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There's no reason to blow a gasket

Relax…There’s no reason to blow a gasket


OK. So you finally find the perfect home to buy. You’re excited. It’s taken some time and considerable effort. You and your agent fill out all the paperwork. (And in California, that’s a lot of paper.) You leave the broker’s office whistling a happy tune while your agent is busy putting on the finishing touches to send the offer to the listing agent for presentation to the sellers. Oh, what a happy and exciting day! You celebrate your good fortune with a nice dinner at a favorite night spot. As you’re falling off to sleep that night, in your mind you’re decorating the new living room.

The next day, your agent calls saying that there are other offers on YOUR new HOME! You’re furious. That can’t be. Yes, you’ve heard of bidding wars and never wanted to participate in one. BUT YOU LOVE THIS HOUSE!

At this point, a couple of things could happen: a) The sellers could take the offer they like best. (It could be yours or someone else’s.) b) The sellers sends back a multiple counter offer, asking for all interested parties to make their highest and best final offer (from which the sellers will choose their favorite).

Most often, the second option is the choice made. The sellers want to receive the most they can from a deal. It’s a tricky step for you (the buyer) because you want to get the house but you don’t want to overpay for it. What do you do? How do you respond to their request without feeling badly about it?

The Price Escalation Addendum

Most agents don’t know of a handy device for just such situations. In fact many brokerages don’t have such a form. It’s called a Price Escalation Addendum. This is a one-page document that simply states that you will pay “X” dollars (most commonly $1,000) more than the next highest offer up to a maximum that you will not exceed. It further states that you require a copy of the next highest offer which confirms the amounts involved. That is your safeguard for getting the deal you are expecting.

I, personally have successfully used the Price Escalation Addendum for clients on several transactions, both short sales and regular deals. It’s a way for all parties to feel as though they’re getting the best deal possible.

Call or email Tor Buck for information about buying homes in the Palm Springs area.
760-969-3119 –


What You Should Know Before
Purchasing on Indian Lease Land


Would you like to know the status of a particular land lease?
I’ll send you the current information.

How Indian Leased Land
Came About

The vast majority of real estate in California is Fee Simple or FEE land (you own it). However, in 1876 when the US government divided land parcels in the Palm Springs area, they chose to create a 1 mile by 1 mile checkerboard grid on the map. Every odd numbered section for ten miles on each side of the proposed rail track was given to Southern Pacific Railway as an incentive to build the railroad. While the even numbered sections were allotted to the Native American tribes living in the area.

Originally, the Indians were not allowed to sell or lease the land but in the 1950s, after several legal battles, the courts and Secretary of the Interior equalized the allotted native lands. The tribe divided up the parcels then conveyed one to each of the tribe’s members. The lease land owners of today are the descendants of those first recipients.

Note: There are currently about 23,000 homes in the City of Palm Springs on Indian Lease Land. (That’s nearly half of the homes here.) Many of the most desirable areas in Palm Springs are owned by native families. A similar 99-year lease concept is also used in several places around the country including Hawaii and Alaska.

Developers secured the land through this leasing process and built many of the homes and condos you see here today. In the early 21st century, many of the leases are getting close to expiring. Therefore, it is necessary to extend them or (in some cases) convert the land to fee.

Although the current leases are good through 2025, 2035, 2042, etc. they are considered too close to expiration because of the lending industry’s requirements on getting a mortgage on this type of property. Simply stated, lenders require that a lease must be at least 5 years longer than the term of the mortgage. Therefore, a lease must have an expiration date that is 35 years out from the date of purchase to get a standard 30-year loan.

There are two factors to consider here. Firstly, the monthly lease amount may increase every five years (depending on the lease terms) and secondly, on a short lease, those who can buy with a shorter loan or all cash can pick up some great deals on under-valued properties. Of course, if the lease expiration is 35 years or longer, you’ll know up-front exactly what to expect from the lease.

Note: Because lease land is somewhat unique, I strongly suggest that you use a local lender who understands lease land issues. Outside banks usually refuse the loan during the underwriting process or take a much longer time, causing a stressful closing.

When deciding on this type of property, the buyer must be aware of these considerations. Using the help of a reputable local agent (such as myself) will help you make the best decision for your needs.

Here are some questions that are frequently asked about:

Lease Land vs. Fee Land

Financial Benefits

The primary difference between buying land and leasing is obvious; leased land reduces the cost of a home by approximately 15 to 25%. So, by owning your home on leased land, the homeowner gets the use of the land without the capital outlay and can afford a far more luxurious home for less money. Furthermore, since no one actually owns a home until the loan is paid off, most so-called “land owners” don’t really own their property for 30 years.

