Nudism at a crossroads in California
Nude awakenings: California's naturist communities in a fight to preserve a culture of naturism amidst resort sales and uncertainty
In California’s naturist communities, there’s an ongoing struggle to preserve a culture under threat, with no less than four naturist clubs facing an impending or recent change of ownership. As residents at well-known naturist spots like Desert Sun Resort and DeAnza Springs Resort conflict with reluctant owners, and others like Olive Dell Ranch and Lupin Lodge face potential sales, a crucial question emerges: How can a culture of naturism be protected amidst these changes?
This article aims to explore the various strategies and alliances formed by homeowner associations, site holders, and member groups at the various California naturist clubs as they navigate the uncertain waters of property sales and management changes. Looking at these situations closely can bring context and clarity to problems that are multifaceted and nuanced. Seeing these various club scenarios side by side also provides a macro view of the recent trend and broadens our understanding of the scope of this troubling pattern.
These naturist clubs are more than natural recreation sites with limited revenue potential on ballooning property values. They are cultural foundations, providing a haven and freedom for people who embrace a way of life frequently misinterpreted by outsiders. The experiences of these clubs teach us about resilience and standing up for body freedom in a rapidly evolving world and provide case studies for one another as they go through this often painful process of change. The outcomes at these locations will create examples for other communities facing similar situations. Given the trend, it's not unreasonable to assume there will be more.
Cyber Monday sale: Get 20% off a paid subscription
Planet Nude is a free newsletter that is possible thanks to the support of a few generous subscribers. Paid subscriptions come with occasional exclusive posts and access to our full archive.
Desert Sun Resort: a community in transition
In 1997, the Desert Sun Condominium Association, initially named Desert Shadows Condominium Association, was established as an organizational companion to the Desert Sun Resort, serving as a homeowners’ association for the Palm Springs resort’s permanent members. The association comprises fifty-nine privately owned units featuring a saltwater pool and a hot tub area where nudity is mandatory.
The association and the resort had a good partnership for a long time. This allowed guests a smooth experience and allowed condo owners to make money by renting out their homes. Both sides also benefited from sharing services like mail delivery and window cleaning.
However, in 2021, an unforeseen rift altered the course of this community. Resort owners severed the longstanding partnership due to irreconcilable incidents with a few homeowners. This decision led to a complex disentanglement, complicated by intertwined parking and access easements, leaving some homes physically divided from the core amenities that once defined their communal living experience.
Having served on the HOA board since 2017 and as president for three years, Duane Brown has witnessed the community’s evolution firsthand. “The separation remains complex,” Brown told Planet Nude recently. “Twenty-one of the fifty-nine condominiums are on property that is not contiguous with the property where the other thirty-eight units stand.
Making matters even more complicated, there is a second Homeowners Association (DSIII HOA), which represents another cluster of naturist-friendly condos with their own pool and hot tub, existing adjacent to the resort across the busy Indian Canyon Drive. Relations between the resort and this HOA are also icy. “I cannot tell you if our side will stay nudist in the long run,” a member of DSIII HOA told Planet Nude. “For now, we are. There is a credible threat to it staying nudist, especially if relations between the three properties can’t be restored.”
Historically, these homeowners had access to the larger club via the Lee R. Baxandall bridge—a unique structure designed to provide privacy to the naturists traversing it. The bridge was built in 2003, but fell out of the club’s ownership in a prior sale, and in recent years its access has been closed.
A club under contract
Rumors were percolating around Desert Sun Resort of a sale for weeks before the news broke last month that the resort had been placed under contract for a deal amounting to $6,950,000. At this time, details about the new proprietors and their intentions for the property remain a closely guarded secret, with no formal communication to residents from the resort.
Currently, the pending sale is in its final stages under contract, and residents may soon learn more about the new owners, suggesting that things are changing very rapidly. This is especially concerning for the twenty-one homeowners living at the edge of the main area. “I have reached out to the seller's real estate agent to get information about the new owner’s plans,” Brown says. “My understanding is that although escrow has opened, not all contingencies have yet been resolved, and of course, there is much speculation on the part of homeowners, including me, [about] what the contingencies are and how the new owner intends to use the property.”
