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Off-the-Grid Desert Squatter Town Considers Going Legit

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The decades-old desert squatter community of Slab City, near the southern end of the Salton Sea and next to the man-made Salvation Mountain art piece, is getting a little nervous in the wake of rumors that the California State Land Commission might be selling the land that the unofficial city (illegally) sits on. The rumblings of have caused a rift in the small, arty, outsider community, as a group in favor of trying to buy the land clashes with opponents who say that trying to go legit might just destroy everything Slabbers (as residents call themselves) love about this unusual, remote place. (It's named for the concrete foundation slabs left over from the time it was home to a World War II Marine barracks.)

Slab City has about 150 year-round residents, says the New York Times, but from October through April the population "swells to perhaps 2,000," many of whom reside in "sometimes majestic" RVs, eager to stay someplace sunny and free in several senses of the word. Some of the more permanent residents have formed the Slab City Community Group, which is trying to organize members so it can buy the land outright from the California State Land Commission.

Up against the SCCG are residents who say that the likelihood of any sale is still slim that formal organization will only turn Slab City into the kind of place its residents have chosen to leave behind. They worry that the community will be forced to start complying with health, sanitation, and building codes, which would mean huge alterations. The community is not connected to the electricity grid or sewage lines, and many people live in homes they've built or found (or a combination of both). Not surprisingly, they also do not pay taxes.

They're not totally offline—many residents use cellphones and laptops and generators—but if they're going to have to deal with all the trappings of the outside world, "We might as well go back to the suburbs," complains one member of the SCCG opposition.

Officially, the state says it hasn't decided to sell yet, though they are in the process of getting the land appraised and seeing if it might need some kind of hazardous waste removal.
· Talk of a Sale Fills a Hippie Haven With Bad Vibes [NYT]
· See the Handmade Mountain That Was One Man's Life Work [Curbed LA]