borrego modern

The dream of a thriving resort community in Borrego Springs had been around since the first homesteaders entered the Valley. To make it happen would require vision, money, persistence, a lot of hard work and a little luck. There are four men who, all in their own way, were required to produce the resort community of Borrego Springs; A.A. Burnand, Robert DiGiorgio, James Copley and George (Bud) Kuhrts.

Alphonse A. Burnand, Jr. is considered the "Father of Borrego Springs". He was born in 1896 in Colorado, the son of a miner. The family moved to Santa Monica where Burnand grew up and attended the University of California at Davis, majoring in agriculture. Following graduation he went to Delano in California's Central Valley, the largest table grape producing area in the state. After working in the fields, he soon acquired his own vineyard, and met the DiGiorgio family, at the time the largest grape growers in the world.1 Around1933, Burnand made his first trip to the Borrego Valley looking for areas where crops would ripen early. The first crops to market would command a higher price and potentially greater profit. In the Borrego Valley grapes would be ready to pick several weeks ahead of other growing areas. The grapes would usually be sent to markets in New York. In 1936 Burnand purchased an interest in the Coyote Canyon Ranch, to be followed by the de Anza Ranch. The heat, high winds and winter cold made growing grapes in Borrego difficult - but despite some failures Burnand had spent enough time in the Valley to see its potential as a resort. He began buying up railroad in-holdings in the Park area, and trading them with the

1 Borrego Beginnings, Brigandi, Phil. Page 63

State for valley land as well as picking up property from tax sales and homesteaders wanting out. His holdings grew to about 17,000 acres.

In 1945, Burnand announced plans for a resort community. The San Diego Union reported that he "was ambitious to create a San Diego County rival of Palm Springs". Development would not start until the end of the war.2 Burnand gathered several Los Angeles investors and incorporated the Borrego Valley Land and Development Company (to own the land and handle development) and the Borrego Springs Company (to handle sales and marketing). Burnand also formed the Borrego Valley Water Company to supply the development with this most precious resource in the desert.

The community of Borrego Springs was destined to be a special place. Burnand sought to protect the beauty of the desert through restrictions on development - somewhat of an unusual concept in planning in the 1940's. Lot sizes were designed to protect privacy. Developers were not allowed to whole-sale clear land of its fragile, native plants. Restrictions of what could and could not be built, and an architectural review board were put in place.

In 1953 the original Borrego Springs Land and Development Company was dissolved with Burnand and two other Los Angeles investors each retaining a share of the unsold land. At the end of 1954, the Los Angeles investors are bought out by Texas Oilman and La Jolla Farms owner William Black; San Diego Union Tribune publisher James Copley and the DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation, represented by vice president Robert DiGiorgio.

The January, 1955 Borrego Sun, in a front page article reported:
"In a statement yesterday, the new association announced a four point program for the development of Borrego:
1. To insure through proper zoning and planning the orderly development of Borrego Valley as one of San Diego County's outstanding tourist and vacation areas.
2. To insure the continued development of agriculture in Borrego Valley through proper planning and the conservation and further development of water resources.
3. To establish a long range program to attract home owners and additional resort facilities to Borrego
4. To insure the long range future of Borrego through development of the area on sound business principles and to insure that such development will enhance the natural beauty of San Diego's desert playground." 3

Burnand lived to see the seed he planted bloom. He died in 1981 at the age of 85.

2 Borrego Beginnings, Brigandi, Phil. Page 63
3 Borrego Sun, Black, Copley, DiGiorgio Join Burnand in Borrego Development. January, 1955. Page 1.

Robert DiGiorgio had first been to Borrego in 1939. He, like Burnand, was scouting areas for early grape production. In 1944, right after the war, DiGiorgio founder Joseph DiGiorgio, Robert DiGiorgio and Burnand all traveled from Delano to Borrego. The DiGiorgio's ended up buying 1200 acres of land from Burnand and that became the first holdings for the company in the Valley. Table grapes were the crop DiGiorgio grew in the Valley (others grew tomatoes, alfalfa, cotton and variety of other fruits and vegetables). The grapes were shipped around the country - primarily to the New York market. Farming in the Valley was hard and after a dozen years of trying to make it work, the DiGiorgio Company decided it was time to stop virtually overnight. The success of Cesar Chavez in unionizing farm workers would also play a key role to the end of DiGiorgio's farming. When a strike was called against DiGiorgio's Borrego vineyards, the pumps, necessary to irrigate the vines, were shut off.

