Rancho Mission Viejo

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Rancho Mission Viejo (Rancho Misión Vieja) is an active 23,000-acre ranch and farm, habitat reserve, and community in the unincorporated area of South Orange County, CA. At one time, Rancho Mission Viejo was part of a 200,000-acre land grant given in 1845 to John Forster.

Mexican land grant[edit]

The ranch's history can be traced back to 1845 when John (Don Juan) Forster acquired Rancho La Paz and Mission San Juan Capistrano.[1] Forster added these properties to Rancho Trabuco, which he had purchased in 1843. Forster's brother-in-law was Pío Pico, governor of then-Mexican-held California. In 1864, Forster added Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores to his holdings. Forster died in 1882.

Cattle ranch and leased land operation[edit]

In 1882, two Irish immigrants, Richard O'Neill Sr. and James Flood, acquired the ranch. Flood and O'Neill became equal partners of the Rancho Santa Margarita y las Flores, Rancho Mission Viejo and Rancho Trabuco lands. Flood provided the money to purchase the ranches; and O'Neill, offering his skills as a cattleman as sweat equity, agreed to work out his half as resident manager. Under O'Neill, the cattle herd was upgraded and expanded, the land was improved, row crops were introduced, and the ranch became home to Orange County's biggest wheat fields.

In 1907, James L. Flood, son of the original owner, made good on his late father's promise and conveyed an undivided half interest to O'Neill, Sr. Four months later, declining health caused O'Neill to deed his interest to his son, Jerome. In 1923, the sons of Flood and O'Neill consolidated their partnership with the Santa Margarita Company. Shortly thereafter, both men died.

The Santa Margarita Co. was dissolved in 1939 when the ranch was split in two. Richard O'Neill Jr. retained the portion of the ranch located in Orange County (Rancho Mission Viejo and Rancho Trabuco) and the Flood family took the Rancho Santa Margarita y las Flores property in San Diego County. In 1942, the United States Marine Corps acquired the entire San Diego portion of 123,620 acres (500.3 km2) for $4,239,062 to expand Camp Pendleton. After the war, what remained of the historic Ranch now encompassed two Orange County parcels, united under the name Rancho Mission Viejo, and totaling 52,000 acres (210 km2).

O'Neill died in 1943 and his widow, Marguerite, led the family and kept the family business intact. In June 1950, with the establishment of the 278-acre (1.13 km2) O'Neill Regional Park, the O'Neill family made the first of its many open space dedications to the people of Orange County; the family has since dedicated thousands of acres of open space to Orange County.

The Mission Viejo Company/Santa Margarita Company/Rancho Mission Viejo, LLC[edit]

In 1963, the O'Neill family and its partners established The Mission Viejo Company and embarked on its first residential development, the 11,000 acres (45 km2) planned community of Mission Viejo. Marguerite's grandson, Anthony "Tony" Moiso, newly graduated from college and fresh out of the U.S. Army, took over operations.

In 1972, when Mission Viejo Co. and its remaining undeveloped area in Mission Viejo were sold, Moiso began managing the remaining 40,000 acres (160 km2) of Rancho Mission Viejo. Moiso and his uncle, Richard O'Neill, have preserved more than 20,000 acres (81 km2) of open space and moved forward with additional development of the former Rancho. Rancho Mission Viejo is still a working ranch with 600 head of cattle and has more than 500 acres (2.0 km2) of citrus trees, as well as crops of avocados, beans and barley.

Rancho Mission Viejo is today home to four master-planned communities: the City of Mission Viejo, City of Rancho Santa Margarita, Las Flores, and Ladera Ranch. A new community called Rancho Mission Viejo, is preparing to grand open its first village (Sendero) in June 2013.

In 2000, the Ranch family created a comprehensive open space preservation and land use plan for the remaining 23,000 acres of Rancho Mission Viejo. In 2004, the Ranch Plan was approved by the Orange County Board of Supervisors. Today, that plan has resulted in the creation of The Reserve at Rancho Mission Viejo (a nearly 17,000-acre habitat reserve on the Ranch) and the plan for a new community called Rancho Mission Viejo. The Ranch community is planned to provide several mixed-use villages (to be developed in phases over the next decades) and up to 14,000 new homes of which 6,000 will be for 55-plus buyers, as well as commercial and retail space, numerous parks, places for schools and houses of worship, essential protective services, and miles of trails connected with portions of The Reserve and regional hiking/biking/equestrian trails). The first village of Sendero on The Ranch is slated to open in June 2013.

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Coordinates: 33°36′00″N 117°36′36″W / 33.600°N 117.610°W / 33.600; -117.610