Won’t the value of my real estate climb faster if I own the land?

While many things determine resale values, the available figures indicate that the resales of homes on leased land (whether single family residences or condominiums) have climbed in the same proportion as other similar homes in the area. The home’s condition has far more influence on its resale value than the fact it is or is not on leased land.

What about my children and grandchildren, can I pass a leasehold estate on to them?

Of course. You can give or sell your home on leased land just as easily as on fee land. However, if you are concerned about your heirs 60 years from now, there are four realistic questions you should ask yourself. 

  • Will they really want a 60 year old home when the average life of most of most California residences is estimated at 50 years.
  •  Considering that most residences change ownership about every 5 years, is this home really likely to stay in your family for 60 years? 
  • If you have a savings of $206* per month ($2472 per year) by leasing land vs. purchasing, over the life of a 60-year lease, your savings would total $148,320 even if it earned no interest. If you kept this monthly saving in an account paying 10% annual interest, your savings would exceed $1,000,000 over 60 years. Wouldn’t that be a better way to take care of your great-grandchildren.
  • What happens at the end of the lease? Since there is no legal restriction prohibiting the Indians from selling their land, you or your heirs may have the option to purchase it if you wish. However, most probably (based on the conditions at that time), you would be offered a new lease . There would be no financial advantage for the land owner of taking the land back. They depend on the lease income for their livelihood. We have a saying in Palm Springs; “They can’t eat dirt!”

Why do some people compare a home on leased land to a variable annuity life insurance policy?

Probably because it’s easier to understand. Just as a variable annuity gives you the possibility of gaining from both fixed interest rates and asset appreciation, a home purchased on leased land gives you a monthly savings along with the possibility of home appreciation.

It can be an investment hedge whether home prices are rising of falling. During an “up” market, your home will increase in price. In a “down” period, the dollars you did not spend on land, but invested in a fixed interest savings, will continue to increase.

A question for you: “Would you rather pay higher property taxes and mortgage payments or enjoy a nicer home in YOUR Palm Springs Lifestyle?”


When purchasing a home in Palm Springs, you need a Realtor who can guide you through all the variations to exactly what type of property is right for you. Maybe owning land is a better choice for you. I work with both types of purchases. Rest assured that I will never do anything to jeopardize my reputation. If you’re not happy, I’m not happy! Please call Tor Buck to find out more. 760-969-3119 or E-Mail

An unexpected welcome for our group!

An unexpected welcome for our group!


It’s dark when we arrive in Xi’an. We’re weary from a less than auspicious travel day. As the buses pull out of the airport, we become aware that we have a police escort! Interesting! Our local guide that evening was so-so. We’re told we were going to the city wall (the only complete city wall left in China).

Out the window, I noticed a city that seems vibrant with life. There was some neon signage that felt vaguely like Las Vegas. Interesting architecture. The guide told us that we are going to see a ceremony that was created for President Clinton’s visit a couple years before. (I’d rather go to the hotel and rest.)

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         Ceremony in the Walled City (The original Xi’an)

The armed guard looks so fierce. No?

The armed guard looks so fierce. No?

At the City Wall, we crowded around the south gate. There were six Qing Dynasty costumed guards with spears in front of the gates. Cool! When the gates opened, out paraded Qing Dynasty dignitaries (2 men and 2 women) carrying an assortment of things. (I couldn’t see what these might be.) We were asked to prepare a reception line.

My Xi'an passport and Key To The City!

My Xi’an passport and Key To The City!

As we passed, the first two “dignitaries” were giving out small cups of wine to welcome us. The next person handed each of  us a cloth covered book and the third placed a Key-to-the-City around our necks.

Receiving our passports.

Receiving our passports.

Passing through the gates we were stopped by more costumed performers sitting at a table. They took the books that were just handed to us, opened them and stamped these Passports-to-the-City with the official entrance chops.

Xian Dancer

Performing the ancient welcoming dance.

Next, a host of brightly dressed performers danced an ancient ritual of welcome. Heady stuff! The interior of the “City” was empty of buildings. However, the interior of the wall itself is one large building inside of which were a number of shops and art galleries. Whoopee! More shopping!

By the time we reached the Sheraton Xian Hotel, we were in bright spirits, dazzled by the attention lavished upon us.

As it turns out, our tour guide, Ray is from Xi’an and his mom still lives there. Bin and Di (tour coordinators) both live in Xi’an. Because of their connections, they were able to arrange for the police escort (an off-duty friend) for our entire stay and the special welcome at the city wall.