Amid concerns that the new owners might alter the resort’s naturist tradition, Brown affirmed that the HOA members intend to preserve naturism in their community. “The HOA does not intend for it to be anything other than nudist,” he insists. “If the new owners are not, and intend to become textile, or for that matter some sort of lifestyle club, we will need to negotiate with them and reach an acceptable agreement.”
At a recent open board meeting of the HOA, the members instructed the board to try to develop a relationship with the new resort management similar to the one enjoyed before the separation. If the new owners are amenable, the HOA would like to become one happy family with the resort again.
“Most homeowners miss having resort guests mingling with us in our pool,” Brown says, “and those of us banned miss using the resort facilities too.”
DeAnza Springs Resort: cultural shifts and community rifts
Unlike their neighbors up north in Palm Springs, the residents of DeAnza Springs Resort did not have a homeowners’ association when the club was established in 1997 by naturists Dave and Helen Landman. Located in Jacumba, about an hour East of San Diego, the desert community has thrived on principles of freedom and openness, an informal culture of neighborly goodwill, and a casually supportive relationship ownership was embraced by nearly one hundred residents who found and invested in a home there. But with the club’s 2020 acquisition by Luke Wasyliw and Kevin “KeCho” Cho, the resort’s naturist ethos began to change.
It was slow at first. After the club’s purchase, the new owners promised that DeAnza’s nude-friendly nature would not be changing. “As I remember,” one longtime resident told Planet Nude, “[They] said that DeAnza was a unique property—only nudist resort left in Southern California—and no way would they change that.”
Wasyliw and Cho painted a new entrepreneurial vision for the 500-acre property, including redefining the identity of DeAnza Springs and rebranding a section of the mobile home park as an event space known as ‘The Colony.’ Owners envisioned creating a ‘Joshua Tree meets Burning Man’ festival ground there. This reimagining hoped to position it as a hub for events and holistic wellness retreats, potentially including psychedelic experiences in the future.
This new direction sharply contrasted with the resort’s original naturist philosophy. The proposed new name, ‘The Colony’—a possible play on the term ‘nudist colony’—was seen as a distasteful departure from the resort’s founding principles.
Adding injury to insult, the new owners began holding raves and events, and complaints emerged of drug use and vandalism. Several loved pieces of community art that celebrated the culture of naturism were lost, either to vandalism or erasure.
Some of these items included a large concrete statue of a child, destroyed just last month, and a custom floor mural created by a French artist that the previous owner, Dave Landman, had commissioned, which was painted over. These pieces were a part of the history and culture of the DeAnza Springs community for years, and their destruction came to symbolize the new ownership’s views toward that culture.
Town hall tensions
The owners began holding town hall meetings for the community to raise their complaints with ownership openly.
Due to the increasing conflicts and what some saw as writing on the wall, at least four residents have sold their homes and moved out. One such resident was Alan Carlile, who sold his home of ten years back to the club at a loss after conflict with the new owners grew too much to bear.
“[The owner] subsequently sold it to a couple,” Carlile says, “who was also duped into believing they were buying a house in a nudist resort, but alas, as so many others who purchased before the textile change, they were lied to.”
The tension within the community further escalated with the announcement in July 2023 that clothing would be mandatory in all park common areas. This announcement came just a few weeks after Wasliyew promised during a town hall that “one hundred percent, that rule will not change.” Naturally, the sudden policy shift sparked a significant backlash from the residents and visitors.
In the months since going clothes-mandatory, residents have described significantly reduced visitor turnout, with the traditionally busy Friday and Saturday nights often slow without the naturist niche to draw clientele. Calls for compromise, such as suspending the clothing-optional policy only during certain events, seemed to fall on deaf ears, leading residents to feel sidelined and misled by owners who misrepresented their plans for the community in which the residents have invested so much.
Meanwhile, the rift between residents and owners has only grown, and residents charge that the changes enacted by the owners amount to a methodical process of demoralizing established resort residents to drive them out at a diminished price so that they can ultimately flip the property. Essential services that the community depends on, such as waste pickup and USPS mail and parcel service, were discontinued by owners. This decision particularly affected those who relied on these services for receiving essential items like income checks, communication, and medical prescriptions.
