Brian Blueskye
The article claimed the findings were based on population density, unemployment rates, adjusted median income, the housing-vacancy rate, education, long commute times, high crime and weather. Credit: Brian Blueskye

When I moved to Desert Hot Springs a decade ago, I had no idea what I was getting myself into.

I didn’t know a thing about the desert city when I moved here from Cleveland in 2005. However, I was soon filled in by others: DHS has a lot of crime. Meth houses. Trashy people. Corrupt government.

In the decade since, things haven’t gotten any better. In early July, a website called published a piece, “using science,” that declared Desert Hot Springs is the worst place to live in California. It made the rounds on Facebook; the piece supposedly had received 358,600 views as of our press time.

It’s no wonder Slipping Into Darkness, the wildly popular Desert Hot Springs band, included a song titled “DHS Blues” on the album Shurpedelic.

OK, look: DHS isn’t perfect. It has its problems, for sure. But my city of not quite 30,000 people is not the worst place to live in California.

Here’s why.

As one would predict, the article was not popular with many members of the Desert Hot Springs Neighborhood Group on Facebook. Several people challenged the article’s legitimacy, pointing out that the city government is improving, and mentioning no small number of new businesses that are popping up. However, some people in the group agreed with the article’s conclusions, claiming that DHS boosters were ignoring the realities facing our not-so-beloved desert city.

I reached out to DHS City Councilman Russell Betts, figuring that he might be able to offer some counter-arguments to the Roadsnacks article.

“The two people who run that website, they do one of those lists on every state,” Betts said. “They’re click-whores. They’re just doing that to build traffic. How can they possibly analyze all 50 states?”

The Roadsnacks article claimed the findings were based on population density, unemployment rates, adjusted median income, the housing-vacancy rate, education, long commute times, high crime and weather.

“For those who live there, consider these facts: The crime rate in DHS is almost the highest in California, per capita,” the article said. “Nearly one in four homes is vacant. And residents earn a paltry 32 grand a year. Which goes nowhere on a California budget. Plus, summers are miserable.”

Betts does not agree with these sentiments.

“We are about 10 minutes away from all the nightlife of Palm Springs,” he pointed out. “We’re close to all the attractions within the Coachella Valley. It’s a little quieter here, and we have cooler temperatures. The housing values are really good, so you can get a really nice house out here for a lower price. If you don’t want to be bothered with all the traffic and congestion down on the valley floor, we’re the best place to be.”

He’s right: The housing prices in DHS are definitely reasonable, and there are some beautiful parts of Desert Hot Springs.

But what about the crippling budget deficit the city faced not too long ago? DHS made national news when the town’s coffers were pushed toward insolvency.

Turns out there’s no crisis anymore.

“The biggest problem was the budget, but we got that fixed,” Betts said. “It was no small feat to get our finances stabilized. From there, we can start to build on everything else we need to take care of.”

OK, so the city government is improving. What about crime?

It is definitely a problem in DHS. In 2007, a rock, and then fireworks, were thrown through the window of the house I share with my roommate—at 3 a.m. The rock and fireworks set off our fire and burglar alarms, and the Desert Hot Springs police and fire department immediately showed up. The officers mentioned it was most likely a random act of vandalism.

“You’re not in Cleveland anymore,” I thought.

Residents who belong to the Desert Hot Springs Neighborhood Group regularly complain that their cars and homes have been broken into. Then there’s the violence: Five people were murdered in the first four months of this year. In fact, a number of residents showed up at a City Council meeting in April to voice frustrations with the criminal activity.

However, help may be on the way: While the Desert Hot Springs Police Department was racked by cuts during the budget crisis, Betts said the city is now looking to add more police officers.

“We’re trying to fill the last of seven positions,” he said. “When you get a (budget) crisis like we did, you can find yourself in a lot of jeopardy. The crime is going to be solved with getting more officers on the streets. The seven police officers are budgeted, and we have the money. The police we have are doing a great job; we just need more of them. We really need to knock down this criminal activity.”

So help may be on the way regarding crime. But what about homelessness? The city has a large, visible homeless population, and members of the Desert Hot Springs Neighborhood Group often kvetch that no one is addressing the issue. Yes, the valley has fine facilities like Martha’s Village and Kitchen, and Roy’s Desert Resource Center, but many homeless people aren’t ready, able or willing to adapt to the structured environment and the rules at these places.

As a result, DHS has some well-known homeless people. “Joseph” is known to pile rocks in patterns on various properties and has been photographed throwing objects at passing cars on Palm Drive, for example.

