Lancaster is the eighth-largest city in Los Angeles County, California and the 9th fastest growing city in the United States. Lancaster is located approximately 70 miles (112.5 km) north (by road travel) of the city of Los Angeles in Southern California's Antelope Valley. It is separated from the Los Angeles Basin by the San Gabriel Mountain Range to the south and from Bakersfield and the San Joaquin Valley by the Tehachapi Mountain Range to the north. The population of Lancaster has grown from 37,000 residents at the time of incorporation in 1977, to an estimated 145,074 residents in 2009, and is the second-largest city on the California side of the Mojave Desert. As of[update] the 2009 population estimate, the Palmdale / Lancaster, CA Urbanized Area (a US Census Bureau defined term) has a population of 476,845.
The community of Lancaster was settled in the late 19th century by M.L. Wicks, a real estate developer who purchased six sections of land from the Southern Pacific Railroad (now merged into the Union Pacific Railroad). The origin of the city's name is debated among historians, but it is presumed to be named after Lancaster, Pennsylvania or, most likely the original Lancaster, Lancashire in England.
Early in its history, Lancaster was little more than a whistle-stop on the Southern Pacific Railroad between San Francisco and Los Angeles, with one hotel, the Gilwyn (known today as the Western Hotel), and a handful of homes. The settlement grew quickly, however, and by 1890, Lancaster was quite prosperous. The town experienced another small boom at the turn of the 20th century when gold and borax were discovered simultaneously in the mountains around the Antelope Valley.
The real establishment of the City of Lancaster, however, came with the advent of the Aerospace Industry. In 1933 the United States Army Air Corps began conducting flight and weapons tests at Muroc Army Air Field (now Edwards Air Force Base) and Lancaster has grown steadily since that time. It is home to many employees of Edwards Air Force Base, as well as to employees of Boeing, Lockheed, and Northrop, all of which have manufacturing facilities at U.S. Air Force Plant 42 which is south of the Lancaster city limits.
Until it was incorporated, the area was under the political influence of Los Angeles County. Citizens in the area felt a need for better interaction with their policy making body and local control, but feared annexation by nearby Palmdale, (which had already incorporated itself into a city in 1962) and with the work of the local body called Citizens for Incorporation, independent cityhood became a reality for Lancaster in 1977.
The first wave of home buyers to Lancaster from the L.A. area came in the 1970s, known as "escapees" and employees in the booming aviation industry. The city grew astoundingly, with the population doubled throughout the 1980s, from 45,000 people to 97,000 by 1990 to make Lancaster a large suburban city.
Since incorporation in 1977, the city has grown in size and diversity. Today, it is the largest city named Lancaster in the world. For a list of others, see Lancaster (disambiguation). With inexpensive land and business-friendly policies, the city today attracts national and local companies in many businesses and industries as well as families pursuing the American Dream of homeownership in a close community. Throughout its recent growth, Lancaster has retained a family-focused hometown spirit. The median age for residents is 31. The city developed into a bedroom community for urban professionals who drive to work in Los Angeles. The city has also been recently named one of the 100 most dangerous cities in the United States, ranking 80th. Until recently, the home values continued to soar to new highs, but have remained fairly affordable compared to most of Southern California. The so called "housing bubble", fueled mostly by subprime mortgage failures, has recently caused a dramatic spike in foreclosures within the city, and thus some property values have begun to fall. Thus the population figure for 2009 has been shrinking slightly for the first time in decades, according to the latest estimate.
Lancaster is located at (34.686980, -118.154062).
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 94.2 square miles (243.9 km²), of which, 94.0 square miles (243.5 km²) of it is land and 0.2 square miles (0.5 km²) of it (0.19%) is water. Lancaster's elevation is 2,350 feet (720 m) above sea level on a high, flat valley surrounded by pristine mountain ranges.
