Real estate developer Nat Mendelsohn purchased 80,000 acres of land in 1958 in an attempt to make a utopian city that rivals Los Angeles. What resulted is California City, CA, a well-planned city that sits relatively empty.
California City is the third-largest city in California -- land-wise that is -- but fewer than 15,000 people reside there today, so it's the 361st largest city in California by population. Look at a satellite view of the city, and you can see what Mendelsohn's vision might have been -- if only people had agreed to move to his utopian paradise. You will see 80,000 acres of streets and a manmade lake. Doesn't sound like a failure, does it? Not all the streets are built on -- yet, but that is slowly and surely changing. Overpopulation and rising prices in Los Angeles and surrounding areas have finally spurred growth in California City. So, maybe Mendelsohn's utopia will happen after all.
Moving to California City
You may think qualifying for rental homes in California City is a breeze since the population is so low. But the opposite is true. Landlords in this city want to make sure to get the cream of the crop. So do what you can to make sure your credit score and references look good. If you can't get those looking too pretty, bring an extra month's deposit and a good attitude to try to convince the landlord to rent to you.
Count on moving into a house or mobile home, because finding an apartment for rent in California City takes a bit of searching since there aren't many apartment complexes in this city. But, even if you are looking to save money, you don't need to pull your hair out trying to find a studio apartment -- rent for houses here is super low. You can get a large house for less than half the price of one-bedroom apartments in Los Angeles.
Neighborhoods in California City
California City is a desert -- like a really, really, really hot desert. We're talking the Mojave Desert, which is one of the hottest places in the world -- 120 degrees Fahrenheit hot in the summer. But thanks to Nat Mendelsohn's thorough planning, lakes and other water features turned this area into a place that's not as hot as it should be -- the water helps cool things off a bit. If you like it hot, then California City may just be the place for you. Now that we've settled that, where should you live? Well, there aren't really any neighborhoods in California City. Housing is sprinkled here and there throughout the city. So, really, it's more a matter of what you want to be next to. Here is a list to help you out:
North: North California City is next to the Honda Proving Center, which is a secret (obviously not a well-kept secret) racetrack where future car models are tested. If you're lucky, you can meet someone who can sneak you onto the track.
East: East California City is next to the largest open pit mine in California. The mineral boron is mined here. If you find a giant hole in the ground interesting then, hey, this could be your view.
South: South California City is near the Edward's Air Force base, which is a research center run by NASA. Living close to this base could be interesting; you never know what new technology you may catch a glimpse of.
West: If you love open space, West California City is the spot for you. Here, you can travel miles and miles of desert wilderness, looking at the beautiful sunsets, wildflowers, sagebrush, and, if you are lucky, a coyote or two.
Living in California City
You will definitely, without a question, need a car in California City because everything is so far apart from each other. Swap meets, diners, grocery shopping, hiking, and art exhibits -- like the The Portal gateway to Heaven or Hell exhibit (despite the name, it's not scary at all) -- keep you busy in town. But, if you want a bigger-city experience, plan on driving to Riverside to get in the action, which will take you about an hour with traffic.
If serenity is practically your middle name, you will love California City. You can actually sit in the wilderness and not see city lights or hear city noise -- it really is nice. Spring brings you the extra special treat of the Mojave Desert wildflowers, which sprout up and fill the lands with a beautiful, colorful show of nature's wonder. People travel from all over the world to see this majestic display and, lucky you, this could be your backyard.