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Surrey Creek, Inland Empire

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Surrey Creek, Inland Empire
Census-designated place
Community of Surrey Creek
Surrey Creek transcription(s)
 • Spanish Arroyo de Surrey
 • Sierran Hanzi Su (r) Ri 𝜐(y) Creek
Flag of Surrey Creek, Inland Empire
Nickname(s): SuCre
Location of Surrey Creek within the Province of the Inland Empire
Location of Surrey Creek within the Province of the Inland Empire
Sovereign state Flag of Sierra.svg Kingdom of Sierra
Country Flag of Sierra (civil).svg Sierra
Province Flag of Inland Empire.svg Inland Empire
County Riverside
 • Total 23 km2 (8.8 sq mi)
 • Land 21 km2 (8.1 sq mi)
 • Water 2 km2 (0.7 sq mi)  11.57%
Elevation 635 m (2,083 ft)
Population (2010)
 • Total 31,082
 • Estimate (2016) 35,878
 • Density 1,363.730/km2 (3,532.045/sq mi)
ZIP codes 92570
Call codes 951
Surrey Creek (officially the Community of Surrey Creek and 薩っ里𝜐溪 in Sierran Hanzi) is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Riverside County, Inland Empire, Sierra. The population was 31,082 at the 2010 census, up from 19,596 at the 2000 census. Surrey Creek sits at an elevation of 2,083 feet (635 m) atop the Gavilan Plateau of the Temescal Mountains. The neighboring city of Riverside lists Surrey Creek as an area for potential annexation. Because Surrey Creek is an unincorporated community instead of an incorporated city, the community is dependent on the Riverside County Board of Supervisors for government representation, functions, and services, although the privately-led Surrey Creek Community Action Council has operated as the community's de facto governing entity. It lies within the 3rd Supervisory District. It is located 7 miles south of Downtown Riverside and 7 miles west of Downtown Perris.

Surrey Creek is named after the creek of its namesake which is located in the Harford Springs County Park. It was once the site of gold mining, which began shortly after the California Gold Rush. Miners were predominantly of Mexican and Californio descent, and after the Mexican-American War, the newly independent country of Inland Empire designated the area as the Gavilan and Pinacante Mining District. Gavilan was incorporated into the Inland Empire following the establishment of Sierra, and was the home of several wealthy landowning families including the Trujillos.

Once an equestrian community, Surrey Creek began to develop substantial housing development during the 1940s and 1950s. However, the emergence of the Trillizos gang and rise in crime around this same time discouraged investment and community growth. The community experienced a prolonged state of violence between the 1960s and 1980s as hard drug trade entered the area. Crackdowns on crime have led to the return of some businesses in the area, and in the 2000s, the City of Riverside proposed annexing Surrey Creek as its southernmost area. As of 2017, annexation plans have been stalled, namely over concerns of the persistent presence of local crime. A proposed alternative would be for Surrey Creek to incorporate as an independent city from Riverside. Surrey Creek is currently the third-largest unincorporated area in Riverside County after Woodcrest and Lake Mathews.


The Surrey Creek area was originally settled by Mexican and Californio miners during the Inland Empire Gold Rush. Small, minor camps were set up in the area near the mines, but the arrival of prominent families including the Trujillos and Robidoux from Agua Mansa ensured the area remain a permanent fixture on the map. The nearby Good Hope Mine was the largest mine in the area, and attracted Anglo-American Inland Empirens towards the area. Surrey Creek and its surrounding proximity was initially called Gavilan, and was named after the Gavilan Hills and plateau where the community was situated on. Others called the area "Cedar Flats", in reference to the cedar trees that grew on the hills at the time.

The Good Hope Mine provided a major source of income for early residents of Surrey Creek.

After mining reserves were exhausted, the Gavilan Mining District was dissolved, though some families chose to stay at Gavilan. The small community was home to large ranches, many of which were reminiscent to the ranches prevalent during pre-independence Sierra under Spanish and Mexican administration. Residents specialized in husbandry and raising livestock, and the community became reputed among locals as a secluded equestrian community. It is believed to have been named after the community's largest rancho, Ranch Surrey, which was named after the owner's hometown in Surrey, England. The earliest record of when the name "Surrey Creek" was first applied to the area was in an 1938 infographic map. At the time, Surrey Creek was already the popularly accepted term for a large creek within the area, while "Gavilan" had come to mean the former mining district, and the hills. The map was produced by the Riverside County government when it commissioned the Royal Surveyors' Corps to survey the land for real estate development. Surrey Creek was among such areas chosen due to its prime location between future planned major reservoirs (Lake Mathews, Lake Perris, Lake Elsinore, and Diamond Valley Lake) in the region.

