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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.

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A Detailed Look at Planning Area 1 of the Ranch Plan

In the most recent edition of the Ladera Times, Orange County Supervisor Patricia Bates provided an update to progress on the Ranch Plan.  She talked in some detail about the various roadway projects — the Antonio widening, La Pata Gap Closure and the new Cow Camp Road.  She also referenced the actual development that has begun, mentioning that “over the next year, specific site plans and construction permit applications will be reviewed to support the construction of approximately 685 market rate units, 286 active adult units, almost 300 rental apartments and a retail and an office center.”  For those who are interested in a little more detail, we’ve gathered some facts, made some assumptions and maybe even overheard a few rumors about what’s going to be in Planning Area 1 — the first phase of the Ranch Plan and the one that will have the most immediate impact on Ladera Ranch and San Juan Capistrano.  We’ve also marked up the Ranch Plan map to reflect our best guess at where everything is going to go.

Our primary source is a July 26, 2006 Resources and Development Management Department Report provided to the Orange County Planning Commission from the Planning and Development Services Department regarding the Public Hearing on PA06-0023; Master Area Plan for Ranch Plan PC, Planning Area 1 and PA06-0024 through PA06-0028; Subarea Plans for Subareas 1.1, 1.2, 1.3, 1.4 and 1.5 of Planning Area 1. As mentioned, we’ve supplemented that with some more current information and innuendo. Of course, we’re always open to receiving new and better information. We don’t claim that all of our subarea descriptions are accurate, but we think the overall picture pretty close to the final plan and certainly close enough to give you an idea of what the finished product is going to look like.


Planning Area 1 is the first phase of the Ranch Plan — Rancho Mission Viejo’s master planned development in South Orange County. It consists of 810 acres of land located south of Ladera Ranch/Covenant Hills, east of San Juan Capistrano, and it is bisected by San Juan Creek. The primary roads providing access to Planning Area 1 are Ortega Highway, Antonio Parkway, La Pata Avenue (once it is connected to San Clemente) and future Cow Camp Road (represented by the dotted line connected with Antonio just north of San Juan Creek). If you’ve driven the intersection of Antonio and Ortega, you’ve seen the grading that has begun in Planning Area 1, and more specifically, in subarea 1.1.


When construction is completed, Planning Area 1 (or PA1) will consist of approximately 1200 dwelling units and 84 acres of office/retail across 572 acres, with an additional 238 acres of open space. The residential units will include age-qualified housing, but is not expected to including housing designated as affordable housing — a hot button issue for any development. That being said, discussions about affordable housing in the Ranch Plan are confined to closed sessions of the Planning Commission, so it is possible that this is incorrect. The retail/office components of PA1 is classified as “Urban Activity Center” which is equivalent to the Ladera Corporate Plaza and Terrace Shops on Antonio Parkway in terms of tenant mix and facilities. Because PA1 sits on the eastern border of San Juan Capistrano, we’d prefer that any retail development pays aesthetic attention to the rural, western character of the region. As a result, we’d like to see development focused more on boutique retail and less on big box stores, fast food and office space, but whether Rancho Mission Viejo feels the same remains to be seen. In addition, some of the residential units in this phase may be zoned as a “Home Based Business Enclave” which is a live/work concept similar to Front Street in Ladera Ranch and could offer some interesting opportunities for tenants.

Planning Area 1 will extend and connect a number of the area’s biking and hiking trails. The San Juan Creek class I bikeway will located on the northern side of San Juan Creek and the Antonio Parkway class II bikeway will extend south on Antonio Parkway to Ortega Highway. The San Juan Creek regional riding and hiking trail will be located along the south side of San Juan Creek and extended through the new development. In addition, the Prima Deschecha regional riding and hiking trail will connect to the San Juan Creek regional trail near the southwest edge of PA1 and extend southeast adjacent to La Pata Avenue. Finally, a community trail will connect the San Juan Creek bikeway with community trails in Ladera Ranch.

Subarea Summaries (see Map below)

Subarea 1.1:

Location: North of Ortega Highway and San Juan Creek, and west and east of Antonio Parkway. SA1.1 sits on the southern border of Ladera Ranch/Covenant Hills and is physically separated from Ladera by an intervening ridge and hillside open space. SA1.1 is where the current grading is occurring.

Planned Development: ~1000 residential units. When Supervisor Bates referred to “685 market rate units [and] 286 active adult units” we believe she was referring to these units. There will be a community/recreation center for the residents and there may be a Home Based Business Enclave (HBBE) location northwest of Antonio Parkway and San Juan Creek. A new fire station will be located northeast of Antonio Parkway and future Cow Camp Road.

Subarea 1.2:

Location: North of Ortega Highway, just beyond the electrical transmission corridor, on the border with San Juan Capistrano.

Planned Development: 29 proposed estate residential lots. Estate lots are defined to mean a minimum size of one acre.

Subarea 1.3:

Location: South of Ortega Highway, northwest of San Juan Creek, adjacent to the electrical transmission corridor, on the border with San Juan Capistrano.

Planned Development: This small planning area was originally approved for 20 acres of Urban Activity Center with up to 300,000 square feet of office/retail.  We believe that this parcel was part of the land sale to the City of San Juan Capistrano, and that this area may be developed into a city park.

Subarea 1.4:

Location: Includes three portions of PA1 that are located at the northwest, northeast and southeast corners of the intersection of Ortega Highway and Antonio Parkway/La Pata Avenue.

Planned Development: The portion of subarea 1.4 that is on the northeast corner of Ortega and Antonio (adjacent to San Juan Creek) is zoned for a mix of residential and retail (UAC), and potentially a Home Based Business Enclave. We are told that this area will be a retail shopping plaza with up to 100,000 square feet. On the southeast corner of Ortega and Antonio, the subarea is zoned for residential development, with a potential community daycare facility — although the 2006 Planning Commission report indicates 175 residential units, we are told that these will be apartments and are probably the 300 apartment units that Supervisor Bates referenced in her column. On the northwest corner of Ortega and Antonio, south of (and adjacent to) San Juan Creek, there will be an 11 acre community sports park.

Subarea 1.5:

Location: On the southwest corner of Ortega Highway at Antonio Parkway, south of San Juan Creek, adjacent to the electrical transmission corridor, on the border with San Juan Capistrano.

Planned Development: The original Ranch Plan contemplated 74 acres of residential development in this subarea, but we believe that this development was eliminated when the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park was sold to the City of San Juan Capistrano. So, to our knowledge, there will not be any residential development in subarea 1.5 (ignore the markings on the map which reflect the original Ranch Plan).

Our interpretation of Planning Area 1 of the Ranch Plan

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