was 41,155 at the 2000 census. Other cities in the Coachella Valley are Cathedral Citymarker, Coachellamarker, Desert Hot Springsmarker, Indian Wellsmarker, Indiomarker, La Quintamarker, Palm Springsmarker, and Rancho Miragemarker. 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 Palm Springs area, Palm Desert is a popular retreat for "snowbird" from colder climates (the Eastern and Northern US, 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 California, who have come for affordable but high-valued home prices). Palm Desert may have 75,000 to 85,000 inhabitants on January 1 as the "season" peaks, which decreases by half as the hot desert summer comes by.


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.

Palm Desert once served as a training ground for General George Patton's Third Army troops and tank battalions. After World War II, Cliff Henderson, an L.A.-based developer, began to develop the desert into his dream community.

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 Drivemarker. In 1948, the Palm Desert Corporation began to develop real estate, and in 1951 the area was given its present name.

Many celebrities keep homes in Palm Desert, including Rita Rudner and more recently, the current home of teenage pro golfer Michelle Wie and one of the homes of Bill Gates. Film producers Jerry Weintraub and Robert Velo call Palm Desert their second home. With only 1,500 permanent residents, the community was incorporated on November 26, 1973. At the time, Palm Desert was a master planned community situated in the desert that used to stretch from Palm Springs to Indio.

Resorts and golf clubs

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 city, was formally annexed in 1992, but the clubhouse closed in 2009 indicates the country club is no longer in operation. The total number of golf clubs at 30 located within 10 miles from the city made Palm Desert become the "World's Golf Capital".

In the late-1970s and 1980s, a spree 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 1981 and the four-star Hilton 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.

Shopping and commerce

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 developed a major shopping area when the Palm Desert Town Center (now the Westfield Shoppingtown-Palm Desert) opened in 1983, followed by the arrival of Target in Desert Crossing in 1995.

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'marker Rodeo Drivemarker due its concentration of posh retail outlets and lush landscaping. The street runs parallel to State Route 111, which serves as the main thoroughfare in the Palm Springs metropolitan area.

Although Indiomarker is the most populous city in the region with 75,000 residents and is the home of the majority of Palm Desert's daily and seasonal employees, local residents have shown concern in protecting the desert environment by promoting natural landscaping and artistic sculptures. Fred Waring Drive has been expanded into a four-lane major traffic fare, encouraging new retail centers and commercial zones. The desert sprawl nearly engulfs the Coachella Valley from State Route 111 to Interstate 10.

Image:DSC04596.JPGImage:DSC04586.JPG|El Paseo Gardens' front plaza with fountain.Image:DSC04592.JPGImage:DSC04571.JPG


Palm Desert is the home of the Living Desert Zoo and Gardensmarker, a combination zoo and botanical garden featuring an extensive collection of desert plants and animals. It is also the site of the campus of College of the Desert, the local community college, as well as an extension campuses for both California State University, San Bernardinomarker and the University of California Riversidemarker.

Palm Desert is served by the Desert Sands Unified School District based in La Quintamarker and Indio. Its main High School is Palm Desert High Schoolmarker (with 1800 students) and its main Middle School (with 900 students) is Palm Desert Middle Schoolmarker. Other schools are elementary level: George Washington Charter, Abraham Lincoln, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan. Riverside County operates San Cayetano Community School, a grade 1 to 12 educational facility. Palm Desert has seven prominent private schools: Desert Adventist Academy, St. Margaret's Episcopal School, Palm Desert Presbyterian School, Sacred Heart Catholic Academy, Marywood Academy, the Learning Tree Academy, and the Palm Desert Jewish Community School.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of , of which, of it is land and of it (1.02%) is water.

The elevation (City hall) is above sea level. Elevations vary from the lower northern half once covered in sand dunes to the upper slope southern cove ( ) all the way to the ridgeline at 1,000 feet (over 300 meters). Palm Deset 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).


Palm Desert has a warm winter/hot summer climate: Its average annual high temperature is and average annual low is but summer highs above are common and sometimes exceed , while summer night lows often stay above . Winters are warm with daytime highs between . Under of annual precipitation are average, with over 348 days of sunshine per year. The hottest temperature ever recorded there was on August 20, 1995.


As of the 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/sq mi (443.9/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 86.84% White, 1.20% African American, 0.45% Native American, 2.57% Asian, 0.10% Pacific Islander, 6.48% from other races, and 2.36% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 17.08% 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 2.13 and the average family size was 2.67. The demographics of Palm Desert shows a rising population of children and young adults.

In the city the population was spread out with 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. For every 100 females there were 92.6 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.7 males. Palm Desert with the rest of the Coachella Valley has a large senior citizen (over age of 55) community, most of them have annual personal incomes exceeding well over $100,000.

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. Palm Desert is considered an upper-class community, having an above average median income compared both to California and the nation. The median income that is stated in the census data is lower than the actual median income because there are a large number of seasonal residents and senior citizens.


The city was home to the "Palm Desert Scene", a unique musical genre heavily influenced by Stoner rock/Stoner metal.

Aging baby boomers make up over half of the Palm Desert's growing population. The city had a doubling of persons over age 55 in the 2000s, to reverse a previous trend of a "younger" population of all ages and once again, Palm Desert has a "gray" majority.

Sociopolitically, Palm Desert is viewed as a mostly conservative community with strong leanings toward the Republican party . But many residents are also registered Democrat.

Homeowners are a mixture of year-round residents and winter/second homes, mostly from the Pacific Northwest and urban centers across California. The second home market attracts an international population, particularly Canadiansmarker since the 1970s. Increasing numbers of Europeans, Australians and east Asians are buying up real estate. The global appeal of Palm Desert as the "place to be" for tourists has made it home to thousands of retired people from around the world.

Palm Desert isn't entirely homogeneous as widely assumed: Affluent African-Americans, Latinos and Asian Americans have moved to a formerly "all-white" city. There are many persons of Armenian, German, Irish, Italian, Polish and Swedish ancestry. The city has one of California's largest Jewish American communities.

Other ethnic groups represent a sizable portion of local residents are the Arabs, Cubans, Filipinos, Iranians, Japanese, Koreans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, South Americans and former Yugoslavians.


In the state legislature Palm Desert is located in the 37th Senate District, represented by Republican John J. Benoit, and in the 64th Assembly District, represented by Republican Brian Nestande. Federally, Palm Desert is located in California's 45th congressional district, which has a Cook PVI of R +3 and is represented by Republican Mary Bono Mack.

Sister cities

Palm Desert had been in the sister cities program, as designated by Sister Cities International. Six cities that are or were associated with Palm Desert:

Palm Desert has a community exchange program with

Points of interest


  • College of the Desert Roadrunners in football, baseball, basketball, soccer and volleyball.
  • Golf - Palm Desert is home to about 30 golf courses.
  • Tennis - tennis courts in the Marrakesh and Shadow Mountain golf clubs.


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