Lancaster has a semi-arid climate (Köppen climate classification Bwh). The average daytime high in the summertime is around 100°F and the average winter daytime highs are in the mid to upper 50's. Overnight lows during the coldest months (December-March) can dip into the low 20's Fahrenheit. The Antelope Valley is known for its clean air and blue skies. With an average rainfall of less than eight inches (203 mm), clear days are the norm even in winter, when surrounding mountain ranges are dusted with snow. Thunderstorms are infrequent but do occur at times in July and August. High winds occur year round with the occasional Santa Ana drainage winds prompting the nickname of "Sandblaster" from long-time residents. Average annual snowfall is less than two inches.
|[hide]Weather data for Lancaster|
|Average high °F (°C)||57 |
|Average low °F (°C)||31 |
|Precipitation inches (mm)||1.60 |
|Source:  2009-03-28|
With family income above the national average (average family income in Lancaster is $61,298), and housing prices below the state average (the median home price in Lancaster is $302,000), 70% of residents of Lancaster own their own home.
Lancaster has also seen a large growth in business over the past decade, with the establishment of large distribution centers for national companies such as Rite Aid, Michaels and Sygma, as well as smaller local businesses and national restaurant chains. The City government has made local business a top priority, offering businesses low-priced land and a streamlined development process with less red tape.
The Lancaster Redevelopment Agency is a successful and active redevelopment and economic development program in California. It has made a commitment to attracting and retaining a prosperous business community through policies initiated by elected officials and carried out by its staff assisting the business community. The Redevelopment Agency has designated five areas as business and industrial parks in the City of Lancaster: Fox Field Industrial Corridor (adjacent to the General William J. Fox Airfield), North Lancaster Industrial Center, Lancaster Business Park, Enterprise Business Park and the North Valley Industrial Center. The Redevelopment Agency has also been involved in attracting retail and dining to Lancaster Town Center, Front Row Center, and other retail centers throughout the city.
Another focus of the Agency and the city has been the revitalization of Downtown Lancaster. With historic buildings interspersed with modern amenities such as a library and performing arts center downtown businesses formed the Lancaster Old Town Site (LOTS). LOTS has resulted in the renovation of business facades and attraction of new businesses including boutiques and restaurants in the Old Town Area.
As of the census of 2000, there were 118,718 people, 38,224 households, and 27,674 families residing in the city. The population density was 487.6/km² (1,263.0/mi²). There were 41,745 housing units at an average density of 171.5/km² (444.1/mi²). The racial makeup of the city was 62.82% White, 16.01% African American, 1.02% Native American, 3.81% Asian, 0.23% Pacific Islander, 11.11% from other races, and 5.00% from two or more races. 24.13% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 38,224 households out of which 42.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 49.4% were married couples living together, 17.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 27.6% were non-families. 22.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 6.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.92 and the average family size was 3.41.
In the city the population was spread out with 32.3% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 31.3% from 25 to 44, 18.2% from 45 to 64, and 8.6% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 31 years. For every 100 females there were 103.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 101.9 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $41,127, and the median income for a family was $48,276 (Based on Merrit Research. Males had a median income of $40,710 versus $27,619 for females ( +/- $3,000 per year). The per capita income for the city was $16,935. 16.4% of the population and 13.8% of families were below the poverty line. 21.9% of those under the age of 18 and 7.9% of those 65 and older were living below the poverty line.
The city uses a City Council/City Manager system of government. This system of government provides accountability and responsiveness to the electorate, while maintaining the stability necessary for implementation of a long-term vision.
The Lancaster City Council consists of an elected Mayor and four elected Council Members. As the City's legislative and policy entity, the Mayor and Council Members are responsible to the residents of Lancaster for all municipal programs and services as well as for any legislative matters concerning the city. The Council approves and adopts ordinances, resolutions and contracts and enacts regulations and policies. It appoints the City Manager and City Attorney as well as members of commissions and citizen advisory committees that provide broad perspective in the decision-making process. Members of the Council also serve as directors of the Lancaster Redevelopment Agency, the Financing Authority and the Housing Authority.
