Yucca Valley, CA

Yucca Valley is a California town people are moving to--not away from

Don Simkovich

Looking into Twenty-Nine Palms from Joshua Tree National ParkDon Simkovich

The gateway communities for Joshua Tree National Park are booming with new residents, despite the talk of families moving out of California. Since late 2020, Yucca Valley has experienced a growth spurt, local resident and businesswoman Wanda Stadum, the president and CEO of the Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“You can’t rent a house here,” she says, “there’s nothing to rent.”

The chamber of commerce is active with 300 members and Stadum notes that the organization has lost about 10 small businesses in the aftermath of the COVID-19 shutdown.

Local service companies have full schedules. Stadum says the owner of an Air B-n-B unit was trying to get the air ducts professionally cleaned and she’ll have to wait until mid-August for an estimate and then the work won’t be able to be performed until mid-September.

“Everyone is jumping like crazy out here,” says Stadum. “The overall economic environment is very good and all systems are moving forward.”

Housing Demand

The Joshua Tree Gateway Association of Realtors showed in May that there were between 15% to 40% fewer listings of homes than compared to the same time frame in 2021.

The median price of a home in Yucca Valley is $ 365,000; in Joshua Tree, $ 470,000 and $ 255,000 in Twentynine Palms.

Yucca Valley is a young town with eight distinct neighborhoods. It was incorporated in 1991 and sits at 3,200 feet with a population of 21,777 in 2019, according to City Data. That’s a 29% jump since 2000.

Stadum says Yucca Valley boasts the second-largest Vons supermarket in California, in addition to Grocery Outlet and several other grocery stores.

Job growth in Yucca Valley has increased 2.3% in the last year. Future job growth according to the town manager’s office is predicted to reach 38.7% over the next ten years, higher than the US average of 33.5%.

Tourism, Military

What’s driving the numbers?

A steady stream of tourists heading into Joshua Tree National Park and the Twenty-Nine Palms Marine base plow plenty of revenue into Yucca Valley, neighboring Joshua Tree (which boasts that it doesn’t have any chain stores) and Twenty-Nine Palms.

The National Park Service just released a report stating there were 2.4 million visitors to Joshua Tree National Park in 2020, despite having 50 days of being closed to COVID-19. It was the most visited park in California and the 10th most visited in the United States.

Those visitors spent an estimated $ 122 million in the nearby towns. That was understandably a lower amount than the $150 million visitors spent in 2019.

There are plenty of boutiques, rock shops and local restaurants to give visitors a taste of the Old West in an environment that’s completely different than the urban sprawl of the greater Los Angeles region and the western portions of San Bernardino County.

Joshua Tree's boutiques are quite different than Yucca Valley's bustling chain storesDon Simkovich

One of the towns that’s endured is Pioneertown, built as a western movie set in the 1940s. The two restaurants are Pappy & Harriet’s and The Red Dog Saloon.

The second-largest employer in the Morongo Basin is the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center (MCAGCC) and supports about 24,300 jobs in the Morongo Basin, equal to 77% of the estimated total Morongo Basin employment and adds about $ 1.7 billion to the local economy.

There are about 1,300 military retirees living in the area.

Eds and Meds

Cities that do well economically usually have higher education (eds) and robust health care (meds). Even though the Moronogo Basin is small it does have Copper Mountain College that has numerous academic programs. It just started the Wildland Fire Academy in April with 15 graduating students. One student is fighting fires in Oregon.

For medical attention, there’s the Hi-Desert Medical Center with 59-bed acute primary care facility and numerous outpatient services.

The area is keeping a friendly posture as it grows and prospers and the chamber is recognizing “hometown heroes," people who picked up food for a family, volunteered to walk a dog, or
blessed others with a random act of kindness.

The chamber will send them a Hometown Hero card and sticker. Details are on the Yucca Valley Chamber of Commerce website.

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I interview entrepreneurs, and dig into the news around Southern California, giving a voice to business owners, artists and more. I also co-write the thriller novel series Tom Stone Detective Stories.

Pasadena, CA

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