The City of Indio was born out of necessity, a railroad town that sprung to life in 1876 as the Southern Pacific Railroad built lines between Yuma, Arizona and Los Angeles, California. The engines needed a place to refill their water, and the workers needed somewhere to recharge their own batteries. Shortly after the City of Indio, named after a Spanish variation of “Indian,” was founded, the first permanent building was erected: The Southern Pacific Depot Station and Hotel. Hoping to attract and retain workers, the hotel quickly became the center of all social interactions in Indio, a place where one could find fine dining and Friday night dances, a welcome reprieve from life in the difficult desert terrain.
By the turn of the century, Indio had blossomed into a promising agricultural region. Ingenious farmers irrigated the land first through wells and later by accessing the All-American Canal, which allowed crops such as onions, cotton, grapes, citrus, and dates to thrive in the otherwise arid climate.
In 1907, Indio began work as the home of the USDA’s Date Station. Scientists researched date cultivation, learning the techniques of farmers from the Persian Gulf and Northern Africa, where dates are native. The data collected through this initiative bolstered date production in Indio, and today the area produces all of the United State’s 41.4 million pound annual output. Date production has become more than an economic boon to Indio, though. It has become part of its culture. Every year, Indio holds the National Date Festival, its Middle Eastern theme harkening back to the crop’s roots.
It was likely this transition into an agricultural powerhouse that saved Indio from becoming a fading railroad outpost. By the 20th century, Indio was growing into a fine place to live. With population growth came schools, medical facilities, and economic opportunity. On May 16, 1930, Indio was the first city in the Coachella Valley to be incorporated; only 54 years after its first building was erected.
Today, the City of Indio is currently the largest and fastest growing city in Riverside County’s Coachella Valley with over 93,000 residents. Nearly 1.4 million people visit the “City of Festivals” every year to attend its world famous arts, food, and music festivals such as the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival and Stagecoach Country Music Festival. These are some of the reasons why Indio is ranked as one of the top emerging travel destinations in the country.
With nationally recognized public safety services, exceptional schools, great parks and senior and teen centers, no wonder it is ranked as one of the best places to live for young families with over 3,000 new housing units in construction or being planned throughout the city in addition to new hotels, restaurants and retailers. People who visit tend to stay here once they experience Indio’s temperate winter climate, high quality of life, art and cultural offerings, unique restaurants and shops, diversity, and outstanding municipal services.
For more history about Indio and the Coachella Valley, go to the Coachella Valley History Museum.
The City of Indio embraces its diversity and provides outstanding municipal services to enhance the quality of life for our residents, visitors and the business community.
The natural beauty and perfect winter climate combine to make the City of Indio the leading city in the region. Located in the Coachella Valley in Southern California, Indio spans 30 square miles and is the largest municipality in the Valley, both in area and population. Following significant growth in the region, Indio has seen a 73% increase of residents since 2000. This dramatic growth and success in recent years has required strategic response by City leadership in the upgrade of infrastructure and services. Today the population in Indio is approximately 85,000. Indio has historically been the main population center in the Coachella Valley and continues to serve as the location for Riverside County’s eastern branch offices.
With fabulous weather, Indio offers abundant outdoor activities including renowned polo matches, championship golf, cycling, equestrian events, and hiking. This ideal climate, combined with exceptional conditions for growing various crops and an ample supply of ground water, allows agriculture to remain the second largest industry in the Coachella Valley. Tourism is ranked as the region’s top employer. With close to a million visitors each year attending its various festivals, shows, concerts, and events, Indio is known as the “City of Festivals.”
The variety of home types available in Indio range from workforce housing to multi-million dollar homes, easily accommodating the housing needs of a wide spectrum of homeowners. Executive housing includes resort style living with condominiums and golf course residences in gated communities.
The City of Indio was incorporated in 1930. The City operates under a City Council-City Manager form of government with five elected members of the City Council served by a City Manager and City Attorney. The five Council Members are elected at-large for four-year terms. Each year the Council selects the Mayor on a rotational basis and determines assignments for the external commissions and committees.
The City Organization
Indio is a full service city with 220 full-time staff and a $173.5 million budget for 2018-19, with a $88.2 million General Fund budget. The City also operates three enterprise operations: Indio Water Authority, Indio Municipal Golf, and Solid Waste. Fire services are provided under contract by Cal Fire. While virtually all cities had to make significant cuts during the Great Recession, public safety was made, and continues to be, a priority for the City of Indio.