Longstanding members, some of whom have lived at DeAnza for over twenty-five years, feel deeply alienated by these changes. Residents are facing more than a drastic life change; they’re losing a community they have cherished. This change has laid bare the emotional and social toll on residents, disrupting the social fabric central to DeAnza Springs as a naturist resort.
As a result, anger and resentment have become septic, and allegations of illegality and impropriety have been levied.
In the middle of this upheaval, members have come together to form a Homeowners Association (DSRHOA) as a means to organize in the protection of their interests. Their first meeting and appointment of officers was on November 4th of this year. Anticipating the likelihood of legal action, DSRHOA promptly set up the DeAnza Springs Residents Legal Defense Fund, represented by a GoFundMe page. The fund has raised over $5,000 in its first month. They are seeking further support from the naturist community.
“As DSRHOA, we are trying to restore the safety and harmony in this once serene, harmonious, and peaceful community,” Rex Lowery, an interim officer of DSRHOA, said. “The community has been turned on its ear in favor of greed and a total disregard for the humanity that once comprised DeAnza Springs Resort.”
The future for the DSRHOA remains uncertain as the club stands on the brink of a critical new chapter in its story. The residents’ next steps, possibly involving legal actions and continued community mobilization, may play a role in determining their fate.
One thing is clear: the transition from a naturist resort to a trendy wellness retreat has been tumultuous for residents. Their sense of loss and betrayal is evident, as is their struggle to preserve a culture they hold dear. The tide is not currently in their favor, but hope has not been lost as the naturist community there has banded together more closely under the shared adversity they face.
Among the four California naturist clubs currently undergoing sales and potential ownership changes, DeAnza’s situation is the most advanced: it has already completely changed ownership and officially transitioned to a textile policy. Due to its advanced stage, their case can hopefully offer valuable lessons (or cautionary insights) for other clubs navigating similar transformations.
Unfortunately, that offers little consolation to the residents and members seeking a return to naturist ways.
Olive Dell Ranch: facing uncertainty and sale
Just days after DeAnza Springs Resort announced its clothing-mandatory policy in 2023, Olive Dell Ranch, a SoCal nudist staple since 1953 near Riverside, was put up for sale on at least two commercial real estate exchanges. Despite initial denials by the general manager, the sale was later confirmed to Planet Nude by an investor owner. After multiple weeks on the market, the price dropped from $6.6 million to $5.5 million, intensifying the uncertainty for residents and members.
Olive Dell's recent troubles started in 2019 when it was sold to new investing owners experienced in finance and hospitality who were not naturists. They promised to keep the naturist tradition alive, and the previous owners, Bobby and Becki Kilborn, stayed on as managers.
However, the uncertainty at Olive Dell was compounded just last week when residents each received a letter in their mailbox announcing new instructions for issuing rent checks and that the Kilborns had vacated their managerial roles under unclear circumstances. The letter also gave residents the owners’ contact information, listing them as Mark and Tina by first name only. The sudden departure of the longtime managers, coupled with the lack of clarity on the club’s future, has amplified fears among the community.
“There’s a lot of speculation,” one resident member told Planet Nude. “Very few of the residents here have met either Mark or Tina.”
Speculation and unease
Olive Dell once had a members’ association, but the group dissolved several years ago, according to the Olive Dell member who spoke with Planet Nude anonymously. However, members are not wholly unprepared for a shake-up. There are regular resident meetings, and some financial resources are prepared in case legal counsel retention is necessary.
Speculation among members about the intentions of new owners abounds, adding to the unease. Members have imagined possibilities ranging from owners’ intent to sell or go “textile,” to plans to level the place completely. “None of us really know what Mark and Tina’s intentions are.”
With little transparency from ownership, it’s natural for members’ imaginations to run wild. Unfortunately, especially with the rapid rate of change occurring, members have not been able to effectively strategize for a scenario that they can’t anticipate. The lack of transparency has left many in the California naturist community unsure about what is coming down the pike.
As Olive Dell Ranch marks its 70th year, the community deals with historic shakeups, including financial complexities, ownership questions, and internal divisions. The future of this naturist retreat is unclear.
