Desert Hot Springs, California

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City of Desert Hot Springs
Location in Riverside County and the state of California
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
CountryUnited States
State California
 • MayorYvonne Parks
 • Total23.642 sq mi (61.233 km2)
 • Land23.615 sq mi (61.164 km2)
 • Water0.027 sq mi (0.069 km2)  0.11%
Elevation1,076 ft (328 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total25,938
 • Density1,100/sq mi (420/km2)
Time zonePST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST)PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes92240-92241
Area code(s)760
FIPS code06-18996
GNIS feature ID1656484
WebsiteCity of Desert Hot Springs
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"Desert hot springs" redirects here. For springs in deserts, see hot springs.
City of Desert Hot Springs
Location in Riverside County and the state of California
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
CountryUnited States
State California
 • MayorYvonne Parks
 • Total23.642 sq mi (61.233 km2)
 • Land23.615 sq mi (61.164 km2)
 • Water0.027 sq mi (0.069 km2)  0.11%
Elevation1,076 ft (328 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total25,938
 • Density1,100/sq mi (420/km2)
Time zonePST (UTC-8)
 • Summer (DST)PDT (UTC-7)
ZIP codes92240-92241
Area code(s)760
FIPS code06-18996
GNIS feature ID1656484
WebsiteCity 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 city has undergone rapid development and high population growth since the 1970s, when there were 2,700 residents.


According to founder of the city and writer Cabot Yerxa in his newspaper columns published in The Desert Sentinel newspaper, the first homesteader in the area of the city of Desert Hot Springs was Hilda Maude Gray, who staked her claim in 1908.[2][3] In 1913 Cabot Yerxa arrived and soon 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 is popular with "snowbirds."[citation needed]

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. The business reopened as the Miracle Springs Resort and Spa.

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

On the Internet, news of the city is provided by Desert Vortex News[4] with investigative reports covering local city government, with addition reports covering the Coachella Valley. Another news website, Desert Local News[5] also provides news of the city. A local newspaper Desert Star Weekly is published in the city.


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.


Desert Hot Springs has a desert climate (Köppen climate classification BWh) similar to the rest of the Coachella Valley, with under six inches of precipitation per year. Summers are very hot with days frequently exceeding 107 °F (42 °C) in July and August while night-time lows tend to stay between 78–90 °F (26–32 °C). The winters are mild with days typically seeing temperatures between 68–82 °F (20–28 °C) and corresponding night-time lows between 50–65 °F (10–18 °C). Heat waves during the summer months involving temperatures going over 110 °F (43 °C) are not unusual.

Climate data for Palm Springs Int'l Airport (1981–2010 normals)
Record high °F (°C)95
Average high °F (°C)65.0
Average low °F (°C)35.0
Record low °F (°C)19
Precipitation inches (mm)1.15
Avg. precipitation days (≥ 0.01 in)
Source: NOAA [6]


The city has two separate aquifers separated by the Mission Creek Fault[7] (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.[8] This aquifer provides fresh water to the city and has received awards for exceptional taste.[9][10]


Historical population


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 (34.4% Non-Hispanic White),[11] 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[12] 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.[13]


Desert Hot Springs has a diverse population for a city its size. Several racial or ethnic groups live there, 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 African-American or 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).[14]


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 36th congressional district, and is represented by Democrat Raul Ruiz.

Desert Hot Springs is represented at the County level by Riverside County Supervisor 4th District John Benoit.

The city is a city manager form of government.

Desert Hot Springs is served by Mayor Adam Sanchez, Sr., Mayor Pro. Tem. Russell Betts, and Council Members Scott Matas, Jan Pye, and Joe McKee. Council members serve for four year terms. The Mayor serves for a two year term and is directly elected. Martín Magaña was hired as city manager in May 2014.[15]

The city underwent extensive infrastructure improvements in the last five years, including repaving of 37 miles of residential streets. After years of focus on undeveloped areas of the city, the city government shifted its focus towards downtown revitalization, including a multi-million downtown facade program.

Public safety[edit]

The city of Desert Hot Springs contracts for fire and paramedic services with the Riverside County Fire Department through a cooperative agreement with CAL FIRE.[16]

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.

As of November 2013, the continued existence of either the police department or the city is questionable due to looming budget deficits and lack of financial reserves.[17]

Municipal bankruptcy[edit]

In 2001 the town filed for a Chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy.[18] The bankruptcy was resolved in 2004[19] by selling municipal bonds when it faced a legal judgment[note 2][20] of almost $6 million.[21]

Boutique hotels and spas[edit]

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.

One famous spa hotel property in Desert Hot Springs is the Two Bunch Palms Resort. In 1992 it was used as a filming location for the movie The Player.[22]

In 2001 Huell Howser Productions, in association with KCET/Los Angeles, featured the Desert Hot Springs Hotel and Spa in California's Gold.[23]

Modernist architecture[edit]

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, one of the early settlers lived. His house is now a museum. Across the street is Miracle Manor Retreat, one of the first spas built (1949) in the town. It was built by the Martin Family who eventually sold it in 1981 to a local legend, Lois Blackhill. Upon her death 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.[24]

In 2006 the architectural firm of Marmol Radziner + Associates designed a sustainable, modernist prefab home featured in the November 2006 issue of Dwell magazine.[25] 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.


  1. ^ U.S. Census
  2. ^ The Life and Times of Pioneer Hilda M Gray,
  3. ^ Desert Hot Springs Historical Society,
  4. ^ Desert Vortex,
  5. ^ Desert Local News,
  6. ^ "PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA NCDC 1981–2010 Monthly Normals". National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Retrieved 2012-04-17. 
  7. ^ Mission Springs Water District: hot water maps
  8. ^ Mission Springs Water District: sub-basins map
  9. ^ Berkeley Springs International Water Tasting Awards
  10. ^ City of Desert Hot Springs - Water
  11. ^  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  12. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  13. ^
  14. ^
  15. ^ Nyczepir, Dave (May 7, 2014). "Desert Hot Springs picks Martín Magaña as city manager". The Desert Sun (Gannett). 
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "Brown Signs Bill to Limit California’s Municipal Bankruptcies", Business Week, October 10, 2011 Accessed October 18, 2011
  19. ^ Caldwell, Dave. "Havens | Desert Hot Springs, Calif.; Near Palm Springs, A Little City Thinks Big", New York Times", March 31, 2006
  20. ^ Maeda, Toshi (October 27, 2004), "With Chapter 9 status over today, Desert Hot Springs pins hope on growth", The Desert Sun: A–1 (subscription required)
  21. ^ Marois, Michael B. and William Selway. "California City Moves Closer to Bankruptcy Filing (Update3)", Bloomberg, February 27, 2008
  22. ^ The Player at the TCM Movie Database
  23. ^ Howser, Huell (September 25, 2002). "Desert Hot Springs Hotel – Palm Springs (0016)". California's Gold. Chapman University Huell Howser Archives. OCLC 47724820. 
  24. ^ The John Lautner Foundation,
  25. ^ Anderton, Frances (November 2006). "Desert Utopia". Dwell. Retrieved May 2, 2011. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]