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Beaumont, Calif.: Growing Fast, but Still a Bedroom Community

This Riverside County city began to grow years ago, when prices of coastal real estate skyrocketed and people flocked east in search of affordable homes.

Living In … Beaumont, Calif.

Beaumont, Calif.: Growing Fast, but Still a Bedroom Community

Roger Kisby for The New York Times

When Lynn Baldi moved to Beaumont in 1978, the Riverside County city was mostly shrub land, apple orchards and empty lots. That open space was exactly what she wanted. Ms. Baldi, now 72, had been living in San Bernardino and was looking for a quieter place to raise her children. At the time, Beaumont — now one of the most rapidly growing cities in California — was sleepy and pastoral.

“In 1978, we had smog in San Bernardino,” Ms. Baldi said. “In Beaumont, the wind was blowing, and it was just beautiful.”

The city — which sits atop the San Gorgonio Pass, a corridor between mountain ranges on the rim of the majestic Great Basin — is hardly recognizable to Ms. Baldi today. It has more than quadrupled in size since 2000, from 11,495 to nearly 50,000 residents, according to United States census reports. In 2007, it was California’s fastest-growing city, and today it remains in the top five.

Beaumont, Calif.: Growing Fast, but Still a Bedroom Community

Cherry Valley

Brookside Ave.

Beaumont

N. Highland

spring Ave.

CALIFORNIA

Laborde

Canyon

Banning

NEVADA

Potrero Canyon

(Former Lockheed

Martin test site)

San Francisco

CALIFORNIA

Gilman

Hot Springs

Beaumont

2 miles

Los Angeles

4 kM

By The New York Times

“It used to be that if you came down the 10 toward Palm Springs, there was nothing there, from Yucaipa to Palm Springs,” Ms. Baldi said, referring to Interstate 10 and two nearby cities. “It’s just exploded.”

After Ms. Baldi, a construction consultant, settled in Beaumont with her first husband and their children, a divorce and the death of a second husband followed. Five years ago, she bought a home in Four Seasons at Beaumont, a planned community with single-story homes, fitness centers, hiking trails and swimming pools, for residents 55 and over. Built in 2005, it is one of three designated seniors-only housing developments in the city.

She paid $319,000 for a two-bedroom, two-bathroom house with a bonus room, and has watched its value, like that of nearly everything in her city, steadily appreciate. The house three doors down from hers, similar in size and layout, recently sold for $450,000. “That’s a lot of money,” she said.

Beaumont, Calif.: Growing Fast, but Still a Bedroom Community

There are 13 city parks in Beaumont, as well as a new 20-acre sports park. In November, Little League members played a baseball game at Noble Creek Park.Credit…Roger Kisby for The New York Times

In the past 20 years, as real estate prices along California’s coast pushed skyward and a decades-long housing shortage sent families farther east, Beaumont has become a destination for those in search of affordable homes. Halfway between San Bernardino and Palm Springs, and equidistant from Los Angeles and the northern suburbs of San Diego, it offers an appealing choice for commuting families priced out of bigger cities.

And the pace of development has been dizzying. Dozens of gated communities and master- planned neighborhoods have changed the face of the city; a handful of new shopping centers, with tenants like Walmart, Panera Bread and Wells Fargo, have followed. A 12-screen movie theater and an In-N-Out Burger, the beloved California-based fast-food chain with a semi-secret menu, are slated to open there in early 2020.

Rosy Kamacho, 54, and her husband, Luis Kamacho, 55, have lived in Beaumont for more than a decade. The couple, who are from Peru, bought their first home in the city in 2008, spending $240,000 for a three-bedroom, four-bathroom, single-family house in Fairway Canyon, a master-planned community of stucco homes in several neighborhoods, with access to parks, a golf course and a 10,000-square-foot recreation center. In 2012, they took advantage of the dip in housing prices to move into a newer, larger home in the same community, paying $210,000 for a five-bedroom, three-bathroom house now worth at least $440,000.

“We like it in Beaumont,” said Ms. Kamacho, who runs her own geriatric-care business. “It’s very quiet — we don’t like noisy cities.”

Mr. Kamacho, a business analyst who works in Riverside, Calif., drives around 45 minutes each way to work, she added, and “when he gets home, he doesn’t want to hear cars honking.”

The couple have two sons: one who is 21 and lives at home while attending community college and another who is 14 and attends Beaumont High School, where he is on the swim team. “We chose to live in Beaumont because it’s a safe city, and our kids have always been able to play outside without me worrying,” she said. “Right now, it’s growing, but when we started living here, it was still a small town.”

“Beaumont is definitely growing and has been since 2002. There are a lot of new homes being sold out here. But it’s still a bedroom community,” said Randy Harris, a real estate agent with the Harris Group, a family-owned company.

The city is at an elevation of about 2,600 feet, in a valley between the San Bernardino Mountains and the San Jacinto Mountains, with Interstate 10 and State Route 60 meeting at its center.

Most commerce is clustered in the Second Street Marketplace, a sprawling group of restaurants and big-box stores. Nearby San Gorgonio Village is under construction between First and Second Streets, and the nine new businesses it will add, including the movie theater, In-N-Out Burger and Planet Fitness, will do little to alleviate traffic problems.

