In The Beginning

The History of Kern City

Kern City opened its doors with an official Open House on October 7 and 8, 1961. Approximately 50,000 people representing every state in the United States and Canada visited Bakersfield, eager to view the new concept of “Adult Living for Persons over the Age of 50.”

Originated by Del Webb, the unique concept of creating a complete community exclusively for adults seeking “Active Retirement” was first introduced to the nation with his January 1960 opening of Sun City in Arizona where 4,000 retired citizens were proving “Retirement can be the best years of your life.”

The Bakersfield community got off the ground when the Kern City Master Planning and Land Development was formed in 1960. Commercial buildings, single family residences and apartments (condominiums) were planned.

Prior to any home sales, Del Webb insisted that community facilities be completed. Those included a Town Hall, rooms for arts, crafts and social activities, an Olympic-size pool and a spa, library, offices and the first nine holes of the 18-hole golf course and country club which covered 170 acres and included a club house and restaurant.

A Kern City Shopping Center was also constructed with leases negotiated with Mayfair Market, Bank of America, El Tejon Drug Store, Rae’s Coffee Shop, a variety store, beauty and barber shops, and the Kern City Post Office with its own postmistress.

The Stockdale Development Corporation, a joint venture between Del Webb and the Kern County Land Company, was the operating company formed to handle Kern City’s real estate affairs.

In addition to Kern City, the company was simultaneously developing Park Stockdale, Stockdale Estates and the 900-acre Stockdale Industrial Park located on District Boulevard.

Ever wonder how the streets got their names? Kern City streets were named after famous golfers and golf courses; Park Stockdale’s were after members of the Board of Directors of the Kern County Land Company; Stockdale Estates’ received Spanish names; and the Industrial Park streets were named after U.S. astronauts.

Another point of interest: The Stockdale Development Company also donated land to the State of California for establishing the Bakersfield Campus of the University of California.

Construction of homes in Kern City began in mid-1961. In order to build inventory, Del Webb originally started and finished 10 homes per day.

The first residents moved into Kern City on April 4, 1962, which included a formal ceremony and a “Key to the City” award.

Prices of the homes ranged from $10,950 to $17,950 with 10 percent down and closing costs of $150.

The stipulation was made by the Del Webb Company that the Kern City Civic Association would be formed of home owners paying an annual assessment of $35 for two-bedroom units and $45 for larger units. Until the association was large enough to collect assessments sufficient to cover the expenses of operating the facilities, the Del Webb Company paid all expenses. In April 1969 the population and membership reached 600+, enabling the association to become financially able to accept full managerial and financial responsibility.

The Del Webb Company then deeded all the facilities except the golf course to the Kern City Civic Association and added a $50,000 payment to establish a bank account with a surplus amount to begin operations on strong footing.

With the initial introduction of his new concept of active retirement, Mr. Webb said, “Concrete, steel and lumber can make the buildings, but People make the community.” Together, we can realize a Way-of-Life unprecedented in America. And what a very special kind of People they are, these thousands of retired Americans who have been attracted by this new idea of Active retired living and together have found a new pride in living . . . a pride in the knowledge that here is a community conceived and designed exclusively for them, a pride in each other and their interesting life . . . and most important, a pride in themselves as happy, interesting people with a purpose in living.

It is now 50 years later and while the Kern City Shopping Center is gone, replaced by the Kern High School District, most residents feel Del Webb’s “Active Retirement” concept has been very successful.