Eastvale: City attracts Latino,
black upper middle class
By David Olson
The Press-Enterprise (December 30, 2012)
Morris and Zarela Davis moved to Eastvale primarily for the good schools, the low crime rate and a large, recently built home they could buy at a good price.
But the couple also likes the city's ethnic mix, which is unusual for a high-income community such as Eastvale.
Of the 20 California cities with the highest annual median incomes, Eastvale has, by far, the highest percentage of Latino and black residents, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.
The city in western Riverside County is 40 percent Latino, 9 percent black, 24 percent Asian and 24 percent white.
Morris Davis, whose ancestry is a mix of black, white and Native American, and whose wife Zarela is a Peruvian immigrant, said Eastvale is a good place to raise the couple's two children.
"He doesn't have a prejudiced bone in his body," Davis, 56, said as he watched 7-year-old son Mateo play at Harada Heritage Park in Eastvale on a recent afternoon. "All his friends are of different ethnicities. Look at how diverse this park is - people of all different backgrounds are here."
Eastvale has the 17th highest median household income - $113,154 - of the 344 communities in California with 20,000 people or more, according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates from 2009-2011 that exclude less-populous cities because data from smaller places is less reliable.
Of all the high-earning places, Eastvale is the most diverse.
In some ways, that's not surprising. For years, the Inland region has lured middle-class Latinos and African-Americans from Los Angeles and Orange counties, seeking larger homes than they could afford closer to the coast.
Blacks and Latinos typically earn less than whites and Asians in the Inland area, as they do in the rest of the state and nationwide.
But the gap is less wide than elsewhere.
For example, African-American households in Riverside County have an annual median income of more than $56,000 a year, not far below the $60,000 of whites - and $20,000 above the income of blacks in Los Angeles County, census estimates show. The median white household in Los Angeles County takes in more than $69,000 a year.
What makes Eastvale unique in the Inland area and California is the concentration of high-earning Latinos and African-Americans.
Most high-income cities in California have black and Latino populations in the single digits or below. For example, in La Cañada Flintridge and Manhattan Beach in Los Angeles County, fewer than 1 percent of residents are black and fewer than 7 percent are Latino.
Chino Hills, with the second-highest median income in the Inland region, at more than $100,000 a year, isn't one of the state's 20 highest-income communities. But, reflecting the Inland Empire's attraction for the black and Latino middle class, it has a population that is 29 percent Latino and more than 4 percent black.
Jody Agius Vallejo, an assistant professor of sociology at USC and an expert on the Latino middle class, said Latinos move to well-off Inland suburbs such as Eastvale and Chino Hills for the same reason many other middle-class people do: Houses are a better value than in coastal areas, schools are typically better than in places like Los Angeles, and crime is lower.
Fast-growing areas such as Eastvale, where many homes were built in the past decade on land where dairy farms sat, are more likely to be racially diverse than older cities that have the legacy of housing discrimination, she said.
Once Latinos settle down and are comfortable in a community, they often recommend it to family and friends, increasing the Latino population further, Agius Vallejo said.
The diversity of the city also is likely an attraction for many black and Latino residents, she said.
"You want to see yourself represented in the neighborhood you live in," Agius Vallejo said.
GOOD SCHOOLS, QUIET STREETS
As Morris Davis watched son Mateo run on the Harada Heritage Park playground with a mix of Latino, black, Asian and white children, Zarela, 37, was chatting in Spanish with Teresa Flores. Zarela is bilingual but enjoys having nearby friends like Flores with whom she can speak in her native tongue.
Flores, 37, her husband and their four children moved to Eastvale four years ago.
She grew up in East Los Angeles and prefers the quiet suburbia of Eastvale.
"It's just different from LA," Flores said. "It's calm and clean and spacious. You have less traffic, people are friendly and the schools are really good here."
Art Organista, 49, said he and his wife combed through school-test-score data before moving with their two children to Eastvale in 2005. The good schools and parks for their children were key factors in their move, he said.
"In the Latino community, family is a very strong motivating factor in anything you do," he said.
Organista, a firefighter with the Chino Valley Independent Fire District, is president of the Eastvale Law Enforcement and Firefighters Association, which has several hundred members. The association estimates there are about 1,500 public-safety officers in the city of about 55,000, Organista said. Many encourage co-workers to move to the city, he said.
A large number of the law-enforcement officers and firefighters work in Los Angeles and Orange counties and like how they can quickly get on the four nearby freeways, he said. Others work at the three nearby prisons.
Public-safety officers don't earn the huge salaries of corporate executives or movie stars. But many earn six-figure incomes with overtime pay.
There are few truly wealthy people in Eastvale. Instead of a collection of trendy boutiques selling $10,000 purses or $200 bottles of wine, chain stores and restaurants such as Staples, Target, McDonald's and Panda Express are housed in shopping centers that could have been plucked out of many other suburbs.
Eastvale, however, has a higher median income than places that are nationally associated with the rich and famous, such as Beverly Hills and Newport Beach.
But those cities' median incomes - the median is the midpoint of all incomes - are likely brought down by bigger retiree populations and a large number of apartments and condominiums.
Beverly Hills and Newport Beach have more expensive single-family homes than Eastvale and a much higher percentage of residents who earn more than $200,000 a year.
Eastvale doesn't boast many mansions like Beverly Hills but it has no apartment buildings, said city spokeswoman Michelle Nissen. There are some mobile homes but its streets are lined mostly with large, recently built houses and upscale townhouses.
Morris Davis said quiet, low-key Eastvale is exactly what he was looking for.
"It's close to work, close to my kids' schools," he said. "It has everything we need to raise our kids and keep them safe."
Follow David Olson on Twitter: @DavidOlson11