City Council meetings are held the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month, with special or adjourned meetings scheduled as needed. City Council meetings are open to the public and include opportunities for residents to voice concerns and suggestions.
The office of City Manager is an appointed, long-term professional position. With oversight and direction from the City Council, the City Manager sets and implements policy. The City manager leads the management team to achieve the goals and directives set forth in the City's General Plan and to develop and implement a long-term vision for City growth and achievement.
Assistant City Managers are appointed by the City Manager to manage coordinate, control and direct Administrative Services, and to ensure achievement of operating department goals and objectives.
In April 2008, R. Rex Parris was elected mayor. Following the election, Mark Bozigian was appointed City Manager. The current Vice Mayor is Ronald D. Smith; current Council Members are Sherry Marquez, Ken Mann and Ed Sileo.
Law enforcement in Lancaster is provided by contract with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department. The city has built a state-of-the-art Sheriff's Station on Lancaster Boulevard in the heart of its downtown, and the partnership between the city and the sheriff's department has led to the rise of several innovative law enforcement programs aimed at combating crime in Lancaster.
One successful program that has arisen from this partnership is the establishment of Community Service Officers (CSOs). The CSOs are employees of the city who receive training through the Sheriff's Department. They patrol the community and assist the Sheriff's Department in routine matters in order to free regular law enforcement for emergency situations.
Another program, LAN-CAP, the acronym for the Lancaster Community Appreciation Project was established to create a dedicated, target-oriented task force of deputies who police the rental communities. Funding for the program is derived from a business license fee levied on commercial landlords. Revenue generated this way, combined with the city's funding, provides eight deputies and a sergeant who have responsibility for rental communities. The LAN-CAP Crime Free Rental Housing Program draws on an established formula for making rental communities a safer place for renters and included landlord training, routine inspection and rental property certification.
Another innovative unit, the Burglary Suppression Team, was launched in the summer of 2008. This team focuses solely on burglaries. It recovered more than $1 million in stolen goods in its first year alone, as well as arresting several dozen burglars.
The city also makes use of technology in law enforcement, allowing citizens to file Police Reports with the Sheriff's Department through the City's website. These and other programs are reducing response times to law enforcement incidents.
In the state legislature Lancaster is located in the 17th Senate District, represented by Republican George Runner, and in the 36th Assembly District, represented by Republican Steve Knight. Federally, Lancaster is located in California's 22nd and 25th congressional districts, which have Cook PVIs of R +16 and R +7 respectively and are represented by Republicans Kevin McCarthy and Buck McKeon respectively.
The city has changed from a railroad water stop of the 19th century to a bustling modern city with many cultural and recreational opportunities for residents and visitors.
The Essex House Hotel is a restored 1920s vintage mansion which was later turned into a top-notch inn for Hollywood celebrities. The building was converted to a museum under the California Historic Site program in 1992. The Essex house was also the headquarters of the "Flat Earth Society" (now defunct) in the 1910s for over 1,000 members with antiscience filled and outdated theories, many of them were celebrities and businessmen.
The Essex House Hotel was built in the 1970s and is architecturally typical of the period.
The city is also home to the Lancaster Aerospace Walk of Honor. Established in 1990 by the Lancaster City Council, the Aerospace Walk of Honor celebrates test pilots who were associated with Edwards Air Force Base. Recognition is awarded for distinguished aviation careers marked by significant and obvious achievements beyond one specific accomplishment. The sidewalk monuments are dedicated to a distinguished group of internationally known experimental test pilots. Five honorees are inducted each year in a special ceremony held in September.
Today, the city has over 600 acres (2.4 km2) of developed or planned parkland, including playground and picnic areas as well as tournament-level sports facilities at Big 8 Softball Complex and the Lancaster National Soccer Center. The Prime Desert Woodland Preserve, located in West Lancaster, is a facility dedicated to preserving the pristine beauty of the High Desert and educating residents about their environment through nature walks and educational programs at Woodland's unique Interpretive Center. Forrest Hull Park, located near the southern border of the city on its west side and across the street from Paraclete High School, is a popular dog park where local residents frequently gather to allow their dogs to play and exercise together.
