On March 24, 1999, the City of Laguna Woods was incorporated as Orange County’s 32nd city. In addition to being one of California’s safest cities, Laguna Woods is unique in that the average age of its 18,000 residents is 73.
Laguna Woods, as a community, began in the 1900s when its approximately four square miles of gradual and varying slopes, hills, and low-lying areas were a part of South Orange County’s expansive Moulton Ranch. This ranch was the combination of the former Mexican land grant of 13,316 acres called Rancho Niguel plus several other properties to form 21,723 acres, under the ownership of LF Moulton and Co. In the early years, dry farming and cattle grazing dominated the area with a few scattered ranch dwellings and barns.
In 1962, Ross Cortese, a young and energetic developer whose previous projects included Rossmoor and Leisure World Seal Beach, purchased 3,500 acres of the Moulton Ranch. His goal was to create a second Leisure World community, “to supply the basic needs of life for people aged 52 and older; create a serene atmosphere of beauty; and provide security, recreation, and religious facilities – then leave the living to the individual.” His dream materialized and on September 10, 1964, Leisure World Laguna Hills (now called Laguna Woods Village) received its first 10 residents. Since then, Laguna Woods Village has grown to be one of the world’s premier retirement communities for active adults.
The prospect of forming a city first arose in 1971 and was a lingering issue until 1996 when the potential of a reduction in municipal services provided by the County of Orange and the possibility of a commercial airport at the site of the former El Toro Marine Corps Air Station became very real concerns. Cityhood proponents were successful in gaining the necessary approvals to place the issue of incorporation on the ballot for a special election on March 2, 1999 and on March 24, 1999, Laguna Woods officially became a city.
Today, Laguna Woods is bordered by the cities of Aliso Viejo, Irvine, Laguna Beach, and Laguna Hills, as well as unincorporated County land. In addition to Laguna Woods Village, it includes several senior-oriented residential communities, a number of thriving commercial centers, and a large amount of open space.