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Smallest Cities By Land Mass, Population; Notable Parks, High Heel Municipal Codes
One of the unpaved streets in California City that were created more than 60 years ago.

California’s third largest city in terms of land is four-and-a-half times larger than San Francisco with less than two percent of the population.

The city?

It’s California City.

At 203.7 square miles, it is the third largest city in California.

It is the 43rd largest in the United States squeezed between Boulder City in Nevada at No. 42 and Tulsa, Oklahoma at No. 44.

The city in western Kern County in the northern Antelope Valley portion of the Mojave Desert has 15,098 residents.

It’s a far cry beyond what land developer Nat K. Mendelson in 1958 envisioned would be a city one day rivaling Los Angeles — that now has 3.8 million residents — in population.

Seven years later when it had incorporated as a city, California City had reached 827 residents — the population of a large Los Angeles apartment complex at the time.

On the list of largest Golden State cities by land mass, California City is behind Los Angeles at 502 square miles and San Diego at 372.4 square miles.

And it beats out No. 4 San Jose at 181.4 square miles.

Manteca, by comparison, is roughly a tenth the size of California City with 21.46 square miles.

Hundreds of miles of streets were “created” in California City basically using land scrapers as one would any road in the desert.

More than 50,000 lots were sold.

While portions of California City have developed with homes, commercial endeavors, and paved streets, there are still a maze of dirt roads complete with stop signs, street signs, and even fire hydrants of which not all are operable across the city.

California City was nicknamed “The Land of Sun” which is a fair assessment.

It is 18 miles northwest of Edwards Air Force Base, 28 miles east of Tehachapi, 40 miles north of Lancaster, and 49 miles southwest of Ridgecrest and the China Lake Naval Base.

Nearby is the Desert Tortoise Natural Area as well as the Red Rock State Park that is popular with off-road vehicle enthusiasts.


Smallest cities in state

by land mass, population

The smallest city by land mass in California with over 1,000 residents is Carmel-by-the-Sea.

It is 1.06 square miles and is located south of Monterey on Highway 1.

A square mile consists of 640 acres. The small beach city has 3,220 residents.

The town sprung up around Carmel Mission that was built in 1771.

The mission also contained what was considered California’s first library.

There are a lot of quirks when it comes to Carmel-by-the-Sea.

One, according to the city’s website, is that there are no street addresses in Carmel-by-the-Sea.

Properties are identified, for example, as being on the “west side of San Antonio Street, 3 houses south of 12th Avenue”. In addition, many owners give their homes a name. The name chosen does not have to be approved or registered with the city.

There are also no street lights.

The only sidewalks are in the downtown area.

The most peculiar thing about Carmel-by-the-Sea might just be a section of the municipal code that bans wearing shoes having heels more than two inches in height or with a base of less than one square inch unless the wearer has obtained a permit for them.

Police do not cite those in violation of the ordinance.

The law was authored by the city attorney in 1963 to defend the city from lawsuits resulting from wearers of high-heeled shoes tripping over irregular pavement distorted by tree roots.

Permits are available without charge at City Hall.

The smallest city in California in terms of population is Amador City, north of Jackson on Highway 49 in Amador County.

It has 195 residents living in a city on 192 acres. That is an area roughly four times the size of Manteca’s 52-acre Woodward Park.


Third largest urban

park in California

San Diego’s Mission Trails Preserve, with 8,000 acres, is the largest urban park in California.

Behind it at 4,310 acres, is Los Angeles’ famed Griffith Park.

If you think No. 3 is Golden Gate Park in San Francisco at 1,017 acres, you’d be wrong.

There is an urban park almost four times larger than Golden Gate Park that is the third largest in California.

It’s Bidwell Park in the northern Sacramento Valley city of Chico.

It boasts 3,670 acres and comprises 16 percent of the 34.52 square miles located within the city limits.

It is one of the largest urban parks in the country, an impressive fact for a city that’s half the size of Modesto in terms of population. Chico has 102,338 residents.

Bidwell Park is thought to be the 26th largest urban park in the United States. Not bad for a city that ranks as the nation’s 315th largest city based on population.

Amador City has 195 residents making it the smallest California city by population.
A scene in downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea.