For nearly three decades, the DeAnza Springs Resort in the high desert community of Jacumba Hot Springs has provided a 523-acre haven for naturists to bare all as one of the nation’s largest clothing-optional destinations.
But this week, residents received stark news — a letter from the resort’s new management informing them of a decision to become a “textile” park.
Starting September 1, clothing will be required in all common areas such as the pool and hiking trails. Then on October 1, nudity will be banned everywhere on the property, including privately owned and leased sites. (The website says Oct. 30.)
The action has laid bare resentments and anger among residents who bought or leased sites specifically for the freedom to be clothes-free at the last nudist resort in San Diego County. Also upset are frequent visitors who bought club memberships.
Some are seeking legal counsel over what they contend were deceptive marketing practices, as well as concerns over loud concerts and other problems stemming from changes carried out by the new owners.
“We understand that change can sometimes be met with mixed feelings, and we empathize with those who might feel upset or uncertain about the introduction of the new clothing rule,” the owners’ letter states, also encouraging residents with questions to set up an appointment by emailing co-owner Luke Wasyliw, who blames residents for not supporting some events and cites financial needs.
Native San Diegan Wasyliw, a La Mesa-based Realtor, and Kevin Cho bought the property in 2020 from Dave and Helen Landman, founders of the DeAnza Springs Resort. The Landmans also sold the Jacumba Spa and other properties in town to different owners.
The new owners had grand visions of creating a Nomadic Wellness Resort as a place for healing and artistic expression. They added a stage, glamping tent and geodesic dome (which burned two or three months ago but will be replaced, per the owners) with visions of thousands staying over and hosting massive music festivals inspired by Burning Man and similar events.
But now the owners say changing circumstances have forced them to change their business model, in an era when numerous facilities across the U.S. have shed their clothing-optional models.
ECM spoke with the co-owner as well as with multiple residents and visitors to the resort.
Owner Reveals Views
Asked the reason for requiring clothing at the longtime nudist retreat, Wasyliw, 38, told ECM in an email: “This past weekend, it became evident to me that the clothing-optional business model was not a sustainable option for DeAnza Springs Resort.”
He said a convention hosted last weekend there by the American Association of Nude Recreation drew a “boycott” from site holders that was the ”final straw.”
He says he has been “transparent and open” with site holders and members over the past six months.
“I have conveyed that a potential change is on the horizon if we do not witness substantial growth and if we do not foster an inclusive environment that welcomes individuals who choose to wear clothing at the resort,” Wasyliw said.
(Residents dispute these points. Of note, DeAnza has always been clothing optional, meaning guests could choose to wear clothes if they wish, and some regularly do so.)
Wasyliw notes that he and his partners have made substantial investments in the park’s development, allocating significant capital for upgrades. In the first year of ownership, this included assembling an “extraordinary team” of staffers, enhancing infrastructure and making upgrades such as installing new leach lines for septic fields, upgrading electrical, improving water facilities and cleanup.
He says town halls were held regularly to get residents’ opinions and ideas.
The second year focused on growth, enhancing occupancy and making aesthetic upgrades. The site is now in the permitting phase to add a solar array to reduce the resort’s environmental impact.
But he acknowledges “significant resistance from some site holders” for various reasons.
“It is understandable that there are many upset individuals given the long history of DeAnza Resort…. On the other hand, I have been receiving a substantial number of supportive calls, texts and emails from various parties,” he said.
As for nudists who want to leave due to the policy change, Wasyliw told ECM he is “committed to collaborating with each site holder individually to find the best solutions” but that so far, only five people have reached out to request appointments.
“I can’t help anybody if there is no communication,” he says.
Shock, Anger Voiced
“I was blindsided,” says Milt Cyphert, a part-time annual club member and musician, who says memberships were halted in April, when guests were required to pay for each visit.
Cyphert had been planning to sell his home in Lakeside and buy a retirement place in DeAnza Springs Resort, which he described as “healthy” and “family oriented” before the new owners took over. Since then, he and others say they’ve been bombarded by loud music nearly all night long from a series of raucous music festivals inspired by Burning Man.
He plans to visit as often as he can in August to “still enjoy nature, the trails, and friends I’ve known for decades.”
After that, he’ll probably head to Glen Eden Sun Club nearly three hours north in Murrieta, the next closest clothing-optional facility.
Jason, who asked that his last name not be published, has been a resident for five years and says he invested $115,000 in a trailer and spent around $10,000 on improvements.
“This was to be our home on Social Security. I don’t have another place to live,” he said.
He’s worked as a subcontractor for the owner, but says: “I was on Team Luke for along time, but not now.”
He claims the owner illegally graded a creek and has violated county noise ordinances, both with late hours and potentially exceeding decibel limits.
He faults the owners for not being open about their plans.
“The couple next door to me bought in less than a month ago” because they are nudists. “They had big plans to put a trailer on the property, put up a big carport and outdoor seating area to do what we all do out there — hang out in the sun and socialize.”
Music Fests at Issue
The site is allowed to hold up to six music festivals a year under permits granted by the Sheriff’s Department. But some residents says private parties have been held that are also very loud in the wee hours of the night.
Jason says he called the sheriff multiple times “on these unpermitted festivals,” but says the sheriff declined to take action thus far.
He says the local sheriff’s official “is very aware of what’s going on with festivals and drug use – there’s ketamine and ecstasy and mushrooms readily available at these festivals. … Most offensive was Karnival of the Arts (West).”
He says this was advertised as a 24-hour music festival over several days “bass that bounced off the rocks” and could be heard in the town of Jacumba several miles away.
Wasyliw acknwoledges noise issues but says they’ve streamlined the process and”gotten better reins on it.”
In a call with ECM, he said some events such as Utopia were successful and “everybody loved it.”
Wasyliw added: “We are not promoting drug use,” and says security can address obviously illegal actions on a case by case basis.
However, the park’s co-owner, Cho, known as Kecho, appears in a video in which he touts psychedelic magic mushrooms, and runs a website (MCRDSE.com) that sells mushrooms; he has also advocated for legalization of hallucinogenic mushrooms, which remain illegal in California with no exceptions for medical or religious reasons.
Oddly, the owners continued loading new posts onto Facebook in early August even after the announcement to residents.
One encouraged people to “experience San Diego’s only clothing optional resort.” Another teased with the question, “Do you prefer to practice nudism in a public or private setting?”
When the resort finally did post a notice on his homepage reading “Heading to De Anza Resort? Don’t forget your clothes!”
Someone created a parody meme on social media with the added phrase, “We made a terrible business decision, and now we hope making you wear clothes will fix it. Betrayal of our current residents, brought to you by the Elon Musk school of business.”
Miriam Raftery is editor of East County Magazine, where a version of this report originally appeared. East County Magazine is a member of the San Diego Online News Association.