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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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Updating What We Know About Planning Area 2: The Village of Esencia

We have noticed a sudden, recent uptick in the number of internet searches related to Planning Area 2 of the Ranch Plan, what Rancho Mission Viejo has named the Village of Esencia.

We are also learning more about Rancho Mission Viejo’s plans for Planning Area 2 of the Ranch Plan.  It is being called “Esencia” and we provided a first glimpse in this article from last November: An Introduction to Planning Area 2.  If you’ve driven Ortega Highway east of Antonio Parkway, you will have noticed that most of Planning Area 2 has been rough graded.  They are making progress.  We also know that Rancho Mission Viejo is currently planning the amenities and features of Esencia.  In November we wrote that:

Planning Area 2 consists of approximately 850 acres.  In addition to the 3,000 units mentioned by the OC Business Journal, the original development plan called for some retail and a large neighborhood park.  We have learned that Planning Area 2 will contain neighborhood retail, child care, the above-mentioned school and other support services.  The residential mix will include both age-qualified and market rate housing.

Below is a map of Planning Area 2, the Village of Esencia:

source: Rancho Mission Viejo

One of the biggest questions about Esencia will be how and where Rancho Mission Viejo integrates the age qualified housing in the larger community.  In Planning Area 1 (Sendero), the age qualified housing was segregated in the gated community of Gavilan with private club houses, pools and other recreational amenities.  We’ve heard that Esencia may include more integration between the age qualified and market-rate housing, including shared amenities, pools and club houses.  For example, the pool structure below contemplates one pool complex with a large all-ages pool and smaller 55-and-over pool.

source: Rancho Mission Viejo

The above image is not final, as we understand that Rancho Mission Viejo is doing market research on this issue.  In fact, none of this should be considered final — these are concepts and features that we’ve heard are under consideration.

Another major component of Planning Area 2 will be the K-8th Capistrano Unified School that will be located within Esencia.  The map above shows the school location in blue.  The map below shows another view of the school location.  We understand that the school may incorporate mixed-use facilities that will be available to the school during school hours and to the public outside of school hours.

source: Rancho Mission Viejo

Once again, you can see the planned integration of market rate housing (i.e., all ages housing) indicated by the “MR” prefix with the age qualified housing indicated by the “AQ” prefix.

Interestingly, we assume that the “AFF” designation is affordable housing.  We’ve heard that Planning Area 2.1 would contain some of Rancho Mission Viejo’s affordable housing commitments.  As you may recall, the original Ranch Plan Development Agreement required Rancho Mission Viejo to provide 60 acres of land to the County for development as affordable housing.  It was the intention of the County to develop approximately 1,200 to 1,800 affordable housing units on those 60 acres, distributed through the various planning areas.  Earlier this year, that affordable housing commitment was amended.  Under the amendment, Rancho Mission Viejo may develop affordable rental housing at its cost (not the County’s) and the County will credit Rancho Mission Viejo with two acres (against its 60 acre obligation) for every one acre developed.  In other words, instead of giving the County 60 acres of raw land on which to build County-owned affordable housing, Rancho Mission Viejo will build the affordable housing for the County (at RMV’s expense) but could potentially reduce its affordable housing obligations to the equivalent of 30 acres of land.  We’ve written in detail about Rancho Mission Viejo’s affordable housing obligations here and more recently, here.

There is a large area designated as sports fields — we believe Rancho Mission Viejo is planning a large sports park for Planning Area 2, something along these lines:

source: Google

That’s Bonita Canyon Sports Park in Newport Beach, if you are wondering.  We picked it because it seems to pretty close to the same size as the proposed Esencia sports park.

Finally, we’ve seen indications that at least some of the homes offered in Esencia will be designed around multi-generational living, featuring mother-in-law units and “lock-off suites.”  For example, these units might consist of a bedroom, bathroom and sitting area (including potentially a kitchenette) with garage and private exterior access that is connected to the rest of the house interior, but can be segregated and “locked off” for privacy.  This is an exciting, new trend in residential homebuilding.  For example, the Las Vegas Review Journal described the concept in this article, where they wrote:

 Las Vegas architect Howard Perlman took the lead in designing the 2-Gen brand home with an independent lock-off suite that has its own entry, living space and kitchen. Call it an adaptation of the traditional mother-in-law apartment, a style of housing rare enough in Southern Nevada that Perlman calls it “revolutionary” for the region.

These homes are also gaining popularity in Arizona and Southern California.  An example floor plan of a multi-generational home with a lock-off suite is shown below:

image source: Las Vegas Review-Journal (courtesy of Lennar Homes)

We love this idea and it’s an example of the innovative planning that keeps winning awards for Rancho Mission Viejo.  It also fits within the theme of integrating 55+ residents throughout the Ranch Plan.

What questions do we still have?

  • We are still very interested in knowing what type of retail is going into Planning Area 2, particularly the ability of that retail (and the retail planned for Planning Area 3) to provide a healthy tax basis for a future Rancho Mission Viejo city.
  • We would like to know whether the Esencia HOA will be separate from or included within the Sendero HOA.  In other words, will residents of Sendero and Esencia be entitled to use the other neighborhood’s amenities or will they be separate?
  • What community infrastructure will be located within Planning Area 2.  It’s one thing to build individual residential tracts with private clubhouses and pools.  But Planning Area 2 is a significant component of that future Rancho Mission Viejo city.  Will Planning Area 2 feature buildings for civic events and gatherings?  Will there be places for houses of worship and private schools?  What about medical and elder care facilities for the substantial 55+ population?  Will there be bike or NEV linkages between Esencia, Sendero and Ladera Ranch?

Sendero is too small to expect community infrastructure, but Planning Area 2 is the second largest planning area (after PA3) and it will be the most centrally located on Cow Camp Road and adjacent to the 241 Tesoro Extension.  We will get a good idea about Rancho Mission Viejo’s vision for the future city based on what they design into Planning Area 2.

Stay tuned.  Esencia is scheduled to begin selling as early as late 2015, depending on market conditions.

2 comments to Updating What We Know About Planning Area 2: The Village of Esencia

  • stefaniepmiller

    As a new resident of Sendero, we were told that we will be able to use the future planning areas’ facilities, sports parks, etc as well.

  • Don Juan Ortega

    Interesting, thank you for letting us know. That would be consistent with how Ladera Ranch was developed.