Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

April, 1962--Rossmoor Leisure World in Seal Beach opens.

1962--Builder Ross Cortese buys 3,568 acres of old Moulton Ranch property from Louise Moulton for $2,300 an acre, and files a request to rezone the land from agricultural to residential. A dispute arises with Marine Corps, which wants area surrounding El Toro Marine Corps Air Station retained as agricultural land.

July, 1962--Irvine Co. sues to keep Santa Ana from annexing 3,500 acres near El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, including part of planned Leisure World site. Annexation attempt later fails.

Fall, 1962--Department of Defense and Ross Cortese Development Co. reach agreement, under which developers agree to reserve one-half-mile strip of property adjacent to El Toro Marine Corps Air Station for non-residential uses, including golf courses, bridle paths and boating lagoons.


November, 1963--Developer Ross Cortese previews planned Leisure World development in Laguna Hills.

April, 1964--First two units, comprising 1,018 homes, sold out.

Sept. 10, 1964--Leisure World opens in Laguna Hills.

Dec. 8, 1964--Plans to build four recreation clubhouses in half-mile greenbelt adjacent to El Toro Marine Corps Air Station are approved by supervisors over objections by Marine Corps that plans violate 1963 agreement.

January, 1965--Population study shows that 1,000 people now live at Leisure World in Laguna Hills; 1,500 residential units have been completed.

Jan. 22, 1967--Two jet bombers collide during a heavy rain and crash into residential structures at Leisure World. Four people on the ground are killed and three are injured; one pilot is killed while the other survives with minor injuries.

Sept. 25, 1968--Presidential candidate Hubert Humphrey visits Leisure World in one of the quietest stops of his tumultuous campaign.

Nov. 27, 1968--Anita Brown, 71, critically injured in the 1967 crash of two jet bombers into Leisure World, wins an $80,000 settlement from the U.S. government.


July, 1969--Population at 12,000. Mid-point in scheduled development; new $20-million building program includes three-story condominiums, town houses, a nine-hole golf course and expansion of shopping facilities.

Nov. 7, 1972--The county Planning Commission approves plans for twin, 14-story apartment towers. The proposed $16.5-million, 10-acre project, later to be known as “The Towers,” will accommodate 311 condominium units.

Dec. 9, 1974--Rossmoor Corp., developers of Leisure World, sues past and present managers of the Laguna Hills community for recovery of $2.2 million in alleged debts. The developer contends money was advanced during 1966 and 1967 to Leisure World Foundation, then manager of several Leisure Worlds, and has not been repaid.

June, 1975--To increase security, barbed wire is installed atop walls surrounding Leisure World.


August, 1975--Despite objections from Laguna Greenbelt Inc., county supervisors approve 500-acre, 426-unit condominium development at Leisure World. The Laguna Greenbelt group claimed 50 or 60 of the units located along a ridgeline would be visible from El Toro Road, within the greenbelt area.

January, 1976--Residents of Leisure World object to the “bad taste” of plans to build a mortuary beside one of the community’s gates. A boycott movement is launched against McCormick Mortuary, in which residents promise to change their wills to specify that some other mortuary company conduct their funerals.

July 3, 1976--More than 400 people take part in lottery to buy units at Leisure World; 76 of 142 homes are sold within 3 hours at prices of $40,400 to $81,900. Leisure World, now 90% complete, has 11,370 homes occupied and a population of 18,918.

March 28, 1977--The collision of two 747 jets on a runway in the Canary Islands takes the lives of 51 county residents, more than half of them from Leisure World.


May 10, 1978--A Superior Court judge denies an injunction sought by the Laguna Hills News-Post to require Leisure World management to let it distribute free newspapers within the gated community.

September, 1980--The 4th District Court of Appeal rules that Leisure World residents must be allowed to receive the Laguna Hills News-Post, which had been banned from distribution by the community’s management.

June, 1981--The Laguna Hills Community Assn. launches a drive to fashion a city out of several communities and call it Saddleback Valley. Residents of Leisure World, who have undertaken their own incorporation studies, object to being part of anyone else’s city.

September, 1982--Momentum gains for a drive to incorporate Leisure World as a separate city. An earlier call for incorporation, in 1980, drew protests from outside the community because the proposal included the Laguna Hills Mall. Incorporation papers are filed, but the drive later stalls when it is learned that forming a city does not prevent an outside community from petitioning to be annexed to it.


Nov. 11, 1982--An apartment fire kills two Leisure World residents.

April 11, 1984--Rose Huhn, 77, is awarded more than $1 million by an Orange County Superior Court jury on her claim that security was lax at Leisure World and managers failed to warn residents about a “rash of burglaries” at the community. Huhn lost about $200,000 in silver and jewelry in a 1981 burglary. The award is later reduced to $410,000.

Sept. 10, 1984--Leisure World in Laguna Hills marks its 20th anniversary.

Jan. 1, 1985--New California law designates anyone 55 or older as a senior citizen, protecting Leisure World’s minimum age requirement.


December, 1987--Application filed for incorporation of a city of Saddleback Valley, to include the areas of El Toro, Lake Forest, Nellie Gail Ranch, Laguna Hills, Aegean Hills and Portola Hills. At the retirement community’s request, Leisure World is not included in the proposed city.

March, 1988--A group of Laguna Hills residents, called Citizens to Save Laguna Hills, files a rival incorporation plan that includes Leisure World. Action on the Laguna Hills proposal is shelved until after a Nov. 8 vote on Saddleback Valley cityhood.

Nov. 8, 1988--Saddleback Valley cityhood proposal defeated soundly at the polls.

January, 1989--In acrimonious hearings before Local Agency Formation Commission, Leisure World residents prove sharply divided over whether to incorporate with Laguna Hills. Overruling its own staff, LAFCO votes to put the fate of the proposed city before voters in June.


March 1, 1989--Board of Supervisors agrees to put Laguna Hills cityhood measure on June 6 ballot.

Source: Times Orange County Edition library.