Rancho Santa Margarita began to take shape in 1985 when the Rancho Santa Margarita Company broke ground on the five-thousand-acre project that occupied the northernmost corner of the area which is now known as the Marine Corps Base Camp, Pendleton.
Although the actual City of Rancho Santa Margarita was not actually incorporated until the year 2000, as soon as the development began in the late eighties, it was the talk of Southern California as young married couples anxious for affordable new homes drove their cars through the dusty backroads to view the exciting possibilities of living in Rancho Santa Margarita.
Rancho Santa Margarita Company was then headed by Richard J. O’Neil, his sister Alice O’Neil Avery, Tony Moiso, and Melinda Moiso,
In the photo at the top right Rancho Santa Margarita Founders gather in what is now known as Tijeras Creek portion of Rancho Santa Margarita back in 1986. Mostly members of the O’Neil family and staff members of the Rancho Santa Margarita Company. How Many Can you name? Hint: If you need some help please read the delightfully informative book by Dr. Michael Moodian, “Images of America Rancho Santa Margarita.” Dr. Moodian is a highly regarded writer and historian as well as a professor of social science at Chapman University
One of the early residents who moved here even before the City of Rancho Santa Margarita was incorporated was Jerry White, who was planning to start a local newspaper. “I’ve always been interested in newspapers, “White said recently.” We looked at the map and were looking at the most promising area which would be later included as a city and determined that we would call the newspaper The Coto de Caza News. In retrospect, we should have called the newspaper the Rancho
Santa Margarita News, which was later taken by the Santa Ana Register for their regional publication”. But in any event, the Coto de Caza News became the official newspaper for this region from the time it began in 1993 long before the City of Rancho Santa Margarita existed.
The City of Rancho Santa Margarita was incorporated in 2000 as Orange County’s 33rd city, the first City Council included Mayor Debra Lewis, Carol Gamble, Jim Thor, Neil Blais, Gary Thompson, Jerry Holloway and Anthony Beall. Mayor Debra Lewis speculated that she was elected as the first major because she featured her photo in the advertisement of her law practice in the Coto de Caza News which caused her to be more well known. She later moved to Dana Point where she was again elected as the Mayor for that city.
One of the most prominent urban planners was Richard Reese who said his plan embraced a setting to give people “an opportunity to live more open, communicative, nurturing, fully expressed lifestyles reaching beyond the mere satisfaction of human needs for air, water, food, shelter, safety, and economic opportunity.” Reese, who designed the city, still lives here and a street was recently named for him in his honor.