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Dick Turpin

Desert Investors See Palmier Days

August 09, 1987|DICK TURPIN

Two decades ago, Southern California desert lands were being touted as the most promising investments on the road to getting rich quick.

Advertisements in newspapers and magazines even mentioned that a river was "close by." It was the dry Mojave.

That exaggeration didn't deter interest of buyers, but it did stir up the California Department of Real Estate to beef up its regulations concerning land sales ads, requiring that their descriptions get closer to the truth.

Through the years, some of those who bought land, in many cases sand unseen, became the victims of scams and schemes to peddle property nowhere near any potential development or growth.

But there was one exception, which proved to be a big come-on, a proposed major "Palmdale Airport." There is an airport there, dedicated during the Sam Yorty mayoralty, but it did not measure up to its hype as a continental or intercontinental facility as intimated by the land promoters and sellers.

Through those years, the ups and downs of the area's defense industries and its economies never did fulfill the promises of its touters. But through many recent years, callers from as far away as New Jersey, West Virginia and Pennsylvania who had purchased some desert land, have asked us about the state of the desert and the promised major airport.

Their questions dealt with the status in the Palmdale area and usually the answer was that not too much was happening. They had received offers by mail to buy their lots. Was anything happening out there? Should they continue to hold on to their land?

Well, if I get calls from these eastern investors who may still be holding title to land in that high desert, I won't have to hem and haw anymore. I can tell them that Palmdale has become the fastest growing city in the state. (See related story on Page 1 by David W. Myers.)

I can tell them what they have all been waiting to hear--that Palmdale and environs have finally "dropped the other shoe" and that the boom up there is for real.

Actually, the renewed activity was evident during the past year as builders and developers headed the advance. Palmdale and Lancaster ranked first and third in Los Angeles County gains in assessed valuation a year ago, while Agoura Hills ranked second.

Newly released statistics from John J. Lynch, Los Angeles assessor, show Palmdale still in the lead, strengthening its growth leadership by posting a 40.5% increase in its valuation over last year.

"Continued major new construction of residential tracts and income units were responsible for the increase," he explained, leading 84 cities in the county.

The current assessed valuation in Palmdale, accounting for a total of 17,833 parcels, is $1,573,666,847, up $453,829,109 from the 1986 mark. Of the units, 13,705 are for single-family homes, 370 for apartments, and 3,758 for commercial and industrial uses.

Walnut ranked second, with an increase of 24.3% in assessed valuation, and Agoura Hills was third, with a 23.7% increase. Rounding out the top five are Lancaster, 21.2%; San Dimas, 20.4%, and Beverly Hills, 19.1%. (Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest and second largest cities in the county, registered gains of 11.8% and 9.8%, respectively.)

Overall, Lynch noted that the assessed value of the county now exceeds $314 billion.

"The record-setting roll reflects a net increase of 12.1%, adding in excess of $44 billion in assessed valuation for the county. Los Angeles County is a unique entity," Lynch said. "With a population in excess of 8.4 million . . . it is the largest single property tax jurisdiction in the United States. With over 2.4 million roll units, Los Angeles County contains over 23% of the state's total."

Even with all these increases, and the attendant workload, his staff made a "significant dent in the backlog of work" he inherited after his election last November, Lynch said, after presenting his first tax roll to the County Board of Supervisors.

He foresees a very strong economy, and I anticipate a few phone calls from 201, 304 and 717 area codes.

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