Jobs in Lancaster, California, United States
Location and Population
Lancaster and Palmdale constitute a twin city complex in Antelope Valley, located just 9 miles apart on the edge of the Mojave Desert, north of the San Gabriel Mountains in Los Angeles County. Lancaster’s estimated population in 2016 was 160,000, with 11 percent foreign-born. The ethnic mix is comprised of Non-Hispanic Whites (37%), Hispanics (36%) and Non-Hispanic Blacks/African Americans (20%). Median household income has declined marginally since 2000 and is currently well below the statewide figure and slightly lower than the nationwide figure. Unemployment increased only slightly between 2000 and 2015, but though the cost of living is low, the poverty rate, already extremely high in 2000, had risen to almost a quarter of the population by 2015.
The town of Lancaster was founded by a real estate developer in 1884. Agriculture, construction work and mining were the mainstays of the economy until the 1930s, when the Air Force established a base north of Lancaster for testing military aircraft in the Mojave Desert. In the 1960s and 70s, manufacturing facilities for military and commercial aircraft on the outskirts of Palmdale provided employment for thousands of workers. Lancaster, the Valley’s main urban center, grew from a town of 26,000 in 1960 to 48,000 in 1980, and incorporated as a city in 1977.
Since the 1980s, affordable housing has attracted an influx of commuters and aerospace industries in Palmdale, Edwards Air Force Base, and the commercial Mojave Air & Space Port continue to provide employment. The California State Prison which opened in Lancaster in 1993 became a major employer, but many former inmates remained in Lancaster after release and families of inmates also relocated there, contributing to the increase in poverty. Lancaster is also a college town. Besides Antelope Valley College (a two-year community college since 1929), California State University, Bakersfield and two recently-accredited private institutions offer bachelor and master’s degrees. Several business parks house corporate offices, service industries and retail establishments. Lancaster has made alternative energy a major focus, and a Chinese firm, BYD Motors, has manufactured electric vehicles and batteries there since 2013. Much of the city’s infrastructure is solar-powered and all new homes have solar panels.
The Antelope Valley Freeway (US 14) creates a socio-economic divide between the east and west sides of Lancaster. In the western hills, the air is clean and housing is high quality yet affordable. The city has developed Lancaster Boulevard as a high-end shopping, dining and entertainment zone, and invested in tournament-level sports facilities (Big 8 Softball Complex, National Soccer Center) to earn revenue. In the impoverished east side, law enforcement focuses on keeping the city safe, although some recreational facilities are also being developed there.
What Makes Lancaster Special
ARTS AND CULTURE
Antelope Valley College Performing Arts Theater: Well-designed college theater used for performances put on by the college’s theater and music departments.
Lancaster Museum of Art and History: A gallery that shows carefully-curated exhibits of modern art, often themed on topics related to Lancaster’s history, culture and environment.
Lancaster Performing Arts Center: Small but well-designed venue with good seating and acoustics on The BLVD, with shows by local artists and groups as well as visiting performers.
California Poppy Festival: An Earth Day event held in the City Park featuring many activities spread across the park grounds, and informative materials on native wildflowers.
The BLVD, Lancaster: A well-planned, pedestrian-friendly renovation of Lancaster Boulevard, integrating sidewalk music, center median parking, offices, shops, fine dining, performing arts, museums, cinema and frequent street fairs, farmers’ markets and special events. SPORTS, RECREATION
OUT OF DOORS
Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve: A protected area with marked trails 15 miles west of Lancaster where poppies and other desert wildflowers grow in their natural state.
Apollo Community Regional Park: A desert park with stocked lakes good for fishing and bird-watching, play and picnic areas and cement trails for walking, biking and skating.
Lancaster City Park (renamed Sgt. Steve Owen Memorial Park in 2016): A large park with plenty of walking trails, softball fields, basketball, volleyball and tennis courts, skateboarding, a big playground, picnic areas and a community center – always full of people.
Prime Desert Woodland Preserve: An urban enclave with 3 miles of trails and an Interpretive Center providing information about native plant life and its preservation.
Tierra Bonita Park: A public space with all-new equipment for playgrounds, splash pool and outdoor exercise areas, playing fields and beautiful trails on the east side.
The Hangar: A ballpark built in 1996 to house the Lancaster Jet Hawks, a minor league baseball team. The stadium and adjacent pavilion are also used for many special events.
Sierra Highway Bike Trail, Lancaster Segment: Bike path linking Lancaster and Palmdale.
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