"One of the first results of the strike was the decision to abandon farming in Borrego. We had farmed Borrego for a number of years, and of all of those years--thirteen or fourteen years, and the first three or four years were development years to bring the crops up to production--and during all of those years, my recollection is that only one year did the operation show an operating profit . All the other years it showed operating losses. Basically due to the unfriendliness of the weather to the development of the grape crop. Too much heat, too much rain, too much wind with dust. Just a number of things. Low production yields. We just never could cut the buck. When we got the unionization in Borrego on top of all the other problems, the decision was made that it's inadvisable to keep on farming there, particularly since we no longer have any obligation to give those people a job (the farm workers). They're on their own. Mr. Chavez can take care of them. So the decision was a very easy one to reach." 4
In 1962, Robert DiGiorgio became President of the DiGiorgio Fruit Corporation and began taking the company out of farm production, and into development. Under his leadership the company was renamed the DiGiorgio Corporation the "Fruit" being dropped as the company diversified. The first development project was de Anza Country Club in 1955, with DiGiorgio providing the major financial backing. Its success would set the stage for additional Valley projects including: Borrego Springs Shopping Center (1965); Roadrunner Club Golf Course and Mobile Home Park (1966); Rams Hill Country Club (1981) and Indian Head Ranch (1980's). Robert DiGiorgio stepped down as president of the company in 1982. The last of the Borrego holdings were sold by DiGiorgio Development Company in 1988.

4 Robert DiGiorgio. Oral History, Robert DiGiorgio and J.A. DiGiorgio The DiGiorgio's: From Fruit Merchants to Corporate Innovators, 1983, University of California, Berkley California.

James Copley would provide the media muscle needed to promote Borrego Springs as a resort community during its key growth period. Copley was Chairman of the Copley Press. At the time the business consisted of the San Diego Union and Tribune, along with a dozen papers in other parts of California and Illinois. The Copley Press also owned the Copley News Service, which provided features to papers all across the country. In 1954, Copley purchased the Borrego Sun newspaper from Borrego Valley Associates, modernized the paper and moved it to publication every two weeks. In addition, the San Diego Union ran a weekly column on news from the Borrego Valley, as well as full

features in the Sunday Home section. In 1960, Copley (through his MACOP Corporation) purchased the Desert Lodge from the Kuhrts family and began a major renovation that resulted in La Casa del Zorro, for many years the Valley's only 4 star resort. Copley also moved his annual meeting of the editors of his paper to his resort in Borrego Springs. The annual "Copley Conference" would expose these editors to the beauty of Borrego. The Copley Press, on behalf of the Chamber of Commerce, also produced two promotional films on Borrego Springs that were made available for showing and also appeared on television. James and Helen Copley were also members of de Anza Desert Country Club, James Copley serving as the Club's President. They also built a substantial home at de Anza. James Copley died in 1973 at the age of 57. In December of 2007, Copley Press sold the La Casa del Zorro Resort and its furnishings for $4.5 million dollars to GH Capital, owners of the neighboring Montesoro (formerly Ram's Hill). The new owners closed the resort this summer and are undertaking an extensive renovation - the opening is set for November 2008. There are reports that the renovation will include a new name.

George (Bud) Kuhrts, III was the man who made development of Borrego Springs bloom. He was the day to day organizer of virtually every major development project in the Valley. Born in Los Angeles in 1923, Kuhrts was raised in Hollywood and Catalina Island, where he developed a life long love of the ocean. He attended military school and enlisted in the Navy, surviving the attack on Pearl Harbor. He was later promoted to Chief Petty Officer and served in that capacity for four admirals in the South Pacific. 5 Those same organizational skills would serve him well after the war. In 1947 Kuhrts came to Borrego to work with his stepfather, A.A. Burnand. His first project was relocating several surplus Quonset huts to Borrego, and opening "Bud's Café".6 He then purchased the Desert Lodge from the Dana Burk family and ran it until 1960 when it was purchased by James Copley. Kuhrts married his wife Beverly in 1949 who continues to live in the community. The listing of his accomplishments is impressive: He led the development of de Anza Country Club as President of the Borrego Valley Golf and
Improvement Company with the backing of Burnand and DiGiorgio and in later years would continue with the additions of de Anza Villas and Vista Villas. He was President of the company's formed for the development for the Borrego Springs Shopping Center (1965), Roadrunner Club (1967) and Ram's Hill Country Club (1981). In addition Kuhrts was instrumental in creating Borrego Spring's Airlines and became president when the airline changed names to Sun Aire in the 1970's (the airline was a DiGiorgio subsidiary). He was also a director of the Bank of San Diego and Borrego Springs Bank in the 1980's. He served as a director of the Community Association and the A.A. Burnand Medical and Education Foundation; was the first Fire Commissioner for the Borrego Springs Fire Protection District and was Borrego's Honorary Mayor in 1986. In countless articles in the Borrego Sun for more than 3 decades it was Kuhrts who was the face of progress in the Valley; who would turn the vision and money of Burnand and DiGiorgio into reality. Bud Kuhrts died in 1995, at the age of 72.

5 Borrego Sun, Memorial Services Honors George J (Bud) Kuhrts, III, June 15, 1995, Page 1.

6 Interview, Beverly Kuhrts, 2006. The Quonset Hut that served as Bud's Café remains. Until October 2008 it was most recently operated as "The Red Ocotillo restaurant".