Population Statistic: Read. React. Repeat.
Saturday, August 14, 2021

The redundantly-named California City, California is the biggest city you’ve never heard of — the 34th-largest incorporated municipality in the United States, in fact. The reason you don’t know that it exists is because it doesn’t — at least not in a substantial, finished sense:

In 1958, Nathan Mendelsohn, a Columbia University sociology instructor turned developer, acquired 82,000 acres of desert in eastern Kern County, 100 miles from Los Angeles.

Mendelsohn called his vision California City and, despite the fact it was 10 miles from any highway, he believed it would become the state’s next metropolis. The next San Fernando Valley.

Today a mere 14,000 souls call California City home. Most are clustered at one end of the massive tract. It’s a sleepy outpost with its own school district and public bus service but no hotel or chain grocery. The police chief is also the director of parks and recreation, and the Rite Aid is the busiest place in town.

The rest of Mendelsohn’s eccentric dream unfurls to the east, some 185 square miles of mostly unpaved streets — a ghostly monument to overreach that, from above, looks like a geoglyph left by space aliens. Only Los Angeles and San Diego leave a bigger footprint in the state.

It’s like a stillborn ghost town, without even a gold rush to have once filled its empty grids.

by Costa Tsiokos, Sat 08/14/2010 10:12pm
Category: History, Society
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