21st-Century City ‘Born’ in Orange County

The beginnings of a new town, Santa Margarita, were formally recorded Thursday with ground-breaking fanfare on a site which will become a model 21st-Century community nestled in the foothills of Orange County’s Saddleback Mountain.

It developers envision it as a 5,000-acre “self-sustaining urban village” on the northernmost portion of Rancho Mission Viejo, between Mission Viejo and Coto de Caza in the southern sector of the county.

Originally part of the 230,000-acre Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores--the land between today’s El Toro and Oceanside--the property was part of the original holdings of two pioneers, Richard O’Neill Sr. and James Flood Sr., who bought the land in 1882.

It will become one of the largest master-planned communities in the West with a population of 50,000 and job opportunities for about 26,000, its developers said.


Upon completion, within 15 to 20 years, it will include residential neighborhoods, business and town centers, schools, a sports complex and various recreational facilities, two lakes and a meandering network of greenbelts, bike ways and trails.

The O’Neill family has owned the property for more than a century, and its development arm, the Santa Margarita Co., is headed by Anthony R. Moiso, a seventh-generation Californian and O’Neill family descendant. He is president and chief executive officer of the company.

He said first-phase construction will include homes priced from the low $60,000 range to $170,000, with a 15-acre lake as the focal point. A team of Southland builders will construct about 2,000 units on the 350 acres of the first phase. They are Akins Development Co., Baywood Development Group, Century American Corp., Fieldstone Co., John Laing Homes, William Lyon Co., Standard-Pacific Corp., Western National Properties and the Wittenberg Corp.

Completion of first-phase homes and a grand opening is set for late spring next year. Moiso indicated that the next ground-breaking event will be for a 400-acre business park.


The development area is off Portola Parkway, between El Toro Road and Plano Trabuco Road.