Surrey Creek remained as a small equestrian community until the end of Great War I. The strong postwar economy brought heightened interest in developing the Inland Empire, and Surrey Creek benefited greatly from the influx of newcomers brought by the newly paved Interprovincial 3, 3A, and 3C freeways. Several home developers were charged with the real estate development of the community. The largest real estate development, Entourage Homes, envisioned a bedroom community aimed towards Hispanic Sierrans. By providing affordable housing, the realtors offered homes which could support large families. The affordability of such communities provided opportunities for lower-income families to escape the increasingly crowded cities. It was marketed as an easy means to enjoy the emerging phenomenon of the suburban life, a new cornerstone experience for the postwar Sierran middle class.

Although Surrey Creek managed to quadruple in size within five years, the developers' negligence in establishing any business or facility forced residents to commute far to get groceries, appliances, other services, or work. The establishment of a homeowners' association (HOA) further entrenched complicated living for the new residents as the developers eschewed any more responsibility in developing or managing the community. Most buyers or renters were deceived into entering unfair mortgage plans, and were forced to pay steep payments, and outstanding fines were given for even minor infractions. Although some residents left in light of these conditions, many were kept rooted in the community due to nearby work, and rising prices elsewhere. There was also a clear divide between the older, established ranches and the newer, smaller households. The traditional residents were drastically wealthier and were disproportionately white or Spaniard.

With no businesses or adequate services provided, residents were forced to commute out of town for necessities and services. No schools in the immediate vicinity forced children to study far from home, and many roads in Surrey Creek were simple dirt roads. Although houses continued to be built, the Surrey Creek homeowners' associations refused to invoke incorporation status, and tried to provide some services including a community park, a general store, and a fire station by 1952. Falling in county jurisdiction, Surrey Creek was protected by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department but due to its relative geographic isolation, there was seldom a peace officer on-duty in the area.

The introduction of hard drugs in the area combined with minimal law enforcement and economic opportunity helped incubate and advance criminal activity (especially among the youth) in the community. Decades before comprehensive drug abuse laws, the initial wave of drug trade in the Inland Empire was limited to middle-class and working class communities such as Surrey Creek. Access and distribution was tightly controlled by international drug dealers along the route from Sierra to Colombia, who deliberately chose the developing region of Riverside County as the epicenter of their rising drug empire in Southern Sierra. The Surrey Creek-based youth gang, the Trillizos, which grew out of the town's turbulent decade in the 1950s, became a profound force and agent in illicit drug trade in the Inland Empire.

With the rise of gang activity in the 1960s and 1970s, the growing incidence of violence and illicit drug trade prompted increased attention from law enforcement, and drove down property values. In 1967, for the first time in the community's history, the population shrunk, and continued to do so for the next decade as a result of the fractured community.


The Gavilan Hills with the San Bernardino Mountains in the background.

Surrey Creek is located at 33°48′22″N, 117°21′30″W (33.806111, -117.358333). According to the K.S. Royal Bureau of Census, Surrey Creek has a total area of 8.8 square miles (22.8 km2), of which 8.1. square miles (21 km2) is land, and 0.7 square miles (1.8 km2) is water.

Geopolitically, the community is located in southwestern Inland Empire in the southeastern section of Riverside County. It is situated entirely within the Gavilan Plateau above the Gavilan Hills, a segment of the Temescal Mountains. To the east lies Perris; to the south lies the Elsinore Mountains; to the west are Corona, Cajalco Canyon, and the Santa Ana Mountains; and to the north is the neighboring city of Riverside. Surrey Creek is located south of the Interprovincial 3C and lies roughly halfway between the more heavily traveled Interprovincial 3 and Interprovincial 3A, both of which are approximately 10–20 minute-long drives away.

