Looking for a little breathing room?

Special to The Times

Palmdale was depicted as a short strip of houses with a bus stop in the 2001 comedy "Bubble Boy," but that's far from reality. The city, nicknamed "The Aerospace Capital of the World," is a fast-growing bedroom community with about 136,000 residents, many of whom commute to Los Angeles for work. Ag and air

Water was scarce in this Antelope Valley community until the Los Angeles Aqueduct system was completed in 1914. Agriculture, including apples, pears and alfalfa, became the primary means of livelihood.

In 1933, the U.S. government established nearby Muroc Air Base, now known as Edwards Air Force Base. The government also bought Palmdale Airport in 1952 and developed a testing facility called U.S. Air Force Plant 42. One year later, Lockheed Martin established a facility at the airport. Today, Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. also have facilities there.

Drawing cards

In the last decade, Palmdale has experienced an industrial, commercial, retail and residential boom. The expanded Antelope Valley Mall has more than 150 retail stores, including Mervyn's, Sears, JC Penney, Harris Gottchalks and Dillard's. Additional retail space in Palmdale under construction will include a 14-screen, stadium-seating cinema, a drive-through Starbucks and an Office Depot.

A new community pool and 7,000-seat amphitheater at the 17-acre Marie Kerr Park are scheduled to open in July. The park will add 40 more acres in phases over the next few years.

For the last few decades, most of the city's new development centered in west Palmdale, long a more affluent part of the city. West Palmdale continues to be a hub for new schools and master-planned communities. However, there are a number of developments in the works for east Palmdale, including new housing, retail establishments, a water park and a 33-acre recreation complex.

Insider's view

Dennis Moses, 51, traded a cramped three-bedroom rental in Hacienda Heights for a large five-bedroom home in Palmdale 15 years ago. "My wife, Dorothy, and I had two young sons. We began to have respiratory problems because of the smog. We couldn't afford to move closer to the ocean, so a friend suggested we move to the high desert."

Good news, bad news

The availability of affordable housing in Palmdale has made it a popular choice for Los Angeles workers. The problem? "The commute," said real estate agent Steve Burton of Keller Williams Realty in Palmdale. Commutes into L.A. can take two hours or more, depending on road conditions and traffic congestion. Construction and new development in Palmdale, Valencia and Santa Clarita have lengthened commute times. However, many Palmdale residents are still willing to inch along the 14 Freeway or spend rush hours aboard a Metrolink train.

Stock report

There recently were 130 single-family homes listed for sale in the 93550 ZIP Code, starting at $187,500 for a two-bedroom, one-bath house. There were 136 listings in west Palmdale (93551), ranging from a three-bedroom, two-bath home priced at $220,000 to a six-bedroom, 3 1/2 -bath home at $1.3 million. Of 74 properties for sale in the 93552 ZIP Code, prices ranged from $234,900 to $889,000. The 22 listings in the combined 93591 and 93590 ZIP Codes ranged from $160,000 to $319,000.

Report card

On the 2004 Academic Performance Index scale of 1,000, scores ranged from 540 to 740 at Palmdale elementary schools. The four middle schools scored from 590 to 621. Three Palmdale high schools scored from 607 to 695.

Historical values Residential resales:

Year...Median Price 1990...$138,000





*Year to date

Sources: DataQuick Information Systems; Palmdale Chamber of Commerce; Palmdale Main Library, palmdalelibrary.org; city of Palmdale; Steve Buffalo, city of Palmdale Parks & Recreation; California Department of Education; realtor.com; http://www.real-estate-palmdale.com ; Steve Burton of Keller Williams Realty.

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