However, one of the things I love about DHS is that the people here care. Residents have proposed raising money to purchase vacant buildings to turn them into shelters. There are many who wish to take control of the situation.

If Desert Hot Springs is the worst place to live, it must have a terrible business climate. Right?

Just the opposite.

The restaurants of Desert Hot Springs have a lot to offer. The Capri, Thai Palms, South of the Border, Casa Blanca and Kam Lun are all notable places to eat in Desert Hot Springs, and they’re often busy.

Then there are the spa offerings in Desert Hot Springs: There are plenty of them, and the area’s waters are world-famous. Two Bunch Palms is one of the best known spa resorts in the United States and has been mentioned in films, television shows and national media.

New businesses have been opening their doors in abundance. Desert Rocks Indoor Climbing Gym, an indoor climbing facility, just opened. Other businesses that have opened within the past year include the TOP Shop, Pho Na 92 and Desert Market. Another market called Rio Ranch is being built right next to the K-Mart, and Walmart is taking an interest in Desert Hot Springs. Two medical-marijuana dispensaries are now open and bringing added revenue to the city.

Paula Terifaj, the owner of the DogSpa Resort and a member of the Desert Hot Springs Planning Commission, believes in the city’s business possibilities.

“I don’t see our city through rose-colored glasses,” Terifaj said. “I see it’s been very challenged for several reasons. We’ve been dealing with ills that have been brewing for decades. But since I’ve gotten involved, I’ve noticed we’re under new guidance. In my opinion, what we’re doing is clawing our way out of a financial disaster created by a former administration, and I’m going to call it a ‘city in transition.’”

Terifaj said she recognizes the efforts the city has been making to attract new businesses.

“The city used to be really tough on new business, but the new City Council recognized that,” she said. “They looked at the cost of business licenses and everything else. The city wants to be more business-friendly, and they’ve even talked about offering incentives for new businesses. The city has recognized that the city needs businesses; the city wants businesses, and has to attract businesses. They’re really trying to make that easier at the city level, and it’s been talked about quite a bit.”

Terifaj mentioned that the city is looking at promoting culture, too.

“One of the things the city has talked about is forming an arts district and looking at where to have an arts district,” she said. “It went through the City Council, and it went in front of the Planning Commission. It came to us and during our last meeting; most of the meeting was spent talking about the arts district. People from the public got involved in that conversation, and it was amazing.”

At the center of these efforts is Richard Teisan, a real estate agent who lives in Desert Hot Springs and is the executive director of the new Community One Foundation.

“We are going to build artist residences, so artists can come in and live in Desert Hot Springs and do their work,” Teisan said. “(We plan) 4,000-square-foot facilities where an artist can show his work, and live in the back or live above it. These are all kinds of artists—writers, musicians, sculptors—and we have furniture-makers from Honduras. These guys are so crafty, and they build this beautiful furniture. They want to come in and be artists and develop art pieces.”

Regarding home values, Teisan explained why Desert Hot Springs is desirable.

“The first thing that I tell people is that when you look at prices per square foot, the price per square foot is (one of) the lowest that you can see in the state,” he said. “The second value I always talk about is there have been waves of contractors coming through building various quality of houses. The last wave to come through built much higher-quality homes than (in) the years before that.”

There are a lot of vacant lots in DHS. Teisan sees these as an opportunity.

“The value of vacant lots has dropped drastically, so that you can buy a lot in Desert Hot Springs to build a house on for $8,000 to $15,000,” he said. “You can’t do that any place else in the state, unless you go up into the wilderness. In this place, there’s land that has water, power, gas and sewer, and you can still buy the land for under $10,000 for a quarter-acre.”

It’s true: When you look at real estate listings for Desert Hot Springs, you’ll find nice homes, in safe areas, for far less than comparable homes in neighboring Palm Springs.

So, back to the original question: Is Desert Hot Springs truly the worst place to live in California?

Heck no, it’s not. While Desert Hot Springs has its problems, the city is packed with potential, especially with people flocking from Los Angeles and finding Riverside and Redlands to be too expensive; eventually, the reasonable real estate prices here will attract them. The city is addressing issues such as crime, and is working on attracting businesses.

People who know me will vouch for the fact that I’m not much of an optimist. So believe me when I tell you that I see Desert Hot Springs as a decent place to live, that’s filled with people who care about their city, being led by a city government that’s working to solve problems.

Below: Pho Na 92 is one of the many businesses that have recently opened in DHS. Photo by Brian Blueskye.