Lupin Lodge: legacy at a crossroads
Like the other clubs mentioned above, Lupin Lodge in Los Gatos is at a crucial juncture. However, there are a few notable distinctions that Lupin can count in its favor.
For one, there’s its age. As the oldest naturist resort west of the Mississippi, dating back to 1934, the announcement of Lupin’s potential sale has sent ripples through the naturist community. Lori Kay Stout, the resort’s CEO since 2006 and sole owner since her husband Glyn Stout’s death in 2015, announced her retirement due to personal health and family reasons. Stout’s departure marks the end of a legacy that saw her balance the demands of running the resort with personal sacrifices in her art career and health.
A deep commitment to the naturist movement has characterized Lori Kay Stout’s tenure at Lupin Lodge. Under her stewardship, Lupin has thrived as a woman-owned sanctuary for body freedom despite the challenges of maintaining such a unique establishment.
The resort, listed at $32.8 million, is a significant asset in the naturist community, but its future now hangs in the balance, raising concerns among longtime members. “The sale of Lupin is a disaster for naturism, in my opinion,” one Lupin member shared with Planet Nude, “because I don’t know naturists with that kind of money to buy the place. My vague sense is that, most likely, everyone will be forced to move out.”
However, amidst these fears, there emerges a glimmer of unity.
Friends of Lupin
“There’s a consortium, ‘Friends of Lupin,’ that would like to keep Lupin here,” Lori Kay Stout told Planet Nude. This group of members devoted to preserving Lupin’s legacy is looking to establish an investor group to raise capital for purchasing Lupin or another site. “There’s been a site located not far from here,” Stout says. “A former Buddhist retreat and conference center that has 50 acres and a lot of the same facilities in the same beautiful area.”
The challenge now is not only financial but also operational. Even if they can successfully raise the capital for another landed club, the “Friends of Lupin” group will face the daunting task of maintaining the resort’s standards, ensuring regulatory compliance, and managing operational costs. There’s a high likelihood that the group will end up as a non-landed travel club in search of a home, at least for the foreseeable future. But the community’s fortitude and determination suggest they might have what it takes to keep Lupin’s spirit alive, regardless of its physical location.
As the situation unfolds, it becomes increasingly clear that the future of Lupin Lodge, and possibly of naturism in the region, hinges on the collective efforts of its members and supporters. The uncertainty surrounding the sale brings fears of change and loss but also an opportunity for the community to rally together and safeguard a significant part of its history. In these times of transition, the culture and community of Lupin Lodge may indeed have the strength and resolve to continue their cherished way of life in whatever form it may take.
Glen Eden Sun Club: a model of stability
With all of these prominent naturist resorts in California facing uncertain futures due to ownership changes and potential sales, Glen Eden Sun Club in Temescal Valley is a notable exception. It is not for sale and has no apparent plans ever to be. Steve Spencer, President of Glen Eden Sun Club, emphasizes the importance of being a non-profit member-owned club as essential to conflicts occurring with privately owned clubs. “The culture of social nudism must be promoted and protected by those who value this life style without the potential conflict inherent with making a profit,” he says.
One thing distinguishing Glen Eden is its organizational structure and approach to membership, which collectively contribute to its stability in an ever-changing environment. At Glen Eden, every resort member can become a part-owner, a unique facet compared to other naturist communities. This structure has been in place, with the buy-in amount remaining a constant $100, since the resort first transitioned from private ownership to a member-owned co-op in 1966. This democratic system ensures that significant decisions, such as the potential sale of the resort, require the consensus of its many members. Furthermore, the club’s articles of incorporation state that if Glen Eden is sold, all revenue from a sale, after satisfying any debts, would go to AANR West. This eliminates any incentive for a rogue group to take over the GESC Board to sell the resort.
Annually, these corporate members elect a board tasked with adhering to and enforcing the bylaws and standing rules that have evolved over the years.
Highlighting the nuances of this governance model, resident siteholder Mark Pavelchak sheds light on the collective decision-making process. “The Board cannot on its own decide to sell,” he points out, emphasizing the group’s collaborative approach. This structure promotes a shared sense of ownership and responsibility among members, fostering active participation in the governance of the resort.
