Lining Up for Houses

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In a See’s Candy store, taking a number to be served is a fair and long-established matter of course.

But true to its legendary real estate cycles, only in Southern California will you find eager home buyers lined up outside sales offices on a Sunday, waiting for a chance to buy a home--before breakfast.

That’s what happened this morning at 7 a.m. and yesterday at 8 a.m. at Rancho Santa Margarita, an evolving, V-shaped, 5,000-acre master-planned community in southeast Orange County, destined to be home for 50,000 more Californians by the turn of the century.


Since last November, 12,000 would-be buyers have signed an interest list, making themselves eligible for this weekend’s two series of drawings to establish priority lists from which about 435 of 1,900 initial-phase homes planned in 12 neighborhoods will be sold by 10 home building firms.

Saturday’s allotment ranged upward to 160 units, in five drawings held throughout the day at the respective sales and model complexes of the firms, and units made available today range from 200 to 275, with the fifth and final drawing set for 4 p.m. Jan Wilson, director of marketing, suggests there’s no point in attending if you haven’t got a “ticket.”

“Non-winners” will be placed on standby lists for builder releases of future houses, expected to follow in accelerated order because of the demand. Since a May 3 deadline for placement of names on this weekend’s first drawings, about 2,000 new names have already been placed on a new buyer-interest list for chances to buy that dream house from among subsequent phases of construction.

These participants in a lottery--just as 9,000 families did almost a decade ago at the Irvine Co.’s landmark Woodbridge community--hope to enter the housing market at a time when interest rates and inflation are stable and comparatively low, and when the real estate industry and lending institutions are experiencing one of the industry’s periodic upturns of activity.

There’s an unusual feature in these drawings too--2,500 persons were issued two cards each, creating 5,000 chances in the weekend lottery.

That gives each household two chances for selection. In the event that one household’s name is called twice, only one selection may be made. Families may buy only one home and must occupy it. They can’t rent it, under terms of the arrangement.


The mix and prices of homes at Rancho Santa Margarita, situated between the communities of Mission Viejo and Coto de Caza, range from $56,000 to $175,000. The one apartment complex of 500 units will have rentals starting from $540 a month. Sign-up of tenants for Villa La Paz, a Western National Properties project, is under way.

(For both apartments and homes for sale, Rancho Santa Margarita will participate in Orange County’s housing opportunities program that uses income guidelines to determine considerations for rentals and sales.)

Builders whose homes will create the neighborhoods of five single-family detached and six single-family attached projects are Akins Development Co., Baywood Homes, Century American Corp., Fieldstone Co., John Laing Homes, Macco Pacific Corp., Standard-Pacific Corp., William Lyon Co. and Wittenberg-Livingston Inc. Fieldstone and Lyon each have two neighborhoods to build.

Along with all the building activity throughout the 350-acre initial phase of home construction, grading for a 65-acre first phase of a planned, 400-acre business park is under way at the intersection of Santa Margarita Parkway and Avenida Empressa.

“Clean industries” are the prime prospects for the park, according to the Los Angeles-based development firm of Ratkovich, Bowers & Perez Inc., and three prominent technology-oriented companies have make commitments for more than 40 acres within this initial phase, representing about $35 million in realty transactions.

Hughes Aircraft Co.’s Microelectronics Systems Division plans a 300,000-square-foot, multistory facility on a 25-acre site where it will employ more than 1,000, consolidating operations now housed in seven buildings in Irvine. Construction is to start this fall for a late-1987 completion date.


Burroughs Corp. plans construction of a 115,000-square-foot building on 11 acres. Work is to begin in June for completion in January, 1987, when 650 employees will be relocated from a Mission Viejo site.

Control Components Inc. plans to erect a 75,000-square-foot office/assembly building on 4.5 acres for mid-1987 occupancy and relocation from Irvine.

A key to the promise of success for the housing and business phases at Rancho Santa Margarita is a labor pool estimated at 130,000, living in the southernmost portions of Orange County. That figure is cited by both Donald E. Moe, vice president for marketing, and A. Martin Stradtman, director of commercial and industrial sales.

The future book on Rancho Santa Margarita indicates a retail value of $2.5 billion when the community is built out in the next 15 to 20 years through the portions of the picturesque Saddleback Valley which it occupies, bisected by the Santa Margarita Parkway. Half of its 5,000 acres will remain in open space or for recreation. About 26,000 jobs will be created for its anticipated population of 50,000.

Schools, parks, a beach club and a lake are planned.

A town center of 230 acres will include civic and cultural facilities, a hotel, offices, stores and a sub-regional mall of about 500,000 square feet.

The new town development is a joint venture partnership of the Santa Margarita Co., headed by Richard J. O’Neill, member of the pioneer Orange County landowning family, as chairman, and Copley Real Estate Advisors, a subsidiary of New England Life Insurance Co.


The Santa Margarita Co. was formed in 1983 to oversee ranching, farming, planning and development of the 40,000-acre Rancho Mission Viejo.

Present members of the pioneer O’Neill family bridge the generation gap linking the first Richard O’Neill and James Flood, purchasers in 1882 of the 230,000-acre Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores. At O’Neill’s death in 1910, controlling interest in the property was passed to his son Jerome. When he died in 1926, the Jerome O’Neill Trust was established and Richard J. O’Neill Jr. began monitoring ranch operations.

In 1942, Flood’s interest (the southern half of the vast property) and half of O’Neill’s interest (San Onofre) were sold to the U.S. Navy for the establishment of Camp Joseph H. Pendleton, which became today’s major Marine Corps base.

In 1943, Richard O’Neill Jr. died. His widow Marguerite, fondly known as Ama Daisy, assumed leadership of the family holdings. In 1950, the O’Neill Park was dedicated.

In 1963, the Mission Viejo Co. was established to develop about 10,000 acres of ranch land, and its ownership changed in 1967. The following year, trusts were formed for Richard J. O’Neill, now the chairman of the Santa Margarita Co., and his sister, Alice O’Neill Avery.

In 1969, an agricultural preserve of almost 30,000 acres was established and in 1972, the Mission Viejo Co. went through another change of ownership, this time to Phillip Morris Inc. At the same time, Anthony Moiso, great-grandson of the pioneer land buyer Richard O’Neill, assumed leadership of the managing family’s ranch land of more than 40,000 acres--Rancho Mission Viejo. Today, he is the president and chief executive officer of the Santa Margarita Co.


Work began last year on the property to develop the master-planned community, culminating six years of planning by Irvine-based Phillips Brandt Reddick Inc.

Previews of model homes were seen by more than 1,500 guests on May 1, and the rush was on to buy. By early fall, the first residents--and taxpayers--of Rancho Santa Margarita will have closed escrow and moved into their new homes.