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Brian Blueskye

A native of Cleveland, Ohio, Brian Blueskye moved to the Coachella Valley in 2005. He was the assistant editor and staff writer for the Coachella Valley Independent from 2013 to 2019. He is currently the...

20 replies on “In Defense of DHS: An ‘Analysis’ Recently Declared That Desert Hot Springs Is the Worst Place to Live in California. Here’s Why We Disagree.”

  1. The views in DHS are the Best in the Entire Valley
    We have lovely Mission Lakes CC golf course and dining room. 45 mins from Joshua Tree State Park
    We have an awesome view of the stars at night, it id
    Jaw dropping site. Elevation of 1,500′ gives us the
    Cooler Temps. Our Drinking water has Won
    World Wide awards for the Best water many years in a row
    Many residents have joined DHSNG, they clean up lots,
    Have family friendly events 2times a month
    Keep us updated on situations good and bad.

  2. The first hint that Desert Hot Springs is in a transformation is better government. The new breed of Councilmen and our Mayor with his populist approach are attractive to businesses and newcomers. Our Chamber of Commerce created vision and imagination to highlight local shopping and integrity. As a result, the flood of new businesses into town is a result of our practical city government that overcame the deficits of previous administrations and their excesses.

    Second, its emphasis on the arts creates interest not only in artists but also with young urban professionals who want to live on the cultural edge. Once artists find it comfortable to produce here, restaurants move in because artists live in restaurants. They do all their deals there, meet producers, curators, agents and even clients in restaurants. Look at Venice, CA, Redondo Beach, Escondido and on and on where art hangs in every restaurant and the artist frequently visits with new works.

    Third, following restaurants, small shops open up because of the increased traffic in the streets. Commercial real estate, my specialty, thrives on traffic. The small shops that we have suffer because we have little foot traffic.

    Fourth, DHS citizens take an interest in every aspect which is very attractive to newcomers. It says, “We care enough to do something about crime, litter, animals loose in the streets, the hungry, the poor, immigrants’ illiteracy, employment, housing.”

    Finally, having affordable houses and office spaces gives us an edge on young urban professionals looking for a place to start their practice and raise their young kids.

  3. I own a home that was once in a safe area; now we have neighbors that let and encourage the children play in the street, climb in my trees, jump the fence and let there dog shit on my property. The other neighbor that moved in does late night construction on his home without permits. I do not see any improvement in the community, better take a closer look at the trashy people in DHS because my view has gotten much worst. not to mention noise pollution. The police and dog police don’t bother. The new neighbors park their cars any which way. Unbelievable that you believe the town is on the way up. Why not vote that it is illegal to rent to illegals. the others neighbors moved out and their trash was left in the front yard for 2 months… give me a break.

  4. I moved to Desert Hot Springs in April of this year from Glendale, California. The house I bought here cost $100,000 dollars. The same house in Glendale would have cost at least $400,000.
    I like it here. I go to a beautiful little church, St Elizabeths. My neighbors are great. The shopping is great (KMart, O’reillys etc.) I have everything I need.
    I don’t regret moving here.

  5. I have lived in DHS since 2001 I own my own home and have been in the same place since moving here.
    Both my children went to the local schools. Graduated and went on to college.
    In 2001 the population was under 8000.
    In 14 short years the population had risen to almost 40k. The current population number.
    It has been my observation through the years that the city government has allot of problems.
    Name another city that operates out of a general fund.
    The reason they do it is to avoid audit.
    That in itself smells of corruption.
    The police take min 2 hours to respond unless there is a gunfight or standoff then every cop in the valley is present.
    So are thingsthings really getting better? No.
    In fact the town has got worse with the population growth.
    They simply cannot afford to keep up with the growth.
    During the population boom of 2006-2009 LA gangs dug in making the city that much more dangerous.

  6. Bloggers and writers are beginning to confront to Christopher (Chris) Kolmar and Nikolaos (Nick) Johnson (the ones who made the RoadSnacks list), in what I believe is their uninformed and graceless immaturity, and often inaccurate data in their new venture, in regard to communities all over the country. Here is the link to a post that I wrote: “Why Christopher Kolmar is not on my Happy List (and he Shouldn’t be on Your’s either)” ‪‬ with a links to folks who are standing up to these guys, which includes Brian Bluskye’s article –thank you so much for writing it.

