Palm Springs is a desert resort city in Riverside County, California, within the Coachella Valley. It is located approximately 37 miles (60 kilometres) east of San Bernardino, 111 miles (179 kilometres) east of Los Angeles, 136 miles (219 kilometres) northeast of San Diego, and 269 miles (433 kilometres) west of Phoenix, Arizona. The population was 44,552 at the 2010 census. The city spans over 94 square miles, making it the largest city in the county by size.
Golf, swimming, tennis, horseback riding, biking, and hiking in the nearby desert and mountain areas are major forms of recreation in Palm Springs.
The city became a fashionable resort in the 1900s when health tourists arrived with conditions that required dry heat. In 1906 naturalist and travel writer George Wharton James's two volume The Wonders of the Colorado Desert described Palm Springs as having "great charms and attractiveness" and included an account of his stay at Murray's hotel. As James also described, Palm Springs was more comfortable in its microclimate because the area was covered in the shadow of Mount San Jacinto to the west and in the winter the mountains block cold winds from the San Gorgonio pass. Early illustrious visitors included John Muir and his daughters, U.S. Vice President Charles Fairbanks, and Fanny Stevenson, widow of Robert Louis Stevenson; still, the hotel was closed in 1909 and torn down in 1954. Nellie N. Coffman and her physician husband Harry established The Desert Inn as a hotel and sanitarium in 1909; it was expanded as a modern hotel in 1927 and continued on until 1967.
James's Wonders of the Colorado Desert was followed in 1920 by J. Smeaton Chase's Our Araby: Palm Springs and the Garden of the Sun, which also served to promote the area. In 1924 Pearl McCallum (daughter of Judge McCallum) returned to Palm Springs and built the Oasis Hotel with her husband Austin G. McManus; the Modern/Art Deco resort was designed by Lloyd Wright and featured a 40-foot tower. The next major hotel was the El Mirador, a large and luxurious resort that attracted the biggest movie stars; opening in 1927, its prominent feature was a 68-foot tall Renaissance style tower. Golfing was available at the O'Donnell 9 hole course (1926) and the El Mirador (1929) course (see Golf below). Hollywood movie stars were attracted by the hot dry, sunny weather and seclusion – they built homes and estates in the Warm Sands, The Mesa, and Historic Tennis Club neighborhoods (see Neighborhoods below). About 20,000 visitors came to the area in 1922.
In the 1930s estate building expanded into the Movie Colony neighborhoods, Tahquitz River Estates, and Las Palmas neighborhoods. Actors Charles Farrell and Ralph Bellamy opened the Racquet Club in 1934 and Pearl McCallum opened the Tennis Club in 1937. Nightclubs were set up as well, with Al Wertheimer opening The Dunes outside of Palm Springs in 1934 and the Chi Chi opening in 1936.
The City of Palm Springs has developed a program to identify distinctive neighborhoods in the community. Of the 29 neighborhoods, 7 have historical and cultural significance.
Local Cities and Neighborhoods
Similar to the pre-war era, Palm Springs remained popular with the rich and famous of Hollywood, as well as retirees and Canadian tourists. Between 1947 and 1965, the Alexander Construction Company built some 2,200 houses in Palm Springs effectively doubling its housing capacity.
As the 1970s drew to a close, increasing numbers of retirees moved to the Coachella Valley. As a result, Palm Springs began to evolve from a virtual ghost town in the summer to a year-round community. Businesses and hotels that used to close for the months of July and August instead remained open all summer. As commerce grew, so too did the number of families with children.
The recession of 1973–1975 impacted Palm Springs as many of the wealthy residents had to cut back on their spending. Later in the 1970s numerous Chicago mobsters invested $50 million in the Palm Springs area, buying houses, land, and businesses. While Palm Springs faced competition from the desert cities to the east in the later 1980s, it has continued to prosper into the 21st century.
Tourism is a major factor in the city's economy with 1.6 million visitors in 2011. The city has over 130 hotels and resorts, numerous bed & breakfast inns and over 100 restaurants and dining spots.
In the economic recession of the late 2000s/early 2010s, Palm Springs is revitalizing its Downtown or "the Village". Rebuilding started with the demolition of the Bank of America building in January 2012, with the Desert Fashion Plaza scheduled for demolition later in 2012.
The movement behind Mid-Century modern architecture (1950s/60s era) in Palm Springs is backed by architecture enthuasists, artistic designers and local historians to preserve many of Central Palm Springs' buildings and houses of famous celebrities, businessmen and politicians.
The 2010 United States Census reported that Palm Springs had a population of 44,552. The population density was 469.1 people per square mile (181.1/km²). The racial makeup of Palm Springs was 33,720 (75.7%) White, 1,982 (4.4%) African American, 467 (1.0%) Native American, 1,971 (4.4%) Asian, 71 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 4,949 (11.1%) from other races, and 1,392 (3.1%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11,286 persons (25.3%).
The Census reported that 44,013 people (98.8% of the population) lived in households, 343 (0.8%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 196 (0.4%) were institutionalized.
There were 22,746 households, out of which 3,337 (14.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 5,812 (25.6%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,985 (8.7%) had a female householder with no husband present, 868 (3.8%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,031 (4.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 2,307 (10.1%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 10,006 households (44.0%) were made up of individuals and 4,295 (18.9%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 1.93. There were 8,665 families (38.1% of all households); the average family size was 2.82.
The population was spread out with 6,125 people (13.7%) under the age of 18, 2,572 people (5.8%) aged 18 to 24, 8,625 people (19.4%) aged 25 to 44, 15,419 people (34.6%) aged 45 to 64, and 11,811 people (26.5%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 51.6 years. For every 100 females there were 129.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 133.8 males.
There were 34,794 housing units at an average density of 366.3 per square mile (141.4/km²), of which 13,349 (58.7%) were owner-occupied, and 9,397 (41.3%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 6.7%; the rental vacancy rate was 15.5%. 24,948 people (56.0% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 19,065 people (42.8%) lived in rental housing units.
Palm Springs Official Visitors Center is located in the historic Tramway Gas Station building designed by Albert Frey.
Though celebrities still retreat to Palm Springs, many today establish residences in other areas of the Coachella Valley. The city's economy now relies on tourism, and local government is largely supported by related retail sales taxes and the TOT (transient occupancy tax). It is a city of numerous festivals, conventions, and international events including the Palm Springs International Film Festival.
The world's largest rotating aerial tramcars (cable cars) can be found at the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. These cars, built by Von Roll Tramways, ascend from Chino Canyon two-and-a-half miles up a steep incline to the station at 8,516 feet (2,596 m). The San Jacinto Wilderness is accessible from the top of the tram and there is a restaurant with notable views.
The Palm Springs Convention Center underwent a multi-million-dollar expansion and remodeling under Mayor Will Kleindienst. The City Council Sub-Committee of Mayor Kleindienst and City Council Member Chris Mills selected Fentress Bradburn Architects from Denver, Colorado for the redesign.
Numerous hotels, restaurants and attractions cater to tourists, while shoppers can find a variety of high-end boutiques in downtown and uptown Palm Springs. The city is home to 20 clothing-optional resorts catering to gay men.