            Lesser Wild Goose Pagoda

Lesser Goose Pagoda

Lesser Goose Pagoda

The next morning, Gina (who was on a different bus the night before) told Kendra and me that the local tour guide on their bus is the best! We swtich buses and find that she was right. Stephanie is truly amazing. She’s a teacher who moonlights as a tour guide. Her scope of knowledge, impeccable English and sense of humor, were a perfect blend. She also new when to keep quiet and let us just enjoy the sites.

Replica of an old cart.

Replica of an old cart.

Built in the 11th century, the badly weathered monolith sits in a lovely parked surrounding. The grounds are well used by the locals. There were several groups of older people practicing their tai chi, fan dancing, etc. On the pagoda portico, I saw a group waltzing! It is a happy place to be.

Waltzing on the terrace.

Waltzing on the terrace.

In the gift shop, I found the most beautiful dough people. Dome-encased figurines of the most delicate finish and rich colors, these are actually made out of real dough. They’re so delicate, two of the six I bought, were destroyed by the time I returned home, even though I kept them in my carry-on bag.

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            Terra Cotta Warriors Museum & dig sites

Driving up to the Museum grounds, once again, we notice both sides of the road are lined with souvenir booths. There seem to be many brightly colored objects and some of the group want to go shopping there before seeing one of the most amazing archeological finds.

They returned with tapestry purses, hats and other stuff that I don’t understand why they’d buy it. I went to the dig sites and museum.

The first of five buildings we went into is a circa-rama theater. Using a narrative story style with actors in period costumes, the film tells the story of how the tombs were built, how they were subsequently destroyed and then rediscovered 2500 years later.

The film is scratchy and the sound is nearly inaudible. Obviously, the speakers have been blown out, so for a half-hour everything one hears is garbled. However, we still get the gist of what happened.


Next I went to the main dig building. It is the #1 pit and has been there since approximately 1980. There hasn’t been any digging going on at this sight for many years. The statues were shattered 2500 years ago, then pieced together and placed back in their original locations in the last 30 years.

Impressive to see, especially considering the amount of work necessary to reassemble the thousands of pieces, the row after row of warriors (each with a unique face) and horses stand as they did two and a half millennia ago.

The #2 pit is similar but smaller and the #3 pit is basically empty. In the center of this dig is a canvas canopy with a shining, bare light bulb hanging from it. This is supposed to look like the dig is being worked on as you’re watching. However, it looks more like a deserted movie set to me.

The dig site looks more like a movie set.

The dig site looks more like a movie set.

The museum building, houses some of the weapons (those that weren’t stolen by grave robbers) and objects of art. The most notable of these are two bronze horse-drawn carts; the larger of which is said to be the largest bronze sculpture ever unearthed.

A gorgeous full-sized bronze cart was excavated.

A gorgeous half-sized bronze cart was excavated.

In the same building as the theater, there is a gift shop in which one can buy replicas of the warriors from 2” high to full-size. Dr. Steve (an art collector in our group) bought two of the life-sized figures, a standing general and the kneeling archer. I bought nothing because the prices were too high priced. Instead, I bought some pieces from independent (read black market) dealers wandering around the museum grounds.

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            Dumpling Dinner…the Best!

Upon arriving at the restaurant for dinner that evening, we saw a banner strung across the building that said Welcome Boulder City Hospital Foundation Group to China. That’s us! Cool!

Upon seating us, the waitress explained that each of the dumplings served would be shaped like the main ingredient in that morsel; eg: a chicken is chicken, a pig is pork, etc. Each basket had eight dumplings; one for each person at the table. (Basically, a dumpling is a small pot sticker that is steamed rather than fried.)

Well, I enjoyed this meal more than any other on the trip. Each dumpling was a work of art and a gastronomic delight. We had a total of 14 different types brought to us one at a time in a round, covered steaming baskets. Each dumpling seemed better than the other. None of us could believe how great it all was. (Since Kendra doesn’t eat any seafood, I got a few more dumplings than the others did. Hee-hee.) In fact, as we were hurried out of the restaurant to go to the theater next door, we felt that staying at the restaurant might be a better alternative (even though we were full). We just wanted to experience more of the same.

            A Tang Dynasty musical goes Broadway (well…off off Broadway)

The costumes…Tang Dynasty, the story…Tang…the choreography…Tang, the music; strictly Broadway with classical overtones. Actually the blending of old world and new, East with West was well done. I could have lived without the stringed instrument soloist. (I thought she came to the end of her piece three times before she was done.)

In the Finale, the chorus dances across the stage and as they raise their arms and turn, their dresses become great effect!

In the Finale, the chorus dances across the stage and as they raise their arms and turn, their dresses become peonies…to great effect!