  7. A small home in Glendale Ca, 858 sq. ft. $489,900, I need to move to Desert Hot spring, where can I find a home for $100.00?
    Thanks Manny

  8. I have lived in dhs for over 20 years. and yes, dhs has potential and is beautiful. but dont be discouraged by this post because this author fails to mention that our biggest problem in this town is its violent crimes. since the beginning of the year, we have had 5 deaths, maybe more.In a town with a population of 27,902 people with a crime rate of 278 violent crimes annually, and a town only 8% safer than other cities in the us, I wouldnt give dhs that much credit yet. we need more police and we need to raise housing rent so this isnt the cheapest place to live. lower rent, more low income residence. just saying

  9. Oohh geezz i am i. The process of buting a home in the mission lakes area, Avenida Dorado to be more precise.
    After going thru these reviews and a few comments am starting to think DHS is a trashy place to move to, am moving from Torrance in LA but i might re concider the option to move here for a better job.

  10. 20 or 30 more businesses (that hire locals) need to open in DHS before the high jobless and homeless rates and the overall economy here improves, and there needs to be a lot more arts, entertainment and nightlife. Then maybe this town won’t suck so badly.

  11. To Donna re: Avenida Dorado…is not in Mission Lakes, but is in one of the nicer subdivisions in the better part of town (north of Mission Lakes Blvd. and west of West St.) You can even avoid the rest of DHS and do your shopping and socializing in Palm Springs without even having to cross through DHS at all by driving west on Mission Lakes Blvd until it ends and turning left on Indian Canyon and taking that to Palm Springs!

  12. Dhs is god awful dirty, run down, sleazy place to live. It’s the dumping ground for the California penal system. Mexican gangs, meth labs, Mexican graffiti, Mexican drivers (Mexican women are the worst). I’m constantly picking garbage out of my front yard, stolen cars parked in front of my house. Mexicans use the vacant lot across from my house as the local dump.
    There’s no street maintenance. Weeds everywhere. People leave their garbage totes out all week on the street.
    The local Vons is dirty with pastries on the floor, holes poked in & half eaten donuts in the dirty display case, always panhandlers outside the door.
    Lots of mexitrash neighbors who park on their front lawns.
    There’s been over 100 arson fires recently. Heard a Big Bang the other night, went outside to see my landscaping had been set on fire by the arsonists. Called 911. house would have burned down by the time the bitching firemen arrived (I put the fire out).
    Time to sell & get out of this shit hole.

  13. Go live in South Central Los Angeles for a few days and you will come running back to Desert Hot Springs. Right DHS may not be the best place to live but better then many other areas. Stop complaining then go live in Los Angeles and surrounding ares like Culver City and Santa Monica and spend $500-$!000 and up per sq ft. hey I would if I had the SSSSS.

  14. City hall has always been corrupt. That’s what caused the problems in the first place. It was a quiet little town until city hall was paid off in the 90’s to move gang members and trash here to ‘rehabilitate” them. All they did was find up with one another, breed and destroy the city. I’ll get no one at city hall had them move next to them. As far as commerce– every damn project gets monkeywrenched. What about the mall on Mission lakes? It got 90% completed them say there for years. Now the ” mall” consists of pot shops and gyms. What about the Mexican market that was supposed to be by kmart? Again, 90% finished, now sitting there. Serioysly, what the hell? And the topper– five elementary schools at not ONE thing for kids to do. The most backwoods Southern town has a movie theatre, but DHS? Nope. Again. City hall and their bullshit. Collect a paycheck and do nothing .

  15. I live in Joshua Tree and I always bypass Desert Hot springs on the way to Palm Springs. The only City I have ever seen worst is Jackson Mississippi. DHS is depressing. It seem like it had a very nice design and was suppose to be great. Now those nice houses on the hill look like low income living. I feel bad for those people in Mission Hills. The value just kep dropping. I ate at The South of The border Mexican restuarant and had my credit card clones the next week. Everone I know who has any dealings with DHS has a crime story to tell. They either got a car stolen, home burglarized, items stolen or a Meth head story.
    My advice is to not move there or to get out if you are there. If you can’t afford to then please stay alert.

  16. I think this article is biased. DHs is the worst place ive ever lived. no safty, the cops are LOSERS, the mayors are CORRUPT, crime is OUT OF CONTROL, and again the police ARE NOT helping. I’m so glad I fled DHS.

  17. DHS should be used as target practice by the Marines. It is beyond hope and should be bull dozed under.

    PS – DHS is not alone in the USA.

    What oh what could be the correlation for these run down cities, so desperate with no hope. What could it be ?

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