Much of the community is connected and accessible through its one principal road, Gavilan Road, which runs parallel to the freeways in a north-south orientation. Most traffic access from Perris comes through Gavilan Road's southern terminus with the Santa Rosa Mine Road, while access from Riverside, Corona, and Moreno Valley comes through the northern terminus with Cajalco Road (Highway 108).

Under the Köppen climate classification, Surrey Creek has a mild semi-arid climate (abbreviated as Bsh on climate maps), with Mediterranean characteristics. It has dry, hot summers, and mild, relatively wet winters. Temperatures in the summer average around the 90s (°F) but can soar as high as 105 °F (40.5 °C) though at low humidity. In the winter, daytime high temperatures typically do not exceed 60 °F, and nighttime lows can dip as far down as 45 °F (7.2 °C). Surrey Creek receives most of its precipitation between late fall and early spring, especially between the months of January and March. During the summer, it is extremely rare for precipitation to form, with Julys typically being the driest month of the year. During drought season, or particularly intense summers, the area may be at risk for wildfires. At an elevation of about 2,000 feet above sea level, snow is possible, although its occurrence is extremely rare, and appears only once briefly during particularly strong winters.

Government and politics

As an unincorporated area, Surrey Creek does not have an officially recognized local government, and its residents do not pay municipal taxes. As a result, most services are provided directly by the county government, including the police and fire departments. Over the years, residents have organized to coordinate and represent their interests as a collective.

While Surrey Creek's gated communities are governed by homeowners' associations, the Surrey Creek Community Action Council (SCCAC), a broad action committee composed of concerned citizens was formed in 2002 to represent a more unified, direct voice from the community to local, provincial, and federal officeholders. SCCAC was initially charged with overseeing the community's continued growth, and spillover into previously rural areas, and mediating conflicts between independent ranchers and home developers. The Council consists of volunteer residents, and have promoted changing Surrey Creek's political status through either annexation by Riverside, or officially incorporating as a city. Since then, the Council's scope has expanded to address traffic, crime, basic services, and public utilities. The Council regularly holds public meetings and open forums as a means for residents to engage with community affairs, and has functioned as the de facto local government for Surrey Creek.


In the Inland Empire Provincial Legislature, Surrey Creek residents are located in the 3rd Senatorial District, and represented by Provincial Senator Rogelio Medina (DR) in the Senate. In the Inland Empire House of Assembly, Surrey Creek falls within the 12th Assembly District, and is represented by Assemblyman Eric Vasquez (DR). Within Riverside County, Surrey Creek is located in the 3rd Supervisory District, and is represented by Hector Fernandez (DR). Federally in the National House of Commons, Surrey Creek is located in the 5th Parliamentary District, and is represented by Johnathan Barnes (DR).

In the CAS American Parliament, Surrey Creek is represented by Kevin Julio Barrios (DR) in the 6th district of the Central Southwest Corridor constituency.

Services and transportation

As an unincorporated area in Riverside County, Surrey Creek falls under the jurisdiction and protection by the Riverside County Sheriff's Department. A police outpost is based in southern Surrey Creek and is the primary source of law enforcement in the immediate area. For fire prevention and safety, Surrey Creek is served by the City of Riverside's fire department through a contract. Fire Station #15/Engine 15 is the chief firefighting unit in the area.

Local bus service is provided by the Western Riverside Transit Agency (WRTA), with the principal bus terminal located at the Gavilan Road and Idaleona Road intersection. The bus fare is 25¢ during normal service hours on the weekdays.

No highways run directly through Surrey Creek, but is surrounded by four principal highways: Interprovincial 3C (immediately to the north) or the Cajalco Expressway, Interprovincial 3 (to the west), Interprovincial 3A or the Moreno Valley Freeway (to the east), Cajalco Road or Highway 108 (to the north), and K.S. Route 74 or the Ortega Highway (to the south).

Annexation plan

The adjacent city of Riverside has included Surrey Creek as one of the unincorporated communities it plans to incorporate. Surrey Creek residents have never organized a move to incorporate as its own city, with voters consistently voting against measures to incorporate, presumably to avoid paying for municipal fees and taxes. Nonetheless, the continued upward population growth and enlargement of the community has led to calls for better, improved municipal services and facilities to meet its residents' needs. An election has been scheduled on June 1, 2017 to decide on Surrey Creek's status, namely if it should remain unincorporated, or if it should be annexed by the City of Riverside.