Lots of brightly-colored costumes, great lighting and fun staging effects made for an enjoyable time. The emperor got his concubine and all ended happily.

            On the Tube

Kendra decided to turn on the TV each night upon arriving back at the Sheraton Xi’an Hotel. Flipping through the channels, we found a Pairs Diving event which I assumed to be from the Good Will Games. I knew they were taking place at that time. Since the announcer was speaking Chinese, I didn’t realize at first that the event was taking place in China, not Australia. In fact, the games we watched were a part of the 20th Unversiade. Never heard of it before.

Later, when we reached our hotel in Beijing, I found out that two of the venues for the Universiade were located across the street from our hotel. Unfortunately, the following day was closing ceremonies. So, my seeing an event wasn’t possible.

            Farming Village

The farming village consists of row houses on a narrow street.

The farming village consists of row houses on a narrow street.

I suspect that because of our one bus having stopped in that small farming village on our way back from Mount Huangshan, envious people must have asked to see a real farming village. Because, when leaving Xi’an for the airport, we were told we had time to visit a small farming village. Of course, we made a sensation again. One woman opened her house for us to see. (I think she must have been an auntie of one of the tour guys.) Can you imagine having 100 muddy shoed foreigners tromp through your house?

Auntie's farm house.

Auntie’s farm house.

Each door is different. I suppose that is so the farmers will know when they're home.

Each door is different. I suppose that is so the farmers will know when they’re home.

Our host's kitchen with wood-burning wok stove.

Our host’s kitchen with wood-burning wok stove.

With common walls to the other houses on both sides, this house had an entry into a covered breezeway. On one side of the breezeway, smelling of fried sesame oil, was an all-tiled kitchen with two wok holes in the wood-burning stove area. Opposite the kitchen was a bedroom. The breezeway led to a small open courtyard beyond which was a living room, another bedroom and a storage room. I saw no bathing facilities even though the people are generally clean. I forgot to ask our guide about a bathroom.

Grandfather inspects the pig pen with his buddy.

Grandfather inspects the pig pen with his buddy.

Flight to Beijing

Boarding China Northwest Airlines for Beijing, I expected the 1 1/2 hour flight to be similar to the one from Chongqing to Xi’an. Well, not so. First of all, we were served a full meal with real flatware. There was an in-flight movie (a short one). Then the flight attendants gave each passenger a gift-boxed silk tie! This is the economy flight?

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Next posting – Part Five, Beijing and the Great Wall

There were a half-dozen architects and several developer/builders who were primarily responsible for Palm Springs becoming the Mid-century Modern haven it is today.

One of the reasons I became a Realtor is my love for architecture, especially modern architecture. Although there have been a number of great American architects, I believe the grand-daddy of them all was Frank Lloyd Wright. His schools (Taliesin and Taliesin West) promoted experimentation of new materials as well as new forms.

During the mid 20th century era (1940-1970), there were several notable architects and builders who brought those concepts to life. Today, there are still some who carry on that tradition and expand on it. The following is my version of the great designers of Palm Springs. Tor Buck

Frey - Tramway

Originally designed as a gas station, the Tramway Visitor’s Center is an Albert Frey masterpiece.

Albert Frey, Architect
Albert Frey was a prolific architect who established a style of modern architecture centered around Palm Springs, California that came to be known as “desert modernism”.

At the end of World War II Palm Springs’ population almost tripled, and the city experienced a building boom. Known as an escape for the Hollywood elite and a winter haven for east coast industrialists, Palm Springs emerged post-war as a resort community for a broader segment of the American populace with more leisure time than any previous generation.

City Hall

Frey and Clark were well positioned to capitalize on this, and both the city and their firm benefited from an unprecedented period of construction. Significant buildings by Frey during this period include his private residences, Frey house I and II, the Loewy House, built for industrial designer Raymond Loewy, the Palm Springs City Hall, the Cree House II, North Shore Yacht Club on the northeastern shore of the Salton Sea, the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway Valley Station and the iconic “flying wedge” canopy of the Tramway Gas Station at the foot of the entrance to the tramway on the northern edge of Palm Springs, now used as a visitor`s center.

Albert Frey’s home until his death in 1998.

FreyHouseII interior

Interior of Frey’s home.

Frey died in Palm Springs, California aged 95 and was buried at Welwood Murray Cemetery.

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William Cody, Architect
William F. Cody, FAIA, was born in 1916 in Dayton, Ohio and studied architecture at USC where, as a student, he worked for Cliff May. Following graduation in 1942, Cody apprenticed at several California firms, moving to Palm Springs in 1946.
Cody was first employed a staff architect for the Desert Inn Hotel, before setting off on his own to design the Del Marcos Hotel (1947). A subsequent project, the conversion of the 1936 Thunderbird Ranch to Thunderbird Country Club, led to design commissions for the clubhouses at Tamarisk, Eldorado, Seven Lakes and seven other Country Club developments. It is through these many projects that Cody is credited with the Country Club Sub-division concept in the West.

