By H. Simmons –
There is a new generation of valley visitors that are more familiar with the name “Coachella” than any other valley city. Though the City of Coachella does not host the globally renowned music festival, it is a city that proudly boasts our valley’s actual moniker.
With a growing population of 45,000, the majority of the residents of Coachella are young and energetic. The City of Coachella’s median age is 24. Sixty percent of their population is under 18. The Mayor and City Council’s ages range between 27 and 36. These public servants are college educated, dedicated and enthusiastic about their community. The council members and the Mayor grew up in or around Coachella. They went off to school and have come back to serve and contribute to the building of the city’s future.
Incorporated in 1946, there are 29 square miles within the city limits and there are another 32 square miles, which the city has annexed. Just over 20 percent of the city’s land has been developed. Geographically it is the farthest city east and is the gateway into the CV from Interstate 10 and Highway 86.
David Garcia is the City Manager. “The city is fiscally stable. We are seeing more economic activity and interest,” he said. “I feel good. Growth is slow but steady.”
A segment of Coachella’s population was devastated by the recent financial crisis. Many residents worked in the industries that were hit the hardest — construction, hospitality, and food services. Only 10 percent of the residents work within the city. But unemployment has dropped and even the city is hiring again.
The Coachella Valley Enterprise Zone is located between highways 111 and 86. It is an area designated by the Sate of California as being eligible for State Income Tax Credits and offers financial incentives to businesses. The city has its own water district and the Imperial Valley supplies its power, making the utilities affordable in Coachella.
In the planning stage, La Entrada is a new development on 2,200 acres at the city’s eastern hills near Avenue 50 to Interstate 10. It will provide a proper gateway into the city. There will be upward to 7,000 homes built. It will include retail shopping, hotel sites, green space and open space.
Coachella’s agriculture business is still a significant industry not only providing food for our valley, but for the whole country. Six percent of the city is farmland. Growers include Peter Rabbit Farms, Prime Time International, Anthony Vineyards, and SunDate.
The Coachella Chamber of Commerce has 192 members and holds a ribbon cutting and mixer every month. Becky Flores Valadez is the Chamber’s Director. “We are here for everybody. Business and residents. Whatever they want we try to make it happen,” Valadez said. “There is so much pride and passion in this community. It’s very uplifting.”
According to Valadez, many members are home businesses — gardeners, alterations, cake decorators, etc. Her challenge is to help the small businesses in the community build an on-line presence with websites and email access. Most of the retail business in Coachella serves the residents. Coachella also serves its unincorporated neighbors: Thermal, Oasis, North Shore and Mecca.
Mayor Eduardo Garcia was elected to City council in 2004 and Mayor in 2006. He was chosen for his fourth term with 75 percent of the vote. “Every decision we make, we consider the health and well-being of our community,” Mayor Garcia said. “We have a strong cultural identity and there are economic opportunities here.”
The city is currently updating the General Plan and will be using cutting-edge advance planning to build for healthier community living. According to Luis Lopez, Community Services Director, the plan is designed to promote sustainable health and wellness. The plan closely integrates land use, circulation patterns, open space, access to parks and public transportation. It relies less on the automobile and creates bike routes and walkable communities.
In serving the needs of the residents, the city focused on providing a healthy living environment. It has 80 acres of land for parks and recreation. Approximately 40 percent of the park space has been developed and several parks have been remodeled or are in the first phase of remodeling. The city has just started a Parks and Recreation Commission to serve as an advisory board for the City Council.
It is a community that celebrates its culture. At 95 percent Hispanic, there are events that provide an authentic Latino experience. Last year 6,000 people enjoyed the El Grito or Diez y Seis — the celebration of Mexico’s Independence from Spain. This is becoming a signature event. Coachella tries to set the event on the weekend around the actual date (September 15 and 16). The celebration takes place over two days and includes music, dancing, local art and venders.
Last year was the first Dia De Los Muertos at the Coachella Forest Lawn. The cemetery was lighted with a sea of candles. There were flowers, mariachi, Aztec dancers, and altars honoring the dead. A priest and pastor offered prayers and the mortuary had an art display. Look for it again this year. It is a beautiful way to honor the dead and celebrate the living.
The city has an annual Christmas parade as well. Last year 98 groups marched through downtown. There is also the Hue Music and Arts Festival produced by the same company as Coachella Fest and Stage Coach. All these events are free and everyone is welcome.
The nonprofit organization Raices Cultura is an important and active member in the city. According to their website, its mission is to “create a space for artistic and cultural expression, to promote healthy communities and to strengthen the voices of the Eastern Coachella Valley.” Amazing art created by the youth involved in Raices can be seen at most of the Coachella events.
The city is predicted to be the fastest growing valley community with an anticipated population of 130,00 by 2035. It has the passion, the potential, the leadership and the vision to create an ideal city. The City of Coachella not only believes in the American dream, they live it.