My Mission Viejo Story

I already told you about: growing up in Westminster in the 1960’s and 1970’s and going south to the San Diego Zoo with my family and seeing the “Mission Viejo” sign and thinking it was advertising a mission like Mission San Juan Capistrano. We drove past that sign many many times on our way down south, and I always thought there was a “Mission Viejo” on the other side of the freeway berm.

I figured it out later in the early 1980’s as I went searching for my first home in South Orange County. I searched the many model homes for just the right one, visiting the Cortez and Galicia tracts in 1983. We also looked at a couple of others, but I don’t remember which ones. At that time, the Mission Viejo Company was willing to purchase your existing home (at their price) so you could move in to one of their new homes.

We did see a new tract of homes being built off Alicia Parkway and Calle Azorin. The tract was called Casta del Sol, and the new release was named Carmel. We drove up to the gate, and I told the guard we wanted to see the models. She asked me if I were over 55, and I said no. She then explained to me that the tract was for folks over 55 only. So we checked that community off our list! I was so young.

In 1988, we were considering moving up. Auburn Ridge by William Lyon seemed very attractive, and was very popular. It was so popular, that the only way to get an opportunity to purchase was to participate in a lottery. I put my name in, and attended the lottery. I think it was for just about 20 homes, and there had to have been about 200 people or so in attendance. We did not get chosen.

I worked as a Civil Engineer beginning in 1979 with a top engineering firm in Orange County. It was a younger firm, started by four men who originally worked for VTN, a prominent local engineering firm in the 1960’s and 1970’s. The president of the company I worked for lived in Mission Viejo in the Mission Ridge tract. We had some of our first events at the Mission Viejo Country Club in the early 1980’s.

Pacific Hills Mission Viejo Aerial Photo

In the late 1980’s, I was tasked to do the engineering for what was to become Pacific Hills in Mission Viejo (aerial view photo above). It was one of the first grading and engineering plans we did on the computer using AutoCAD, and one of the first developments to be permitted through the newly incorporated City of Mission Viejo. In the 1990’s, I did some of the final precise grading for homes in Stoneridge.

I also attended a couple of meetings at the offices of the Rancho Mission Viejo Company and met Tony Moiso. During the 1980’s and 1990’s, the planning and development of Rancho Santa Margarita, Ladera Ranch and Las Flores took place. As a design engineer developing the engineering drawings and design of portions of these areas, some issues came up, especially regarding preserving vital natural resources like old oak groves, trails and watercourses. The Ranch was very concerned about the land, thinking long term and doing things right. When Alicia Parkway was extended to Santa Margarita Parkway, it would greatly affect the landscape. However, we engineered it so an existing grove of oak trees along the north-facing slope adjacent to Santa Margarita Parkway would be preserved. Another specific instance involves an especially old oak tree. Near the bottom of the slope adjacent to Alicia Parkway before it intersects Santa Margarita Parkway, there was a very large old oak and a group of other older oaks. An especially high retaining wall was designed to protect and preserve these oaks, especially the largest old oak.

It may seem odd now, but I remember visiting this site around 1989 and seeing cattle grazing on the slope on the north side of Santa Margarita Parkway where Alicia intersects it. That natural slope and hillside are still there, but not the cattle grazing just 100 feet from the parkway! It was a ranch, after all.

I clearly remember the meetings at the Rancho Mission Viejo office and being impressed. Not because they were so large and plush, but because of how well the offices blended with the surroundings and seemed to be a part of the land. They were small bungalow buildings perched on the hillside along Ortega Highway. Native landscaping was implemented onsite and even labeled like an educational exhibit throughout the complex.

I am am an artist and love the area. I have painted a few local landscapes. Two examples are below.

I have lived in Mission Viejo for over 20 years. My kids were born here and went to school here. I am not going anywhere else any time soon.

Oso Creek Trail in Mission Viejo | Nature Trail