One point of discussion regarding Glen Eden has been the potential, albeit remote, threat of eminent domain by local authorities. While theoretically present for any property, such a possibility seems distant for Glen Eden. The resort's history includes cooperative interactions with local authorities, including during the construction of I-15 in the 1970s, indicating a long-standing harmonious relationship with the county.
While clubs like Lupin Lodge and Desert Sun Resort have been grabbing headlines for their recent sales, Glen Eden appeared in the news last week for its proactive contribution to the surrounding community after one resident, active in Temescal Valley board meetings, spearheaded a proposal for an anti-glare fence along De Palma Road, addressing safety concerns related to glare from Interstate 15. This proposal, reflecting the resort's commitment to its members and the wider community, was swiftly acted upon by Riverside County and resulted in positive PR for the club.
Glen Eden’s model of governance, characterized by democratic principles and collective involvement, offers an example for other naturist resorts facing similar challenges. While distinct in its approach, the resort’s experience provides insights into the complexities naturist communities navigate. It underscores the importance of adaptive strategies and strong community bonds in ensuring continuity and resilience.
So, what is happening in California?
A unique and pressing issue is unfolding, with no fewer than four major naturist clubs in the state on the sale block. It’s worth further exploring and considering the shifting cultural interests that may be contributing to the trend, but it’s clear that there are other more obvious factors at play. Looking at the above cases, it’s evident that this trend is deeply rooted in the economic realities of California's booming real estate sector.
Christopher Morris, a condo owner at Desert Sun Resort for eighteen years, offers insights that, while specific to his experience, mirror the broader phenomenon. “There's an identical condo building—one block west of us,” Morris explains, “and those units are going for [up to] $800,000. Ours are still in the $400,000 to $500,000 range, and that’s simply because we're in a nudist environment... So we've had several non-nudists buy into our complex. Eventually, it probably will become a majority of non-nudists, and they will change the HOA to be non-nude.”
This shift illustrates a critical point: the land these naturist clubs sit on is now more valuable than the clubs themselves. As real estate prices soar, the financial lure for owners to sell becomes increasingly compelling, overshadowing the clubs' cultural and community significance. This situation becomes even more complex with multiple ownership scenarios, including investment-only owners who will prioritize financial returns over community values. As a result, many of these clubs, rich in culture and history, face the threat of being dissolved or fundamentally transformed.
Headlines often spotlight naturist clubs hitting the market with eye-catching price tags, but such news usually misses the human side of the story. These sales aren't mere transactions; they represent a risk to very real, vibrant communities. We shouldn’t lose sight of that.
The survival of these communities may well hinge on their ability to share experiences and strategies. Learning from past mistakes and successes could be critical.
Challenges and strategies
A unified approach across California’s naturist clubs could strengthen their individual and collective positions. By leaning into their organizational ties like the American Association for Nude Recreation (AANR) and AANR-West, pooling resources, sharing best practices, and fostering a spirit of transparency and cooperation, these clubs—and others after them—can better navigate the challenges they face. This collaborative spirit extends beyond club management to include the community of naturists.
Additionally, active participation by naturists in supporting these clubs and communities through visits, volunteering, and community events can provide much-needed moral and financial support. Such involvement aids in club maintenance and reinforces the sense of community central to the naturist ethos.
While it may be too late for the privately held clubs mentioned in this story to change their ownership model, it’s worth expanding on the protections offered to naturist club members by the co-op model, as exemplified by Glen Eden. With some foresight and proactive organization, the club culture can be protected with the right corporate structure. Member-owned cooperatives or non-profit organizations emphasize community and cultural values over financial gain. These models allow members to have a direct stake in the club, reinforcing the naturist ethos and fostering a stronger community bond. In the face of an unpredictable real estate market, this approach could ensure the preservation and continuity of these spaces.
The current landscape for California’s naturist clubs is undoubtedly challenging, but it is not without hope. By embracing lessons from within their own ranks, fostering unity, and actively engaging their communities, these clubs can still navigate their uncertain futures. The response to these challenges will determine the fate of individual clubs and shape the future of naturism in contemporary society, reinforcing its values of freedom, expression, and communal harmony. 🪐
For more context and backstory on each of these clubs and their current situations—including detailed historical information—please see previous Planet Nude reporting on each club.