Tehachapi (pronounced /təˈhætʃəpi/; formerly, Greenwich, Tehachapai, Tehachapa, Tehachepi, Tehachipi, and Summit Station) is a city incorporated in 1909 located in the Tehachapi Mountains between Bakersfield and Mojave in Kern County, California. Tehachapi is located 35 miles (56 km) east-southeast of Bakersfield, at an elevation of 3,970 feet (1,210 m). The area is known for its Tehachapi Loop, Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm, proximity to Edwards Air Force Base, and excellent environment for gliding. A maximum security prison, the California Correctional Institution, also known as the Tehachapi State Prison, is in the area. The population was 10,957 at the 2000 census. As of 2006 the total population of the Tehachapi area is estimated at 35,000. Communities in the vicinity of the City of Tehachapi include Golden Hills, Old Town, Bear Valley Springs, Stallion Springs, Oak Knolls, Alpine Forest Park, Mountain Meadows, Cummings Valley, Brite Valley, Old West Ranch, Sand Canyon, Keene, and Hart Flat. The Greater Tehachapi Area has a 25-mile (40 km) radius. Tehachapi's Elevation ranges from 3,969 to 7,981 feet (1,210 to 2,433 m) (Double Mountain).
The headquarters of the United Farm Workers, a national farmworker's organization that was founded and led by Cesar Chavez, is located 10 miles (20 km) to the west at Keene. In April 2004 the National Chavez Center opened to the public.
The area is known for its apple orchards, though these have decreased in recent decades due to extreme weather changes. Its four season climate and rural ambiance has attracted retirees to the city. The late actor Jack Palance of City Slickers fame lived on a ranch just north of the Stallion Springs area.
While less than 120 miles (190 km) to the north-east of Los Angeles, Tehachapi maintains a distinctively rural atmosphere. Currently, there are only five traffic signals in or near the city. Ranches with horses as well as homes on large areas are common in the areas surrounding Tehachapi. Flora and fauna in the area include the California Poppy (state flower), California quail (state bird), Mojave green rattlesnake, mountain lion (cougar), bobcat, deer, and wild boar to name just a few.
Migrating turkey vultures use the Tehachapi Pass, and are counted annually by the Tehachapi Mountains Birding Club. This annual count is the inspiration for the TMBC club song.
Tehachapi Municipal Airport fuel prices for both Jet A and 100LL are consistently lower than surrounding airports. Mountain Valley Airport also in Tehachapi is the site of glider rides and instruction, well situated to take advantage of good soaring conditions nearby. Tehachapi Municipal is also a great place to take advantage of a hot air balloon.
(Total can be greater than 100% because Hispanics could be counted in other races)
On July 4, 2008,1 day away from having the sprinkler system installed, the historic Tehachapi Railroad Depot was burned by a firework shot directly into the depot, at approximatly 2AM, leaving only the east wall standing. City contractors decided it was unsafe to keep the wall, and tore it down. After 2 years of a hole in the ground, it is nearing complete restoration, and will house a train museum, with a signal collection, once opened.
Tehachapi was preceded by a settlement a few miles west called Williamsburg or Tehichipa which was in existence in the 1870s. After the Southern Pacific (SP) railroad (now merged into the Union Pacific) established its line through the mountains in 1876 Williamsburg saw its business taken away by the SP's newer location, eventually called Tehachapi Summit. Later its name was shortened to Tehachapi. The original SP railroad depot was the beginning of the downtown core. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) and was the oldest building in downtown Tehachapi until it burned in June 2008. The building had been in the final stages of becoming a museum. It is currently being rebuilt using the original planes, with minor modifications to meet modern building codes.
The Dust Bowl migrants—known regionally here as Okies and made famous by John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath came through the area on their way to the southern San Joaquin Valley in the 1930s Great Depression. Tehachapi is directly referenced in The Grapes of Wrath.
On July 21, 1952 Tehachapi was devastated by a magnitude 7.5 (Richter scale) earthquake (USGS, SCEC) on the little known White Wolf Fault. Unreinforced brick buildings resulted in major building destruction, but have long been outlawed in California building codes.
