Laguna Woods, California occupies approximately three-square miles of land that was once a part of South Orange County’s expansive Moulton Ranch. Prior to the 1960s, dry farming and cattle grazing dominated the area, with a few scattered ranch dwellings and barns.
In 1962, Ross Cortese, a young developer whose previous projects included Rossmoor and Leisure World Seal Beach, purchased a portion of the Moulton Ranch. His goal was to create a second Leisure World community or, as he said, “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 in 1964 Leisure World Laguna Hills received its first residents.
The prospect of incorporation first arose in 1971 and was a lingering issue until 1996, when the potential for a reduction in county services and the possibility of a commercial airport at the nearby site of the former Marine Corps Air Station, El Toro, became very real concerns. Proponents of cityhood were successful in placing the issue of incorporation on the ballot for a special election on March 2, 1999.
On March 24, 1999, Laguna Woods officially became Orange County’s 32nd city.