California’s Third Largest City Having Mostly Empty Roads All Time
Antelope Valley is a high desert in California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. A city is planned to go there. But the plan isn’t written down; it’s in the sand. Miles and miles of unpaved roads run through the eastern part of California City. These roads meet and end in empty cul-de-sacs. Along the roads, there are signs that say things like “Lincoln Boulevard,” “Rutgers Road,” and “Aristotle Drive.” So you know where the streets are. The signs are set up among the creosote bushes, which are very sharp.
Only the dusty roads and phone lines break up the view. Old signs that say the land is for sale are the only other things that are there. Some of them are now lying flat on the sand after being knocked off their wooden posts. It was planned that this empty neighborhood would be the heart of one of the biggest towns ever built. It was meant to be the hub of a master-planned neighborhood where tens of thousands of people would live and guests from all over the country would visit. The history of California City, from an idea for a building to a town of 13,000 people in the desert, is as long and winding as its roads.
It has big hopes, botched business deals, and government investigations. At the end, the FTC gives out one of its biggest awards ever. Tech moguls want to build the perfect city in Solano County in 2023. Plans and projects can be very different. California City is still there to show this.
The city still has the third most land area of any city in California. Its big, spread-out mark on the map shows how far away results and goals are. There are homes, shops, and paved roads all around the western half of town. On top of a deep water tank is this half of town. The eastern side, which was meant to be the center of the city, is almost empty.
The Los Angeles Alternative
“For lack of a better word, [developers] really understood and pitched California City as an alternative to Los Angeles and maybe even a rival city,” SFGATE heard from Shannon Starkey. There is an assistant professor of design at the University of San Diego named Starkey. He has known about the place for a long time.
The people who built California City thought that Los Angeles’ traffic problems were caused by the city’s uneven growth. They thought Los Angeles wasn’t ready for California’s population boom after World War II because it already seemed to have too many people living there. It would be up to the new towns to help out. It was meant to be that kind of city: a big, dry city that can take care of itself. Starkey said that the city was always meant to hold 400,000 people.
They bought about 80,000 acres of land in the Kern County desert in 1958. The builder was Nat Mendelsohn, and he was a brave man. This marked the beginning of the city. Anyone in the city who thought, sold, or preached was Mendelssohn. Mendelssohn had planned villages before. He built Arlanza Village in Riverside before he moved to California City. After that, he helped split up the town of Hesperia in the desert, which is outside of Los Angeles. That being said, Mendelssohn’s first and only big project was California City.
Kathryn Efford-Floyd was a sales manager for Mendelsohn’s company in the 1960s. That was her job in the 1970s: she was in charge of PR. She told him he was “very smooth and friendly, like a salesman.”
Starkey says that the first plan for California City took a year to make and was very detailed. It said things like what kind of trees would be in the park and what color the road signs would be. With space for 80,000 to 100,000 people, the city’s center would be its heart. The city’s fringes would be made up of six suburbs, each with 30,000 to 50,000 people. The city was supposed to have a golf course and a park with a man-made lake. These two things really did happen.
Mendelsohn was praised in a 1961 issue of United Home Services Club: “Not since Pierre L’Enfant laid out the original design for Washington, DC, has there been such complete understanding of the need to look into the future and make a city that will still be well planned 50 years later.”
First, it cost Mendelsohn’s company a lot of money to look for water. The aquifer was under the western side, but the city’s center was supposed to be on the eastern side. The company cleared roads and set up water systems for homes in this western hub, which later grew to be the center of life in California City.