Slab City is home to various common areas. When you enter Slab City, you are greeted by the Heilsberg. After venturing further into town, you can expect a local concert hall called The Range. Further down the gravel roads there is a library where Cornelius Vega lives. During our visit, she explained anarchist culture in Slab City. Another community area that attracts locals is the Internet Café, one of the few places in the area where people can connect online. We met Rob, who runs the internet café. He explained how the café`s solar panels allow for off-grid electricity. You can read more about these areas in the video above.
Imagine a world without government and laws, would we be better off? Or would we face complete chaos? Well, located in the Sonoran Desert of California, the only lawless territory in America; Slab City. There are no laws that are officially enforced in the plates, which means that there is an inherent danger of going here. Sometimes a police car drives by and controls the city, but there are no real municipal services to turn to in times of crisis. Drug-related crime is certainly a problem here. However, the number of violent crimes here is not particularly high, and a large part of the population is very open to visitors. Slab City sits on 640 acres of public land, about 50 miles north of the U.S.-Mexico border in Imperial County, California, on the grounds of Camp Dunlap, a former U.S. Marine Corps base. At its peak in the 1940s, the camp housed a laboratory to test concrete`s ability to survive the harsh climate of the Sonoran Desert, but at the end of World War II, the government ceased operations. The squatters saw an opportunity and quickly claimed the area, building a hodgepodge of dwellings from the concrete slabs, sticking to whatever materials they could find. Nestled in the southeast corner of California`s Sonoran Desert, just four miles east of Niland, California, and 45 miles from the Mexican border. Named after concrete slabs left by a lost World War II military base, it is not technically recognized as a city. The site was once a United States Marine Corps facility called Camp Dunlap.
In 1961, the army realized it no longer needed the base, and it was largely dismantled into a pile of slabs and other pieces of concrete piled up in the desert. Employees at a nearby chemical plant found the plates and decided they would be an ideal location for temporary housing with small trailers and other facilities. Absolute. In fact, there is no cost to live in Slab City. However, let them know that there is no running water, no plumbing or sewerage, and no electricity. The nearest town with a supermarket is about 30 miles away. Many residents had told us about being “stuck” in Slab City for a variety of reasons. Many residents use generators or solar panels to generate electricity.
Clean water is drained from a reservoir in the parish church.  The closest civilization body with proper law enforcement is located about 6.4 miles southwest of Slab City in Niland, where residents often went shopping starting in 1990.  30 years later, in 2020, residents were still receiving basic necessities from Niland, a town of about 1,000 people.  Keep in mind that while Slab City is not without laws and is free to camp or live here, you are without running water, sewage, plumbing, or electricity. Unless you`re creative and smart enough to create your own, which some have done. The ingenuity runs deep here. Ever since I heard about Slab City, a self-contained community in the middle of the Southern California desert, I`ve been curious about what life is really like here. It has been described as “the last free place in America” because there are no rules and no laws. I had always heard that there was a group of squatters, hippies and homeless people. I spent one night here and learned that while this is partly true, many slabbers are also ordinary, average people who just want to get away from it all. This secluded and art-filled area is called “Slab City” and is one of the most unique cities in all of America.
Probably the strangest attraction of Slab City is the fact that there are no laws there. Slab City is not subject to any jurisdiction. Literally, anything goes. At first, when we visited, Slab City seemed like a place where people live off-grid, take drugs, live without laws, and escape the world. Some people take drugs, live recklessly and sleep in dirt. But it seems that most people are simply looking for a place to belong. There is a fundamental harmony in all who live there. They came to Slab City for various reasons, but when it matters.
The people who stayed nearby all found a common logic, a common reason, or a common motive. And that`s something special. What about the future of Slab City? We are not sure. As far as we know, people were divided on this issue. Under the unforgiving sun of the Colorado desert in Southern California lies Slab City, a community of squatters, artists, snowbirds, migrants, survivalists and homeless people. Described by some as the “last free place” and by others as an “enclave of anarchy,” Slab City is also the end of the street for many. Without electricity, running water, sewage or garbage collection, the people of Slab City live without law enforcement, taxes or administration. Built on the concrete slabs of Camp Dunlap, an abandoned naval training base, the colony maintains its off-grid aspirations within the remaining military boundaries and the site`s gridded layout. The off-grid is really in the network. In this book, architect Charlie Hailey and photographer Donovan Wylie explore the contradictions of Slab City.
When I arrived, I saw him in the distance, on the outskirts of the city. On closer inspection, it turned out that they were made from folded vehicles. This was just the beginning of the chance that would follow. There are a variety of people who live on the plates. Only a small number live in this bright environment all year round. Snowbirds, elderly retirees looking for an inexpensive place to live are part of the community.