California City has a PGA golf course, one prison, one municipal airport, and is home to the California City Whiptails, a professional, independent baseball team associated with the Pecos League. Much of the workforce of Edwards Air Force Base, which is located just to the south of the city, is made up of city residents. Other major sources of employment include California City Correctional Center (California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation); Mojave Air and Space Port and its flight test operations; the Hyundai/Kia Proving Grounds located in the rural southwestern part of the city; and nearby cities, such as Tehachapi, Ridgecrest, Boron, Palmdale, and Lancaster.
The area where California City now exists was largely uninhabited prior to the 1960s. Padre Francisco Garcés, a Franciscan missionary, camped at Castle Butte in what is now California City in 1776 during the Juan Bautista de Anza expedition of modern-day California and Arizona, then part of Alta California.
In the late 19th century, the Twenty Mule Team Trail, which carried loads of borax to the railhead in Mojave from Harmony Borax Works mines in the east, ran through the California City area.
California City had its origins in 1958 when real estate developer and sociology professor Nat Mendelsohn purchased 80,000 acres (320 km2) of Mojave Desert land with the aim of master-planning California's next great city. He designed his model city, which he hoped would one day rival Los Angeles in size, around a Central Park with a 26-acre (11 ha) artificial lake. Growth fell well short of his expectations. Today, a vast grid of crumbling paved roads which define residential blocks, extend well beyond the developed area of the city. Satellite photos underscore its claim to being California's 3rd largest geographic city, 34th largest in the US. California City was incorporated on December 10, 1965. This could be considered an example of a failed planned city.
Although areas of California City have not developed as expected, California City has grown from 3,200 people in 1985 to over 14,000 in 2009. Cerro Coso Community College closed escrow on 22 acres (89,000 m2) in the heart of California City for a Community College to serve Edwards AFB, California City, Mojave, Boron, North Edwards and the entire high desert in the Antelope Valley.
The first post office opened in 1960.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 203.6 square miles (527 km2), of which 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) or 0.05% is water. Although one of California's smaller cities in terms of population, California City is the third largest city in California by land area (34th in the United States, and 21st when consolidated city-counties are excluded).
According to the census of 2000, there were 8,385 people, 3,067 households, and 2,257 families residing in the city. As of 2006 the city's population grew 8.9% from 12,106 to 13,219. California City outpaced rivals Palmdale and Lancaster, making the city the 12th fastest growing city in California. This also made California City the fastest growing city in the Antelope Valley. The population density was 41.2 inhabitants per square mile (15.9/km2). There were 3,560 housing units at an average density of 17.5/sq mi (6.8/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 68.19% White, 12.82% Black or African American, 1.56% Native American, 3.73% Asian, 0.32% Pacific Islander, 7.43% from other races, and 5.94% from two or more races. 16.96% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 3,067 households out of which 39.0% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.8% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.4% were non-families. 21.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.72 and the average family size was 3.15.
In the city, the population was spread out with 30.7% under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 27.7% from 25 to 44, 23.5% from 45 to 64, and 10.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 99.5 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.0 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $45,735, and the median income for a family was $51,402. Males had a median income of $44,657 versus $28,152 for females. The per capita income for the city was $19,902. About 12.5% of families and 17.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.0% of those under age 18 and 12.4% of those age 65 or over.
Only 807 workers lived and worked in California City in 2006. This was 24.3% of the city's population. 31% of the male population were public administrators in 2006. Public administration is the most common job in California City.
Although the growth of the city has not met its founders' expectations, California City has seen substantial population growth over the past several years. The Demographic Research Unit of the California Department of Finance estimates California City's population at 12,048 as of 1 January 2006. California City's population increased an estimated 4.2% in 2005, over three times the growth rate of the state as a whole. California City currently ranks 345th out of 478 incorporated cities in California, up from 348th in 2005.
In the 2004 Presidential election, 67% voted for the Republican candidate, and 33% voted for the Democratic candidate.
The 2010 United States Census reported that California City had a population of 14,120. The population density was 69.3 people per square mile (26.8/km²). The racial makeup of California City was 9,188 (65.1%) White, 2,150 (15.2%) African American, 132 (0.9%) Native American, 367 (2.6%) Asian, 59 (0.4%) Pacific Islander, 1,431 (10.1%) from other races, and 793 (5.6%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5,385 persons (38.1%).
The Corrections Corporation of America prison on the east side of town with Immigration and Customs Enforcement and U.S. Marshals Service contracts, contains 2,304 prisoners, almost entirely of Hispanic ethnicity, which are included in the U.S. Census Bureau statistics.
The Census reported that 11,506 people (81.5% of the population) lived in households, 0 (0%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 2,614 (18.5%) were institutionalized.
There were 4,102 households, out of which 1,611 (39.3%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,980 (48.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 630 (15.4%) had a female householder with no husband present, 287 (7.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 335 (8.2%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 22 (0.5%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 949 households (23.1%) were made up of individuals and 312 (7.6%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.80. There were 2,897 families (70.6% of all households); the average family size was 3.30.
The population was spread out with 3,449 people (24.4%) under the age of 18, 1,294 people (9.2%) aged 18 to 24, 4,617 people (32.7%) aged 25 to 44, 3,570 people (25.3%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,190 people (8.4%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34.8 years. For every 100 females there were 144.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 160.1 males.
There were 5,210 housing units at an average density of 25.6 per square mile (9.9/km²), of which 2,474 (60.3%) were owner-occupied, and 1,628 (39.7%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 8.3%; the rental vacancy rate was 22.5%. 6,584 people (46.6% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 4,922 people (34.9%) lived in rental housing units.
The crime index for 2006 was 267.1 (239.8 was the national average). There were 15 full-time law enforcement officers. There were two murders in 2006.
California City is served by Highway 14 to the west and Highway 58 to the south. Kern Transit provides inter-regional bus service to other areas in Kern County. Within the city, California City Dial-A-Ride (DAR) Transit provides transportation on a demand-response basis on weekdays (except on holidays when City Hall is closed).
As an incorporated city, California City has its own police and fire departments.