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California City
California City
California City
Deep in the Mojave Desert, there is a little town with a big name and a bizarre history: California City. For decades, real estate developers have sold a dream here: if you buy land now, you’ll be rich one day. Thousands of people bought this dream. Many were young couples and hard-working immigrants looking to build a better future. But much of the land they bought is nearly worthless. In this new podcast from LAist Studios, host Emily Guerin tells a story of money, power and deception.

About the Show

Deep in the Mojave Desert, there is a little town with a big name and a bizarre history: California City. For decades, real estate developers have sold a dream here: if you buy land now, you’ll be rich one day. Thousands of people bought this dream. Many were young couples and hard-working immigrants looking to build a better future. But much of the land they bought is nearly worthless. In this new podcast from LAist Studios, host Emily Guerin tells a story of money, power and deception.

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Episodes
  • California City
    6:31
    6:31
    How I Found Out About California City
    It was supposed to be a simple story about the California drought. Instead, reporter Emily Guerin became obsessed with the bizarre history of a sprawling, half-built desert city.
  • California City
    49:07
    In 2017 Ben Perez goes to a Mojave Desert resort for a free vacation and ends up signing away his life savings. Turns out Ben is one of tens of thousands to believe a version of this dream over the past 60 years.
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  • California City
    38:41
    The vision that Ben Perez was sold in 2017 began in 1958, with one man's dream to build a utopian desert city from scratch.
  • California City
    38:54
    Nat builds an army of salespeople to sell his dream. And then, then Ralph Nader intervenes.
  • California City
    22:07
    Ken Donney is a hero to some, but most people would call him a villain.
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  • California City
    28:57
    Emily confronts the owner of Silver Saddle and walks away doubting herself. Plus, Ben becomes part of Silver Saddle's sales machine.
  • California City
    31:19
    31:19
    Fear, rumors, and looking the other way. How salesmen have sold the fantasy of California City for so long.
  • California City
    36:59
    Silver Saddle gets shut down and accused of fraud. Will the company - and the dream Ben Perez believed - survive?
  • California City
    52:04
    52:04
    Bonus Episode: Cashing In On The Desert
    For decades, Californians have been obsessed with trying to profit off desert land. In this bonus episode of California City, host Emily Guerin, the Desert Oracle’s Ken Layne, and artist and curator Kim Stringfellow explore the myths of the Mojave Desert as "wasteland," failed schemes and utopias, Instagram-driven tourism and coronavirus refugees. The audio was recorded during a live virtual event on September 3, 2020 and presented by LAist Studios and KPCC in partnership with The Autry Museum of the American West.
  • California City
    24:31
    Silver Saddle Ranch gets sold, and the people who still believe it’s worth something stage a protest. Plus, a former employee comes forward with a disturbing story.
Credits
Senior Reporter & Host
Senior Producer
Producer