1111 MAPLE AVENUE | A two-bedroom, one-bath home, built in 1916 on 0.19 acres, listed for  $199,000. 909-821-6137Credit…Roger Kisby for The New York Times

There are 13 city parks in Beaumont, as well as a new 20-acre sports park, a recreation space with playgrounds, running tracks, basketball courts and a baseball diamond, at the southeast corner of Brookside and Beaumont Avenues.

At the southern edge of the city are Potrero Canyon and Laborde Canyon, two remote patches of badlands once used by Lockheed Martin for rocket-propellant testing. Contamination was later found at both sites, and while Lockheed Martin remains in charge of the cleanup and reclamation effort, Potrero Canyon is now mostly under the control of the State of California, while Laborde Canyon is owned by Riverside County.

As Beaumont has grown, its housing prices have, too: The median year-to-date sale price in 2019 is $345,000, compared with $335,000 in 2018 and $310,000 in 2017.

Prices are still low enough, though, that many buyers feel they justify a longer commute.

“I just sold a home to a client who worked in Downey,” Mr. Harris said, “and he was driving at least 65 miles each way. There aren’t a lot of good jobs out here yet, but the prices are so good that people are willing to drive.”

As for rentals, a two-bedroom apartment can run about $1,000 a month; a single-family home with four or five bedrooms can be had for between $2,000 and $3,000 a month.

In 2015, agents from the F.B.I. and the Riverside County District Attorney’s Office raided Beaumont City Hall, tipped off to widespread corruption. Eventually seven city officials were charged with fraud and stealing from public coffers; all eventually pleaded guilty, with six convicted of felonies.

After the dust settled, it emerged that for more than a decade, in the whirlwind of Beaumont’s frantic growth, officials including the city’s police chief, city attorney and public works director had been privately profiting from city bond sales and development fees. Beaumont was bankrupt, and its reserve funds had been drained.

Since then, the city has rebounded, with an A+ credit rating from Standard & Poor’s and a new Amazon fulfillment center currently under construction, projected to bring in 1,500 new jobs.

“We’ve cleaned house,” said Lloyd White, a city councilman who has lived in Beaumont with his wife, Marti, and their two children since 2007. “We know where every penny is now.”

One problem, Mr. White said, was not that Beaumont grew too fast, but that job growth didn’t keep pace with home construction, so the city remains, essentially, a bedroom community.

“This is still the only place where you can buy a home for $300,000 and be able to work in Orange County or Los Angeles and live out here, comfortably, on that salary,” he said.

“But we’re located between two freeways, so the jobs coming here right now are logistics jobs,” he said, referring to blue-collar positions that involve driving and shipping. “Until we start changing the job base here, we’re going to be a commuter city.”

663 AMERICAN AVENUE | A three-bedroom, one-and-a-half-bath house, built in 1957 on 0.19 acres, listed for $279,000. 909-499-0529Credit…Roger Kisby for The New York Times

The Beaumont Unified School District is the fastest-growing school district in Southern California, currently serving 11,027 students across seven elementary schools, two middle schools and two high schools. The student body has grown 3 to 4 percent every year since 2013, said Terrence Davis, the district superintendent, adding that he is hiring 30 to 40 new teachers a year.

“Beaumont is a tight-knit community, and despite all the hubbub and growth, it has a small-town feel,” Mr. Davis said. “It’s a high priority for us to keep that connectivity and that feeling.”

Many residents complain that Beaumont’s schools are at capacity and that more classrooms are desperately needed to keep up with the swelling student population. A bond measure, intended to help the school district improve its infrastructure, security services and facilities, will be on the ballot in March 2020.

On state proficiency exams, 46.8 percent of Beaumont’s third-graders met proficiency standards in English language arts, compared with 48.54 percent statewide; in mathematics, 51.3 percent met standards, compared with 50.22 percent statewide.

Of the district’s eighth graders, 48.45 percent met proficiency standards in English language arts, compared with 49.4 percent statewide; in mathematics, 28.7 percent met standards, compared to 36.3 percent statewide.

On the 2018 SAT exam, Beaumont High School students scored an average of 495 in evidence-based reading and writing and 466 in math, compared with 540 and 536 statewide.

156 PAISLEY COURT | A four-bedroom, two-and-a-half-bath home, built in 2006 on 0.14 acres, listed for $345,000. 626-283-5077Credit…Roger Kisby for The New York Times

Beaumont is 90 minutes from Los Angeles, barring traffic jams; it is about 80 minutes from Irvine and just shy of two hours from San Diego. Palm Springs can be reached in 30 minutes; Redlands, a popular shopping and dining destination for Beaumont residents, is 15 to 20 minutes by car.

A system of commuter buses connects Beaumont with the cities of Calimesa, Redlands and Loma Linda, and the San Bernardino Transit Center; a one-way fare is $3.50.

Beaumont’s first settlers arrived in the mid-1800s, following the Southern Pacific railroad. The city was initially called San Gorgonio. In the 1880s, a wealthy investor named H.C. Sigler bought the city and changed its name to Beaumont, meaning “beautiful mountain.”

Shortly after, miles of eucalyptus trees were planted, the city’s first hotel was built and its first newspaper and railroad depot were established.

When Beaumont was incorporated as a city, in November 1912, its primary industry was apple growing. In later decades, it was known for its dude ranches, which attracted tourists.

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