In 1996, the city built Lancaster Municipal Stadium (now Clear Channel Stadium) which has been home to the Lancaster JetHawks, a Class-A minor-league baseball team, for the last decade.
For residents and visitors seeking a cultured evening out, the Lancaster Performing Arts Center provides a varied array of fine arts from community theatre productions to classical music and various forms of dance. It also draws celebrity performers from across the country and around the world, including renowned singers, dancers and musicians of all genres as well as comedians and variety shows.
Lancaster's location in Southern California's high desert also offers easy access to a variety of outdoor activities year around. In the winter, the local mountains offer skiing and snow boarding within easy driving distance. In the summer, access to interstate freeways gives residents the opportunity for day-trips to the Pacific Coast, while perennial blue skies allow hiking, backpacking and cycling year-round.
The city also has a skateboarding park, located on its east side. Skate University (spelled as shown) is associated with the local rideshop, Pharmacy Boardshops.
The Civic Musical Road sings the "William Tell Overture", better known as the theme to the 1950s television show, The Lone Ranger. It was first put in by Honda for a television commercial. After noise and safety complaints, it was paved over two weeks later. After complaints in favor of the road, the musical road was reinstalled in a new location, at 30th Street West and Avenue G, near Fox Airport and Apollo County Park, completed October 17, 2008. While it plays the same song, it is now two miles (3 km) away from the nearest residence.
Each spring, the California Poppy Festival draws upward of 60,000 guests to Lancaster City Park to celebrate springtime. The California Poppy Reserve, 20 miles (32 km) west of Lancaster, boasts one of California's most abundant crops of the state flower, and the Poppy Festival has become a popular event not only for Lancaster residents, but also for visitors from around the world. The California Poppy Festival began as an Earth Day celebration and has grown into an event with over 55 acres (220,000 m2) of activities and extensive wildflower information.
"Celebrate Downtown Lancaster", a street fair and farmers’ market, is held multiple times throughout the summer and features family-friendly activities, street musicians and a variety of specialty vendors.
Bark at the Park is held every October at Lancaster City Park for dog-lovers and their pooches. It features talented canine/human performer teams and activities for dogs and owners alike.
There are three elementary school districts in Lancaster: Eastside Union School District, Westside Union School District, and Lancaster School District.
The city has taken an active role in education through its Lancaster CARES after-school program created in collaboration with the Lancaster School District. CARES provides learning and enrichment activities as well as mentors and positive adult role models to give children the encouragement and personal attention essential to building future leaders.
The Antelope Valley Union High School District covers all high schools in Lancaster. There are also several private schools in the City including Desert Christian School and Paraclete High School.
Lancaster is home to Antelope Valley College as well as a satellite campus of California State University, Bakersfield. In July 2009, University of Antelope Valley http://www.uav.edu/ (UAV), a private university offering Associate's, Bachelor's and Master's degrees as well as vocational programs, was launched.
The city has spearheaded the development of the Lancaster University Center to provide local students with a chance to receive a first-rate education in engineering and technology. The $3.5 million reconstruction of Challenger Hall, located at the old Antelope Valley Fairgrounds, gave the new campus 13 classrooms, 2 of which are high tech distance learning rooms and 2 of which are lab classrooms, as well as office space. Through partnerships with California State University, Bakersfield, California State University, Fresno, and local aerospace companies, students in Lancaster can receive a first-rate education as well as a bachelor of science or a bachelor of arts degree without leaving the area.
Lancaster is also home to West Coast Baptist College, an unaccredited Independent Fundamental Baptist Bible college offering graduate and undergraduate degrees in Pastoral studies, evangelism, missions, church ministries, music, Christian education, youth ministry, and secretarial studies. West Coast opened in 1995, and now has about 950 students.