DelMarco Hotel - Cody

Del Marco Hotel, Downtown Palm Springs.

As one of the architects of the Spa Bath House (along with Wexler & Harrison and Phillip Koenig), and the adjacent Spa Hotel, Cody is also noted for a number of spectacular contemporary residential commissions including the Perlberg (1952), Shamel (1961) and Abernathy (1962) Residences. The L’Horizon Hotel (1952), now known as The Horizon Hotel, is a well-restored example of Cody’s design. Cody’s career included a wide variety of commercial and residential projects in Palm Springs and beyond, including projects in Phoenix, San Diego, Palo Alto, and Havana. Cody was inducted into the College of Fellows of the AIA in 1965.

One of Cody's last projects, St. Theresa's Church on Ramon Road.

One of Cody’s last projects, St. Theresa’s Catholic Church on Ramon Road.

Among the last projects in which Cody is credited as the designer were St. Theresa’s Catholic Church (1968) and the Palm Springs Library Center, designed 1972 and completed in 1975. Cody suffered a debilitating stroke in 1973 that ended his architectural career, although the firm continued on for several years. Cody died in 1978 leaving behind a legacy of important contributions to what is known today as Desert Modernism – his career continues to serve as an inspiration to successive generations of architects.

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David Wexler, Architect
DONALD WEXLER, FAIA, was born in 1926 in South Dakota and graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1950 after serving in the Navy during World War II. Thereafter, he moved to Los Angeles where he worked for architect Richard Neutra, and subsequently moved to Palm Springs to work for William Cody on the Tamarisk Country Club. In 1952, Wexler, along with Richard Harrison, a colleague from Cody’s firm, set up their own offices as Wexler & Harrison. That partnership dissolved amicably in 1961, and Wexler formed Donald A. Wexler Associates in 1963.

Wexler's all-steel homes.

Wexler’s all-steel homes.

During their partnership, Wexler and Harrison designed many school buildings using new approaches to steel-framed construction. Their Steel Development Homes are some of Wexler’s most significant work. In 1960, the George Alexander Construction Company contracted Wexler and Harrison to design an innovative neighborhood of all-steel homes at the then northern edge of Palm Springs. Due to the rising costs of steel, the project was halted after just seven homes were built. These innovative factory-fabricated, site-assembled steel houses combined prefabricated components with standard construction methodology and are now internationally acclaimed. These seven homes have been instrumental in revitalizing a once long-forgotten neighborhood and have all been designated Class One Historic Sites.

RoyalHawaiian 2 RoyalHawaiian 1 Royal Hawaiian Estates.

Other projects include the Spa Hotel Bath House (1958), Royal Hawaiian Estates (1960), Palm Springs Medical Clinic (1963), Canyon Country Club (1963), Dinah Shore Residence (1964), Palm Springs International Airport (1965), Desert Water Agency (1978), Bank of Palm Springs (1982), Hope Square Professional Building (Rancho Mirage, 1985) as well as many more commercial, institutional and public buildings. Mr. Wexler continues to enjoy his retirement in Palm Springs.

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E. Stewart Williams, Architect
E. Stewart Williams, FAIA, born in 1909, was the eldest son of Harry Williams (Architect of the historic La Plaza Shopping Center in Palm Springs). As did his father (and later his younger brother), Williams studied architecture at Cornell and went on to receive his Masters from University of Pennsylvania in 1933.

E. Stewart Williams' stunning design, now the Chase Bank, corner of S. Palm Canyon and Ramon Rd.

E. Stewart Williams’ stunning design, now the Chase Bank, corner of S. Palm Canyon and Ramon Rd.

Among his major projects are the Oasis Office Building, Coachella Savings and Loan (I and II) (number II site is now Chase Bank at South Palm Canyon & Ramon Rd.), Crafton Hills College (in Yucaipa), Santa Fe Savings Bank and the Upper Mountain Station of the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. In addition to the Frank Sinatra House (his first residential commission), Williams has designed numerous architecturally significant private residences throughout the Coachella Valley.

Frank Sinatra's "Twin Palms", E. Stewart Willaims first residential commission. (Note the piano-shaped pool.)

Frank Sinatra’s “Twin Palms”, E. Stewart Willaims first residential commission. (Note the piano-shaped pool.)

