CALIFORNIA CITY, Calif. — This may be the third largest city in the state, but it's also the home of some of the widest of wide open spaces.
In the Mojave Desert of southeastern Kern County, this community of about 3,000 is the third largest city in area in the state with about 186 square miles. (Los Angeles is the largest with 465 square miles, followed by San Diego with 320 square miles.)
The owners of the 30,000-acre Silver Saddle Ranch & Club, about a dozen miles north of the downtown here in a remote corner of this remote city, are touting the open spaces of the high desert as a getaway place for residents of the San Fernando Valley and adjacent areas.
They have announced plans for a $10-million expansion of existing facilities.
There's plenty of land, with nary a block wall in sight. There's room for dirt-bike riding and horseback riding--both crowded out of the metropolitan area by housing tracts, shopping centers, office buildings.
"Our typical customer is a middle-class family from the San Fernando Valley," said James Quiggle, vice president in charge of operations. "They like the outdoor life style, but not the way it's practiced in places like Palm Springs."
Originally launched in 1980 by Great Western Cities Inc., part of the Hunt Brothers' land holdings in the West, the project was acquired in January, 1983, by Silver Saddle Development Co., headed by chairman James L. Tarver. Tom Maney is president of the Santa Monica-based concern and Justin G. Child is vice president of finance.
Quiggle said that about 2,000 building sites have been sold so far, although nobody has built a house. The city still has to extend water to the lots, he added. All this is spelled out in the public report required by the state Department of Real Estate.
Lot prices vary, but typically they are about $10,000 for a one-third acre parcel, Quiggle said. In Ranch Estates, a gate-guarded hillside development, the first phase of 50 one-acre or larger sites will sell for an average of $35,000 each and buyers will acquire a 10-year membership in Silver Saddle Ranch & Club. Facilities there include two two-story bunkhouses with a total of 40 guest rooms, a 7,500-square-foot clubhouse with dining facilities and a bar, a recreational vehicle park, a swimming pool and spa, tennis courts, mini-pitch golf, stables and riding trails.
The recreational amenities are available only to lot owners, who pay monthly dues of $10 and can stay in the guest rooms for $10 a night, Quiggle said. "The only fee is for trap and skeet shooting and that's a nominal charge," he added. The project's distance of about 120 miles from Los Angeles via Interstate 5 and the Antelope Valley Freeway, makes it a convenient getaway place for weekenders, he said.
Designing Ranch Estates and an expansion of the guest accommodations to 78 rooms are among the assignments of Rolf Roth, a Pacific Palisades architect and planner who worked with Maney on the development of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., under the auspices of McCulloch Oil Corp.
Born in Switzerland and a graduate of the University of Zurich, Roth came to this country in 1957. He became a specialist in amusement-park design, including projects such as Freedomland, Pleasure Island and Six Flags Over Texas. At Lake Havasu City, he was instrumental in the design and development of the English village at the transplanted London Bridge.
His plans for the $10-million expansion and development of Silver Saddle include the addition of several new lakes--there already are several artificial ponds in the high desert project--and the construction of a model home that could show buyers the type of house that would fit in with the terrain.
"The house features porches on all sides and a design that recalls the true ranch house of the Old West," Roth said. Growing up in Switzerland made him appreciate the vast spaces of California, Arizona and Texas, he added.
"Europeans are hemmed in, so they revel in the size of the West, its lack of cities, roads and people," Roth added. "There is a mystique about the Old West, with its mining camps, ghost towns and mule teams that is universal and Silver Saddle is right in the middle of it all."