Changing Faces of Desert Hot Springs
DESERT HOT SPRINGS, CA – The city has become less white and more gay. The US census shows a nearly 10 point decrease in Caucasians over the last ten years. Yet it takes an astute “gaydar” to recognize the increase in the gay population, since they are not specifically counted in the census.
Possibly for the first time, these two groups will play a significant role in the city’s November election for three city council positions. The gay population is generally more inclined to vote and recruitment of first-time Hispanic voters is already underway.
In the last decade economic development has been challenged to keep pace with the city’s growing Hispanic population. Typically the parking lot of El Rancho Market on Palm Drive is jam packed. That store did not exist a decade ago. Retailers are paying attention. Hispanic dollars are motivating the city’s K-Mart to divide the building in half in order to construct a second Hispanic supermarket to meet demand.
One local watering hole is capitalizing on the uptick of gay residents. Starting last year Playoffs Sports Bar located downtown began sporting Rainbow Night on Wednesdays on a monthly schedule and is packing ’em in.
Precinct workers now registering voters in anticipation of the November election indicate that many of the city’s Mexican American population are registering as Democrats.
In the last election, registered Democrats outnumbered Republicans for the first time and the city’s shifting population continues adding to that change.
A large percentage of the gay population are also registered as Democrats. Although the city council race is non-partisan, many of the issues are familiar ones. One divide among these Democrats remains the issue of gay marriage which many Catholic Democrats oppose. Although the Hispanic population is more inclined to be Catholic, younger generations of the Hispanic population are less inclined to be opposed to gay marriage.
Openly gay residents are not clustered in any one part of town. Some, like local blogger Ron Gilbert, have taken up residence in the city’s most affordable properties located in the central district of mostly older homes in easy walking distance to city hall, the senior center and the library.
From the new Skyborne development on the outer edge of town, to foothill homes with views of Palm Springs, to new developments near Mountain View on the east side of town, gay residents of many diverse races are homeowners and renters in the city.
Although the city’s growing Latino population are challenged by a predominant concentration in the low-income parts of town they also spread out, occupying homes throughout the city.
The 2010 United States Census 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%).
As of the census 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.
Destination Spa Vacation
The city is not the touristy type, and neither is it the bar and club scene. The mainstay of the city’s marketability is the hospitality industry featuring the city’s natural hot mineral waters drawing visitors from all over the world and serving residents alike. From small six room spas such as Miracle Manor to the city’s more luxurious accommodations such as Two Bunch Palms Resort all serve a diverse clientele and none are exclusively gay or Hispanic dominated.
Gone are the days when a few smaller properties catered to a nearly exclusive clientele of Hasidic Jews or specifically targeted their attraction to Canadians. Most all spas are family oriented with just two bearing an adult theme.
That brings up another uncountable statistic. A significant number of homes in the city are owned by “snowbirds” as second homes for people with a primary home in Canada or northern states.
Although property owners, they are generally not voters. These homes are empty almost half the year, leaving some streets with a ghost town appearance once desert temperatures rise past 100 degrees and get stuck there for several months of the summer. Although contributing to the city’s economy part of the year, no one counts statistics relevant to this population.
For over 40 years Dean has been published in a variety of small newspapers and magazines. As publisher he founded an alternative city weekly newspaper in 2008 and published over 200 uninterrupted issues over 4 years to over 20,000 readers via 800 locations (and online) before selling the business. Now online with over 3 million readers worldwide.
Dean is a Master Carpenter and the author of the biography of Hilda M Gray, desert homesteader. He served as Planning Commissioner for the city of Desert Hot Springs from January 2014 to January 2015 when he resigned.
Dean M Gray is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors and lives in Palm Desert, California.