His most dramatic public building is the Palm Springs Desert Museum. It`s first phase was designed in 1976. His last project was a major expansion of the Desert Museum known as the “Steve Chase Addition.” The addition was designed in 1990-93 and completed in 1996, when Mr. Williams was 87 years old.

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William Krisel, Architect
William Krisel, AIA, principal of the firm of Palmer & Krisel (formed with Partner Dan Palmer), was born in 1924 in Shanghai of American parents working overseas for the U.S. State Department. Krisel lived in China until age 13, when his family returned to the US, where he attended Beverly Hills High. Receiving his degree in architecture at USC, Krisel has also been a licensed landscape architect since 1954.

A backyard advertising photo of "Smoke Tree Valley" subdivision (now known as Twim Palms), designed by Bill Krisel and Alexander Construction Company's first development in Palm Springs.

A backyard advertising photo of “Smoke Tree Valley” subdivision (now known as Twim Palms), designed by Bill Krisel was Alexander Construction Company’s first development in Palm Springs.

Designing more than 30,000 living units throughout Southern California, Krisel`s career spanned over 50 years. A close personal friend of developer Bob Alexander and his family, Krisel came to the Desert at the request of Alexander to design a tract of modernist houses dubbed Smoke Tree Valley (now known as Twin Palms for the pair of Palm trees that graced each of the homes).

"Kins Point" is quitesential Krisel design...SPACE, FLOW, STYLE.

“Kings Point” is quintessential Krisel design…SPACE, FLOW, STYLE.

Other Palmer & Krisel projects include the Ocotillo Lodge, Las Palmas Estates (Vista Las Palmas), Kings Point and Canyon View Estates, Racquet Club Estates, “Valley of the Sun” in Rancho Mirage and the Sandpiper condo complex in Palm Desert (which garnered an AIA merit award for Landscape Architecture). The “House of Tomorrow,” conceived as an experiment in modern living, so impressed Alexander`s wife Helene that they made it their personal residence. The house later gained fame as the honeymoon home of Elvis and Priscilla Presley.

Elvis honeymoon

Krisel’s house of tomorrow became the Alexander families personal residence which also served as Elvis and Prisilla Presley’s honeymoon cottage.

Designed by Palmer/Krisel, The Ocotillo Lodge was a hotel built by The Alexander Company to house prospective buyers of their first home development (now known as Twin Palms). The Lodge was converted to a condominium community.

Designed by Palmer/Krisel, The Ocotillo Lodge was a hotel built by The Alexander Company to house prospective buyers of their first home development (now known as Twin Palms). The Lodge was converted to a condominium community.

Krisel is one of the few mid-century modern architects who not only has lived to see, but also participates in the resurgence of modernism in Palm Springs. In recent years, he has contributed to the restoration of many of his original designs. Beginning in 2008, Krisel collaborated with Maxx Livingstone on exact replicas of his mid-century designs, constructed with all new materials and aimed towards LEED certification. A film on his life and contributions, William Krisel, Architect, premiered at the 2010 Palm Springs Modernism Week. Krisel’s archive now resides at the Getty Research Institute.

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John Lautner, Architect
John Lautner was an influential American architect whose work in Southern California combined progressive engineering with dramatic space-age flair. Born in Marquette, Michigan, Lautner studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West and became site supervisor on several Wright projects including Ennis House, Los Angeles. In 1938 Lautner moved to Los Angeles and created for himself a life-long career focusing on residential architecture. Two of his most recognized works are Elrod House and Bob Hope’s Flying Saucer House.

Lautner's Elrod house, built in 1968, was featured in the James Bond classic "Diamonds are Forever."

Lautner’s Elrod house, built in 1968, was featured in the James Bond classic “Diamonds are Forever.”

Arguably the most widely seen of Lautner`s works, the Elrod House (1968) became famous through its use as a location in the Bond film Diamonds Are Forever. Sited on a commanding hillside location (Southridge neighborhood) in Palm Springs, California, its best-known feature is the large circular `sunburst` concrete canopy which appears to float above the main living area; this area also incorporates a large natural rock outcrop at the edge of the room, creating the impression that the fabric of the building is fused with the rock. The canopy is fitted with curved glass-and-aluminium sliding doors that allow the space to be completely opened around half its circumference, opening out to a semi-circular swimming pool and a broad terrace. The prime hilltop site offers sweeping views of the surrounding desert.

BobHope House - Lautner

Chrysler Corp. built this uniquely designed home for Bob Hope. Bob’s wife, Delores worked closely with John Lautner, making sure that every detail was as she wanted it to be.