The origin of the name Tehachapi is in dispute. Possibilities include Native American words expressing:
Tehachapi's fame is burnished by the reference to it in the chorus of the song "Willin'" by Lowell George of Little Feat on the albums Little Feat, Sailin' Shoes and Waiting for Columbus:
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 9.6 square miles (24.8 km²), of which, 9.6 square miles (24.8 km²) of it is land and 0.10% is water.
As of the census of 2000, there are 10,957 people, 2,533 households, and 1,709 families residing in the city. The population density is 1,144.0 people per square mile (441.6/km²). There are 2,914 housing units at an average density of 304.2/sq mi (117.4/km²). The racial makeup of the city is 57.17% White, 13.80% Black or African American, 1.35% Native American, 0.74% Asian, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 23.82% from other races, and 2.97% from two or more races. 32.70% of the population are Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There are 2,533 households out of which 35.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.5% are married couples living together, 14.3% have a female householder with no husband present, and 32.5% are non-families. 28.8% of all households are made up of individuals and 13.5% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.59 and the average family size is 3.19.
In the city the population is spread out with 18.5% under the age of 18, 12.9% from 18 to 24, 42.7% from 25 to 44, 16.5% from 45 to 64, and 9.4% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 33 years. For every 100 females there are 224.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 270.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city is $29,208, and the median income for a family is $40,030. Males have a median income of $50,446 versus $26,023 for females. The per capita income for the city is $18,220. 20.4% of the population and 17.4% of families are below the poverty line. Out of the total population, 24.5% of those under the age of 18 and 15.5% of those 65 and older are living below the poverty line.
Tehachapi is known for its four-season climate, which can be considered special in California. For example, it can be sunny and relatively warm in the morning, cloudy and windy by noon, and snowing by nightfall. The wet season is generally November through May, although thunderstorms are likely during the summer. Average temperatures range from 87 °F (30.6 °C)/57 °F (13.9 °C) in July to 51 °F (10.6 °C)/30 °F (-1.1 °C) in January. The area typically collects 15-20 inches of snow each winter. There are an average of 31.1 days with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 94.8 days with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower annually.
The highest recorded temperature was 105 °F on July 27, 1934. The lowest recorded temperature was -4 °F on January 14, 1932, and December 3, 1958. Annual precipitation averages 11.08 inches and there is measurable precipitation on average of 42 days annually. The wettest year was 1983 with 27.77 inches and the dryest year was 1989 with 4.30 inches. The most precipitation in one month was 11.59 inches in March 1983. The most precipitation in 24 hours was 3.40 inches on March 1, 1983. The snowiest year was 1967 when 62.0 inches fell. The most snow in one month was 44.0 inches in January, 1933.
Downtown Tehachapi is 15 miles (24 km) from the White Wolf Fault, 6 miles (10 km) from the Garlock Fault and 30 miles (50 km) from the San Andreas Fault. Tehachapi is best known for the 7.5 quake on the White Wolf Fault in 1952. At the time, the earthquake was the largest in Southern California in the twentieth century since 1872. It was felt as far away as Reno, Nevada. Twelve people died in the quake and severe damage was done to buildings and rail lines in the area. The 1857 Fort Tejon earthquake on the San Andreas Fault had an estimated magnitude of 7.9 but there is no record of the local effects of this quake. The Garlock Fault has not ruptured in historic times.
Tehachapi's mountains have hosted both Hollywood productions and independent film In the Christina Applegate vehicle originally titled Tehachapi, her character moves to Tehachapi because her lover was imprisoned there. The movie was released under the title Across the Moon (1995).
Referencing the local women's prison was a common manner in which Tehachapi received mentioned in noir film, including Double Indemnity. Fred MacMurray's character tells of one woman who killed her husband: "All she collected was a three-to-ten stretch in Tehachapi."
In The Maltese Falcon, Sam Spade (played by Humphrey Bogart) tells a female criminal and love interest, "Well, if you get a good break, you'll be out of Tehachapi in twenty years and you can come back to me then. I hope they don't hang you, precious, by that sweet neck. Yes, angel, I'm gonna send you over. The chances are you'll get off with life. That means if you're a good girl you'll be out in twenty years. I'll be waiting for you. If they hang you, I'll always remember you." In the book, the reference was not to Tehachapi but to San Quentin.
