City of Coachella
Strong Family Values
Words by Gayl Biondi
Photographs by City of Coachella
Coachella is called the City of Eternal Sunshine not just for the climate but also for the strong family values that helped it grow from a modest farm town to an active community covering 29 square miles. Agriculture and light industry coexist within the city’s sphere with brand name companies like Coca Cola and Peter Rabbit Farms staking their spots. Ernie Ball Music Man, the venerable maker of guitars, basses, and strings makes its strings here and ships them to more than 200 countries worldwide.
Long before its name became synonymous with the largest outdoor music festival on the planet, agriculture was the vital thread of the community’s fabric. A full 95% of dates grown here in the U.S. come from Coachella and neighboring communities. Grapes, citrus, corn, artichokes, peppers, carrots, and myriad other row crops grown here feed the nation.
The Coachella Grapefruit is named for the city. The fruit was so important to the economy that a portion of State Route 111 is now called Grapefruit Boulevard. The main thoroughfare runs along what was once the Southern Pacific “Sunset Route” which is now a Union Pacific rail line between Los Angeles and Yuma. The boulevard connects more than 88,000 residents of rural and unincorporated communities nearby to services and activities in Coachella.
“The places where we live, work, and play all contribute to our ability to become and stay healthy.” That was the premise of a grant submitted to the California Natural Resources Agency that garnered the City of Coachella a $3.2 million award for the Grapefruit Boulevard Urban Greening and Connectivity Project. It was the largest award of its kind in the state and will transform a busy commercial corridor that carries nearly 40,000 vehicles per day into a scenic highway, while also providing essential infrastructure for future community development.
After the revitalization of Coachella’s downtown core into the Pueblo Viejo Downtown District, the City envisioned the Grapefruit Boulevard project as a way to link people to the places where they could walk or bike and enjoy the strong pride of place for which Coachella is known. Places like schools, parks, library, post office, senior center, restaurants, and shops. Bike lanes, sidewalks, pedestrian crossings, landscaping, shade structures, lighting and signage are all designed to serve as a valuable urban forest resource that contributes to human health and quality of life.
“This is an exciting project for Coachella,” says grants manager Celinea Jimenez. “Beyond the social well-being and aesthetic value, the trees and landscaping provide an ecosystem to clean the air, protect our water, shelter businesses, and conserve energy. The project creates a pleasant, artful and accessible route for people of all ages and abilities to enjoy. We asked the community what they wanted and they gave us great direction.”
The newest housing option to directly benefit from the improvements along Grapefruit Boulevard is Pueblo Viejo Villas. Construction is underway on the complex of 105 affordable apartments for households earning 30 to 50% of area median income. It is one of the first affordable communities in Riverside County to provide access to people with a developmental disability. Ten apartments will be set aside for residents who have autism, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, or similar disabilities.
The 2.5-acre site will include secure storage for 52 bicycles. Drought tolerant landscape and trees along with structured solar panels will provide shade to the grounds and the 132 parking spaces. “It is exciting to see construction begin on this project, which was made possible with the support of our California climate investments,” said Assemblymember Eduardo Garcia. Development partner Chelsea Investment Corp. echoes the assemblymember’s enthusiasm.
City leaders were determined to secure grant funds for investment in both affordable housing and transportation through programs like Affordable Housing and Sustainable Communities (AHSC), a competitive financing resource tied to the California Strategic Growth Council. The City partnered with Chelsea Investment Corporation, a firm with a track record of creating over 11,000 affordable homes in the western region. Together they secured nearly $15 million in combined grant funds to develop the $47 million Pueblo Viejo Villas project. “Coachella has been a terrific partner in delivering meaningful affordable housing and supportive services,” said Jim Schmid, Founder and CEO.
A significant portion of the AHSC grant was awarded to the City of Coachella, Sunline Transit Agency, and CalVans specifically for transportation improvements. A new public transit hub will expand Sunline’s bus service on its busiest line by adding four buses to carry passengers throughout the Coachella Valley. CalVans will purchase and operate 40 vans for vanpools to connect people to employment centers.
Tim Rogers is another investment partner working closely to insure Coachella’s healthy and happy future. His latest collaboration with the city is a new state-of-the-art Borrego Health medical facility on Calhoun Street and Avenue 50. Borrego Health has been providing medical services to rural and underserved communities for many years. The agency is consolidating most of its services including Urgent Care, vision, dental, family medicine, and OBGYN into this new 41,000-square-foot facility that’s convenient to the surrounding residential neighborhoods.
The building site, owned by Tim Rogers, already houses a popular Tower Market and has room for an additional 4 acres of commercial and 15 acres for future housing. “We live and work in this community and employ more than 150 full-time workers at Thermal Race Track and our Tower Market stores,” cites Rogers, “As Coachella continues to grow, we want to continue investing in the east valley.”
With 70% of its raw land still available for development, Coachella’s story of eternal sunshine is still being written.
MAYOR: Steven Hernandez
MAYRO PRO TEM: Emmanuel Martinez
COUNCIL MEMBERS: Philip “Felipe” Bautista,
Megan Beaman Jacinto,
YEAR INCORPRATED: 1946
Total Population: 45,162
Median Age: 26.5
Annual Growth Rate: 1.25%
Average Household Income: $54,625
Median Household Income: $40,270
(% of population age 25 and older)
High School Diploma: 38.88
Bachelor’s Degree: 2.94
Graduate / Professional Degree: 0.85
(% of population)
Retail Trade: 12.38
Admin / Support / Waste Management Services: 11.14
Healthcare / Social Assistance: 11.01
Agricultue / Forestry / Fishing / Hunting: 10.72
Accommodation / Food Services: 8.67
Arts / Entertainment / Recreation: 6.16
Other Services (Excluding Public Administration): 5.01
Educational Services: 4.86
Public Administration: 3.09
Transportation / Warehouseing: 2.38
Real Estate / Rental / Leasing: 2.20
Wholesale Trade: 2.06
SOURCE: Esri/Coachella Valley Economic Partnership