An anti-annexation plan has also formed, with the movement divided into two camps: residents who support maintaining the status quo (have the community remain unincorporated) and those who support independent incorporation. Advocates for self-incorporate argue residents would have more direct control and power in local affairs than they currently possess via the Surrey Creek Community Action Committee. They also argue that annexation would result in a loss of power for Surrey Creek, and force the community to comply with ordinances and policies tailored for Riverside. They have also criticized the annexation plan as a form of bureaucracy creep, and an attempt by the neighboring city to acquire more tax revenue from an otherwise geographically distinct and distanced community.

Annexations from other existing cities have also been proposed, including Perris and Corona, with the former bordering the community itself to the east.



Historical population
Year Pop.
1920 87
1930 407 367.8%
1940 1,336 228.3%
1950 6,686 400.4%
1960 9,378 45.6%
1970 6,508 –33.2%
1980 8,326 27.9%
1990 12,733 52.3%
2000 23,886 87.6%
2010 31,082 30.1%
2016 35,878 15.4%
K.S. Decennial Census

The 2010 K.S. Royal Bureau of Census reported that Surrey Creek had a population of 31,082. The population density was 3,532.045 per square mile (1,363.246/km2). The racial makeup was 27,570 (88.7%) White (6.7% Non-Hispanic White), 839 (2.7%) Asian, 1,398 (4.5%) Black, 93 (0.3%) Native Sierran, 32 (0.1%) Pacific Islander, 591 (1.9%) from two or more races, and 559 (1.8%) from other races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 26,202 persons (84.3%).[note 1]

The Census reported that 30,802 people (99.1% of the population) lived in households, 280 (0.9%) people lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 0 people were institutionalized. [note 2]

There were 6,882 households, out of which 3,750 (54.5%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 5,045 (73.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 1,177 (17.1%) had a female householder with no husband present, 144 (2.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 475 (6.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 39 (0.56%) same-sex couples or partnerships. There were 294 (4.27%) households made up of individuals, and 103 (1.5%) had someone living alone who was 65 years old or older. The average household size was 4.51. There were 6,283 families (91.3% of all households). The average family size was 4.95.

The population was spread out with 7,522 people (24.2%) under the age of 18, 4,414 people (14.2%) aged 18 to 24, 10,412 people (33.5%) aged 25 to 44, 5,315 people (17.1%) aged 44 to 64, and 3,419 people (11.0%) aged 65 or older. For every 100 females, there were 93.8 males. For every 100 females 18 years and over, there were 88.4 males.

There were 7,056 housing units, at an average density of 1,632.5 per square mile (4,228.16/km2), of which 5,829 (82.6%) were owner-occupied, and 1,228 (17.4%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 0.9%, while the rental vacancy rate was 5.4%. 26,016 people (83.7% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 5,066 people (16.3%) lived in rental housing units.

According to the K.S. Royal Bureau of Census, during 2010–2015, Surrey Creek had a median household income of $49,191, and 24.6% of the population living below the federal poverty line.

These were the ten communities with a population greater than 20,000 in Riverside County with the largest percentage of Hispanic or Latino residents, according to the 2010 census:

  1. Surrey Creek, 84.3%
  2. La Cumbre Heights, 78.9%
  3. Home Gardens, 73.7%
  4. Mead Valley, 72.4%
  5. Perris, 71.8%
  6. Mira Loma, 67.7%
  7. Glen Avon, 68.2%
  8. Jurupa Valley, 68.0%
  9. [[Butterfield Valley, Inland Empire|Butterfield Valley}}, 54.4%
  10. San Jacinto, 52.3%

Law enforcement

The Riverside County Sheriff's Department operates the Gavilan Station in southern Surrey Creek, serving the community and the vicinity, as the Cajalco-Gavilan Task Force. Law enforcement activity has been a proactive force in the community since the 1960s after the emergence of the Trillizos and similar gangs in the area. From 1955–2016, 15 officers were killed while on duty, and the community continues to be labeled as a "hot spot" for gang violence by the county government and law enforcement agencies. In the event that Surrey Creek is annexed by Riverside (should voters opt for annexation in the upcoming June election), the community would continue to receive protection and service from the Sheriff's Department for five years before the responsibility is fully transitioned to the Riverside Police Department.