The 17,500 sq. ft. Bob and Dolores Hope Residence (1973), situated close to the Elrod Residence in Palm Springs, features a massive undulating triangular roof, pierced by a large circular central light shaft. The original house burned down during construction and Dolores Hope made extensive changes to the second design, with the result that Lautner eventually distanced himself from the project. It is one of the largest and most visually striking of Lautner`s designs.

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Richard Neutra, Architect
Richard Neutra was born in Vienna in 1892. He graduated in 1917 from the Technische Hochschule, Vienna, where he had been taught by Adolf Loos, and was influenced by Otto Wagner. In 1923 he emigrated to the U.S. where he worked on several projects with Rudolf N. Schindler before establishing his own practice.

Kaufmann house 2 - Neutra

Richard Nuetra’s Kaufmann House is considered the “perfect” example of the mid-century aesthetic.

Neutra created a modern regionalism for Southern California which combined a light metal frame with a stucco finish to create a light effortless appearance. “He specialized in extending architectural space into a carefully arranged landscape. The dramatic images of flat-surfaced, industrialized residential buildings contrasted against nature were popularized by the photography of Julius Shulman.”

In 1946, Edgar Kaufmann hired Neutra to design a desert home for his family in Palm Springs. A decade earlier, Frank Lloyd Wright had built Fallingwater for Mr. Kaufmann. But Kaufmann, having seen Taliesin West, thought that Wright didn’t understand desert design and chose Neutra instead. The home turned out so well, that when Wright saw it, he admitted to that is was beautiful (uncharacteristic of him).

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Paul Trousdale, Developer
Paul Trousdale partnered with Pearl McManus to build 200+ modern & traditional style homes in the Tahquitz River Estates neighborhood.


George and Bob Alexander, Developer/builders
The Alexander Construction Company was a Palm Springs, California-based residential development company that built over 2,200 houses in the Coachella Valley of Riverside County between 1947 and 1965.

The construction of these homes doubled the size of Palm Springs and caused the city to take on a new shape, direction, and character as an enclave of modern architecture. These houses, collectively known as “Alexanders,” have come to be appreciated for their rational designs, modernist style, and innovative construction and are now highly sought after, selling for a premium over their more conventional contemporaries.

The company was founded by Robert Alexander with the financial backing of his father, George, building tract houses that were priced moderately at $19,500 in south Palm Springs, a location at that time not considered fashionable. Each new development was increasingly ambitious, adding amenities and square footage. By the end of the 1950s, the Alexanders were building in northwest Palm Springs, traditionally the haven of the wealthy and “Old Hollywood” crowd.

Many of these later houses exceeded 2,000 square feet, with the largest adding another 600 square feet. A swimming pool was included in all of these designs, priced then from the high $40,000s to the low $50,000s. The neighborhood, known today as Vista Las Palmas, became the neighborhood of choice for the “New Hollywood” crowd seeking weekend Colorado Desert escapes. Dinah Shore, Dean Martin, Joan Collins, Marilyn Monroe, and Harold Robbins each owned an “Alexander.” Frank Sinatra`s home by E. Stewart Williams is nearby. Nancy Sinatra still lives in the neighborhood.

The majority of Alexander homes were designed by architect William Krisel, of Palmer & Krisel. Exceptions include those with an A-frame facade, known as “Swiss Misses,” and homes in the Tahquitz Creek Golf area in south Palm Springs which were designed by Donald Wexler.

The most well-known Alexander house in Las Palmas is the Lawford/Kennedy house, originally built for Peter Lawford, connected by marriage to the Kennedy family and a charter member of the Rat Pack. During a visit to Palm Springs, President Kennedy was to have stayed at Sinatra`s house, but ended up at Lawford`s instead because of Sinatra’s connection to organized crime luminaries. The proximity of Lawford`s house to Marilyn Monroe`s supposedly gave rise to a rendezvous between JFK and Monroe. Go to: for more detailed information.

LawfordKennedy house

The Lawford/Kennedy house…the stuff legends are made of.

Another well-known Alexander is the “Honeymoon Hideaway” at 1350 Ladera Circle, built by Robert Alexander for his wife in the early 1960s. The house and the Alexanders achieved some level of national celebrity when an eight-page article featuring the house and the family appeared in Look Magazine in September 1962. The article portrayed the Alexanders and their estate as the center of social activities in Palm Springs in the early 1960s.

George and Robert Alexander and their wives were killed on November 14, 1965, when the chartered Learjet they were aboard crashed in the Little Chocolate Mountains near Indio, while on a flight to Burbank. They were survived by daughter Jill, who was 11 at the time and not on the plane. The company ceased operations with the deaths of its principals.

