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Rancho Ortega Blog discusses matters of public interest in South Orange County, including the communities of San Juan Capistrano, Ladera Ranch and Rancho Mission Viejo.

The writings of Don Juan Ortega on the Rancho Ortega Blog are the personal views of the author. This blog is not authored by nor does it have any affiliation whatsoever with any other person, place or entity using the name "Rancho Ortega" (or any similar name).

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Orange County’s Next and Last City

Ladera Ranch, Las Flores and the Rancho Mission Viejo development are all located in unincorporated Orange County.  Among other things, this means that our communities lack a municipal government and depend on the County for services.  The most obvious and visible example of this is the fact that the Orange County Sheriff is responsible for law enforcement here.  But it is likely that at some point we will become citizens of Orange County’s next, and possibly last, city.

Both Ladera Ranch and Las Flores are census-designated places, or CDPs.  CDPs are communities that lack a municipal government, but which otherwise resemble cities.  Ladera Ranch is a 4,000 acre master planned community with a population of just under 23,000 people.  Las Flores is smaller, and has a population of around 6,000 people.  Once the Ranch Plan is completed, it will add another 14,000 residences to the unincorporated area.  Using a 3:1 ratio for persons per household, the Ranch Plan will host another 42,000 residents.  At full build-out, the combined unincorporated area will be home to 71,000 people, and one can imagine that the services required to sustain a community of that size will swamp the County’s ability to provide such services.

By way of comparison, with a population of around 71,000, our community will be slightly smaller than Lake Forest or Newport Beach, and slightly larger than San Clemente and Laguna Niguel.  Interesting municipal factoids: Villa Park is OC’s smallest city with a population of less than 6,000 residents.  Aliso Viejo is OC’s newest city, having incorporated in 2001.  Anaheim is both the oldest and the largest city, incorporated in 1870 with a current population of 336,000.  Ladera Ranch is almost the largest CDP in Orange County — but that distinction belongs to North Tustin with a population of just under 25,000.

With the completion of the Ranch Plan, one imagines there will be a compelling push for incorporation as a city.  Together, Ladera Ranch, Las Flores and the Rancho Mission Viejo development comprise the population and likely boundaries of that future city.  Coto de Caza is a CDP with 14,000 residents and could conceivable join the new city, but that is a less obvious combination for various reasons.  Of course, there are a number of administrative and legal hurdles to becoming a city, not least of which is the County’s requirement of revenue neutrality.  More on that later.  But if and when it occurs, we will become Orange County’s 35th (and possibly last) city.

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