Nocturne (1946) featured a housemaid mysteriously referred to as the "Tehachapi Debutante," and 1948's The Hunted has a heroine fresh out of Tehachapi after four years for a jewel theft.
In The Story of Molly X (1949), Molly X is the leader of a San Francisco gang who is sent to Tehachapi for her role in a burglary attempt but would have been sent to San Quentin for execution if only the law knew the truth about her. Most of the film then takes place at the prison, as Molly goes from being trouble to a model prisoner.
Perhaps the first movie to be filmed in Tehachapi was The Lady of the Dugout (1918), which starred former outlaws Al and Frank Jennings playing themselves. The brother outlaws were well known to Americans of the time.
In Mac and Me (1988), after the characters state they have to "drive to Woolworth's in Palmdale" the next shot shows them driving up a dirt road through a Tehachapi wind farm. Similarly, Terminal Velocity (1994) has a fight sequence filmed on top of a hill in one of the farms.
Most recently, Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005) shot a sequence at a wind farm and on Oak Creek Road, which winds through several farms.
Other movies filmed in Tehachapi include Face to Face (2001), Fault (2002), Batman: Revenge, (2003), The Gentleman Don La Mancha (2004), I.F.O. (Identified Flying Object) (1985), Motor Mansions (2005) and The Legend of Mary Worth (2006).
Little Darlings screenwriter Kimi Peck is a recent local resident of Tehachapi. Tehachapi was also mentioned in the movie The Right Stuff as Chuck Yeager breaks the sound barrior for the first time at the beginning of the movie.
The Beekay Theater is a downtown landmark that had the first neon sign in Tehachapi. Originally built by two former mayors, it fell into disrepair in the 1970s and its original Art Deco poured concrete facade was renovated with a Victorian false front as it became a meeting hall. After being gutted by fire in the early 1990s, in 2009 the theater was renovated to its original design through a partnership of the City of Tehachapi and Tehachapi Community Theater.
Throughout the Summer Tehachapi has a downtown farmers market where locals buy fresh fruits, vegetables and farmstead goods such as cheeses, breads and jams. Local gifts, arts, music and crafts are also featured. It is scheduled June through August at Railroad Park (E Tehachapi Blvd between Green St and Robinson St.). The Tehachapi Community Orchestra performs five free concerts each year.
Tehachapi also has an annual Mountain Festival, which attracts nearly 50,000 people from across the country. The Mountain Festival takes place generally around the 2nd or 3rd weekend in August. The Festival has multiple vendors, rides, a parade, and much more.
Perhaps the most popular of all local pastimes is watching the local High School Football team, the Tehachapi Warriors, which has won numerous section and league titles on Friday nights. It is not uncommon to have nearly 1/2 to 2/3's of the entire population of the city during it's version of Friday Night Lights. Perhaps the best football player in Tehachapi History was #23 Brian Olson a member of the Warriors 1990/1991, 1991/1992 CIF championship game participants, he is currently living the dream in Vacaville, CA. with his wife Koreen, Daughter Emily Aileen, and Son Joseph Montana James.
One of the largest employers in Tehachapi is the California Correctional Institution (CCI), which is a high-security prison for males. The prison held only female criminals prior to the 1952 earthquake. At one time land east of the city along Highway 58, designated "Capital Hills", was envisioned to become a site for cutting edge research and technologies development as well as new residential areas. These plans never came to fruition.
On July 1, 2007, law enforcement services were transferred from the Kern County Sheriff's Department to the newly-established Tehachapi Police Department, with former Irvine Police official Jeff Kermode named its first Chief of Police.
Kern County Fire Department remains as the fire prevention services provider.
The city has several local publications; The Tehachapi News, covering local news; The Mountain Signal - the Voice of Greater Tehachapi, is the hometown monthly community magazine focused on the Greater Tehachapi Area including Bear Valley, Stallion Springs, Golden Hills and Alpine Forest. The Loop features community news and an entertainment guide that covers upcoming events for Tehachapi and the rest of eastern Kern County. The Cub and Bear Tracks both cater to Bear Valley Springs residents.