Spreckels is a census-designated place (CDP) located in the Salinas Valley of Monterey County, California, United States. Spreckels is located 3 miles (4.8 km) south of Salinas, at an elevation of 62 feet (19 m). The population was 485 at the 2000 census. Spreckels is one of the best-preserved company towns in the United States. It was built to house workers for the Spreckels Sugar Company plant which operated there from 1899 until 1982, named after its founder "Sugar King" Claus Spreckels. When it opened, the Spreckels plant was the world's largest sugar beet factory, each day consuming 13 million gallons of water (much of it pumped from wells) to process 3000 tons of beets. One of the many remarkable aspects of this town are its abrupt boundaries, surrounded on all sides by rich agricultural fields that begin immediately where town's streets and lots end. This produces an experience akin to being on a small island in a sea of green vegetation. Spreckels is associated with the writer John Steinbeck, who lived and worked there for a time, and used it as a setting in Tortilla Flat. (Spreckels was used as a location for the 1955 Steinbeck movie East of Eden. ) In 2004 controversy erupted in Spreckels when the Tanimura family, which owns the fields around the town, declared that a 1907 plat in its possession gave it the right to build 73 housing units on its land—which would increase the town's size by 40%. A legal battle over the status and definition of "antiquated maps" has ensued. The building of the houses has begun; sales are slow because of the housing market decline.