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Jack Meiselman, Developer/builder
What characterizes a Meisleman Home?
Similar to the Alexander Homes, a Meiselman Home epitomizes the mid-century tract home revolution. It`s indoor/outdoor desert friendly design was on the cutting edge of mass-market modern movement. Indeed they were sleek and modern with crisp clean lines often with butterfly roofs and soaring clerestory windows. They were built using Post and Beam construction with tongue and groove ceilings and generous amounts of architecturally sculpted concrete block. The walls of glass often look out onto an oversized pool and the homes themselves are situated on 1/4 acre lots. They were also quite technologically advanced for their time with forced air heating and central air conditioning, an amenity that suddenly offered year round enjoyment of the desert. On top of all that, they were cheap. Initial sales price for the “entry level model” was around $18,500 in 1959.

Alexander and Meiselman Homes are often confused because they are so similar in appearance and they are interspersed with one another and are sprinkled throughout Palm Springs.

Who is this Meiselman character anyway?
Little is known about Jack Meiselman. He was a local builder, worked with Bob Alexander in a joint venture on a number of the Alexander Construction homes. At some point there was a falling out between the two men. Seeing an opportunity with these new tract homes, he and his brother Bernie Meiselman would follow wherever Alexander was buying land, then they would buy the adjacent parcels. Jack came up with a “Modified Alexander” layout and built roughly 350 tract homes sprinkled amongst the Alexander Homes.

Bill Krisel (architect for Bob Alexander`s homes) has been known to say “Jack Meiselman was a cheap hack who stole our plans and built a poor imitation using inferior materials and unskilled labor! That`s all I have to say about him.”

While one must admit that Meiselman`s methods might have been unscrupulous at best, I have to disagree with Mr. Krisel on a few points. A Meiselman Home is no more cheaply built than the equivalent Alexander. They all used the cheapest materials available. Also, Meiselman introduced separation of space by configuring the guest rooms on the opposite end of the house from the Master.

And finally, Alexander and Meiselman were both in this game for the money. To make money on these homes you had to do 3 things: Buy the land cheap, use cheap labor, and build with cheap materials. What happened in the process is that they defined affordable desert modernism and carved out a unique niche of modern homes in the late 50’s and 60’s.

The designs of these homes are still as strong today as they were 50 years ago. Witness the incredible resurgence of mid-century mania here in Palm Springs in the last number of years. Still somewhat affordable by California standards, the smaller homes are still selling anywhere from $400-$600K depending on condition and the larger ones can easily go for over a million, depending on neighborhood.

Many of these homes fell into great disrepair during the 80`s and 90`s. Hard times hit Palm Springs and the economic downturn actually turned out to be a blessing for preservation. People could not afford to tear the old houses down. So they stood and rotted away. With the dot com boom and the resurgence of interest in all things mid-century, these petrified jewels became hot tickets. People started buying them in the late 90`s for a song ($20-$120K) and fixing them up. Some fixed up properly, some are complete travesties. A mid-century tract home was never meant to be remodeled in the Spanish Revival style. Or worse, the Victor Mature house with its hideous mansard roof. Most of them however, have been treated with the respect they deserve.

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Roy Fey, Developer/builder
Designed by David Wexler, El Rancho Vista Estates was built in the late 1950s by Roy Fey, a former accountant from Chicago who came to PS and began a small real estate development empire. He worked with some of the most prominent architects of the Southern California Modernist movement, such as Donald Wexler. It remains largely intact, to the extent that some of the houses are falling into decay. Others have been purchased by preservation minded folks and been significantly rehabilitated.

Condominium community projects he built were: Canyon View Estates (designed by William Krisel), Canyon Estates, Mesquite Canyon Club as well as many other homes in Indian Canyons.


Modernist Architects Currently Practicing in Our Desert

Narendra Patel
Exciting, cutting-edge design using sustainable techniques and materials. Notable projects are the Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert (Henderson Building), Alta homes (in Palm Springs’ southend) and individually commissioned homes in the Coachella Valley.

Patel pool

The 2006 Gold Nugget Grand Award went to Narendra Patel, principal architect at Alta, Palm Springs.

hendersoncommunitybuildsq2    Patel hendersoncommunitybuild
Patel’s Henderson Building, The Palm Springs Art Museum in Palm Desert

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James Cioffi
Smoke Tree Commons shopping center, Ralphs Center (Ramon & Sunrise), Murano Homes development, Pinnacle Homes & independent commissions.

PinnaclePoint - Cioffi

Cioffi’s Pinnacle Point in the Andreas Hills area of Palm Springs.

Smoketree - Cioffi

The Smoke Tree Commons shopping center, designed by James Cioffi and home to Windermere Real Estate.

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Racquet Club Estates on Dwellable