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California City stands as a warning to developers

On Behalf of | Jul 22, 2017 | Development |

Being a real estate developer isn’t just about having vision, it’s about knowing the difference between a great opportunity and not overextending your ambitions. California City stands (more or less) as a stark reminder to developers in California of exactly how badly an overambitious development can go awry.

The city boasts an area of over 200 square miles, which is enormous by any standards. However, despite its huge footprint, the population hovers at just around 14,000 residents. For a city roughly the same geographical size as Chicago, the acreage dwarfs the number of people who live there.

It’s easy to see how the developer imagined the project would go. When he bought the land in 1958 — all 82,000 acres of it — California was receiving a huge influx of people from many directions. It probably seemed like a no-brainer to buy up as much land as possible, invest in the underlying infrastructure to create roads and subdivide parcels, then wait for the money to start rolling in as the development became its own bustling city.

Of course, that never quite happened.

If you’re a developer, then you probably understand the pull of an enormous opportunity that may be too enormous to work. Sometimes, something looks like a great idea from the birds-eye view, but when you get down into the granular details of making it work, the opportunity becomes much more complex. The guidance of an experienced real estate development attorney can help you thoroughly understand an opportunity before you bet the farm and create the next California City.

Source:, “This California Ghost City Is a Monument to Bad Planning,” Dianna Budds, July 20, 2017