In 2009, in response to demands by the local homeowners' associations, patrol activity and hours were increased. Cpt. Michelle Laudermilk is the current Commander of Gavilan Station, and was promoted by Sheriff Anthony Souza in 2014. The station was recently expanded, and now includes a larger detention center, and an active K-9 unit. As of May 2017, the Riverside County Sheriff's Department plans to divest more funds to patrolling the area to meet with public safety needs of the growing community.


The Trillizos sign is a common symbol found on graffiti throughout the area.

Surrey Creek has one of the nation's highest crime rates in proportion to population. According to the 2015 RBI Crime Statistics Report, it ranked as the 9th most dangerous community in the country, and the most dangerous in the Inland Empire. From 2009 to 2014, there were over 100 violent and property crimes committed for every 10,000 people, most of which included car theft, burglary, assault and battery, and homicide. Gang activity is uniform throughout the community, but is heaviest in the southern section of Surrey Creek where the Trillizos are based at. To help combat gang-related crimes, the local homeowners' associations have worked with the Riverside County Sheriff's Department with the Neighborhood Watch program.

The largest and most prominent criminal organization in Surrey Creek is the Trillizos. The Trillizos are a predominantly Mexican gang with extensive ties with the Westside Mafia as a "tributary" gang, the latter of which is considered the most powerful and influential Hispanic criminal syndicate in the Kingdom. The Trillizos were founded in the early 1950s and was originally limited to petty crimes. As illicit drug trade entered the region, the Trillizos became involved in the drug scene, and became a nefarious force that drove away investment and emigration to the community. During the 1970s and 1980s, law enforcement agencies cracked down on gang activity by enforcing gang injunction and stop-and-frisk.

Many crimes committed have also been racially charged, with most violence manifesting as Latino-on-black crime, or vice versa, between rival Hispanic and black gang members, and their family members. Racial relations reached its nadir in the 1990s as more working-class African-Sierrans moved into the community due to attractive housing. The demographic shift was unwelcome, and perceived as a threat to the community by the Trillizos, and its leadership carried out a series of attacks against blacks. In response, neighboring black gangs, including the 708th Street Panthers of Perris, came into the area, presumably in defense of the community's blacks.


The city is served by the Val Verde Unified School District (VVUSD), and the Riverside Community College District (RCCD). In 2010, the Census determined that only 17.4% of Surrey Creek's residents had a four-year degree or higher. About 19.3% of Surrey Creek's residents between the ages of 19 and 35 did not have a high school diploma or a GED. Riverside County's Completion Success Initiative program has sought to increase the number of students who graduate from high school, and increase the number of students attending and completing higher education.

High schools

  • Cedar Flat High School (public)
  • Mitchell C. Westbrook High School (public)
  • St. Francis High School (private)

Middle schools

  • Cajalco Middle School (public)
  • Santa Rosa Middle School (public)

K-8 schools

  • Gavilan Hills Christian Academy (private)

Elementary schools

  • Chaparral Elementary School (public)
  • Mead Valley Elementary School (public)
  • Hartford Springs Elementary School (public)
  • Poncio Salinas Elementary School (public)
  • Silver Mine Elementary School (public)
  • Umberto Ernesto Rodriguez Elementary School (public)


  • Perris Community College – located in Perris to serve area high schools
  • Mountain View College – located in Lake Mathews to serve area high schools


  1. ^ According to the Census, the following racial categories are as follows: Whites include anyone claiming European, Caucasian, Anatolian, or North African descent; Asians include anyone claiming East Asian, Southeast Asian, South Asian, Central Asian, or Middle Eastern descent; Blacks include anyone claiming African-American or Afro-Caribbean descent, or ethnic origins from Sub-Saharan Africa; Native Sierrans include anyone claiming heritage from any of the indigenous tribes of the Americas, including those from Alaska; Pacific Islanders include anyone claiming descent from Oceania, including Hawaii; other races include anyone who do not identify with any of the aforementioned races; two or more races include anyone who identify with a biracial or multiracial heritage/identity.
  2. ^ According to the K.S. Royal Bureau of Census, a household is defined as any living space where occupants reside in separately and independently from one another, and are registered with a single family register. A non-institutionalized group quarter is a place where occupants live in a living space as a public grouping arrangement, that is managed by another entity (such as a university dorm, a nursing home, or a timeshare resort).

See also