Rancho Santa Margarita is an affluent city in Orange County, California. One of Orange County's youngest cities, Rancho Santa Margarita is a master planned community set upon rolling hills. Most neighborhoods in Rancho Santa Margarita are within various homeowners associations. The population was 47,853 at the 2010 census, up from 47,214 at the 2000 census.
Although it is named for Rancho Santa Margarita y Las Flores, which was in San Diego County, the city limits fall within the borders of Rancho Mission Viejo.
The city seal has the brands of Rancho Mission Viejo and Rancho Santa Margarita and Las Flores on the border, with artwork containing Santiago Peak in the background. The tower in the foreground symbolizes the Rancho Santa Margarita Lake Tower.
Hughes Aircraft Company's Microelectronic Systems Division moved to Rancho Santa Margarita in May 1988 from Irvine. In August 1992 the Hughes plant closed its facilities and moved the division to Carlsbad, California due to budget constraints in the aerospace industry.
La Ca%uFFFDada Flintridge had the longest city name in California with 18 letters until January 1, 2000, when the title was ceded to Rancho Santa Margarita (20 letters) upon the latter's incorporation.
Where schools, shopping centers and residential neighborhoods now stand, Native Americans once lived. On July 23, 1769, they were visited by a Spanish expedition under Captain Gaspar de Portola, who camped near the site of Tijeras Creek Golf Course in Rancho Santa Margarita.
On July 24, the expedition headed inland to avoid the many streams and swamps in the area. They found a large plateau area and camped that night on its western edge by a canyon, which the Franciscans named San Francisco Solano. This was on the eastern side of Trabuco Creek about three miles downstream from the present site of Trabuco Oaks.
While camped here on July 24%uFFFD25, one of the soldiers lost his trabuco, or musket, a most valuable possession to any soldier. To mark this loss, the stream was named Trabuco. The name has been associated with the mesa, the canyon, and the entire area ever since. The Spaniards founded Mission San Juan Capistrano in 1776, and ruled the region until 1821, when California became part of Mexico.
The Mexican governors carved the area around the mission into three large ranchos: Rancho Trabuco, Rancho Mission Viejo, and Rancho Santa Margarita. James L. Flood and his partner Jerome O%uFFFDNeill purchased the combined ranchos in 1882. The huge estate was run as a working ranch into the 1920s. In 1940, the ranch was divided, with the Flood family taking the lower portion, in today's San Diego County, with the upper portion retained by the O'Neill family. In 1942, the Navy annexed the Flood family%uFFFDs portion of the ranch for use as Camp Joseph H. Pendleton.
In 1948, the O'Neill family donated 278 acres of canyon bottom land to the County of Orange for park purposes. The O'Neill family donated an additional 120 acres of parkland in 1963, the same year they founded the Mission Viejo Company and drew up plans for a master-planned community of the same name.
By the 1960s, a rural cluster of homes had been present in Trabuco Canyon for decades. The area's first tract developed homes didn't arrive until late in the decade in what would become Coto de Caza, which started out as a hunting and fishing resort. The area remained fairly remote until 1986, when the first homes in the new master planned community of Rancho Santa Margarita were sold. The economic boom of the 1980s also fueled home construction in nearby Dove Canyon, Robinson Ranch, Wagon Wheel and a handful of smaller developments. The area became better linked to the rest of the county in 1992, when extensions of Oso, Antonio and Alicia Parkways were completed.
In 1989, the people of the community of Rancho Santa Margarita established a Community Civic Association (CCA) for the purpose of providing a political voice for the community. The CCA, later known as the Rancho Margarita Civic Association (and still later as the Civic Council), briefly explored self-governance, but it was in 1995 that the RSM Cityhood Committee, a separate community organization, began the official drive for cityhood. Rancho Santa Margarita was planned to be an %uFFFDUrban Village%uFFFD, offering the best of two worlds: all of the elements and advantages of a small city plus the quality of life of a small village.
In November 1999, area voters opted to incorporate the Rancho Santa Margarita Planned Community and the neighboring Robinson Ranch, Dove Canyon, Rancho Cielo, Trabuco Highlands and Walden Communities. The newly formed City of Rancho Santa Margarita incorporated on January 1, 2000, and became the 33rd city in the County of Orange.
The City is a general law city and operates under the council-manager form of government. Rancho Santa Margarita is a contract city. Police services are provided through contract with the Orange County Sheriff. Fire Protection services are provided through the Orange County Fire Authority.
Since its incorporation in 2000, Rancho Santa Margarita has repeatedly been rated as one of the safest cities in California and the nation.
Rancho Santa Margarita is located at 33%uFFFD38'29?N 117%uFFFD35'40?W? / ?33.64139%uFFFDN 117.59444%uFFFDW (33.641518, -117.594524). It occupies much of a high plateau known as Plano Trabuco.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 13.0 square miles (34 km2). 13.0 square miles (34 km2) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) of it (0.27%) is water.
Rancho Santa Margarita is bordered by the city of Mission Viejo on the west, the census-designated Coto de Caza and Las Flores on the south, Trabuco Canyon on the north, and the Cleveland National Forest on the east.
The Rancho Santa Margarita Landscape and Recreation Corporation, or SAMLARC, is often referred to as the master association in Rancho Santa Margarita because other smaller sub associations fall within its membership and it encompasses the original footprint of the master planned community of Rancho Santa Margarita. SAMLARC comprises roughly 13,000 units and maintains most streetscapes, medians, parks and trails within the community. In total, SAMLARC runs and maintains 13 parks, 4 pools, a lagoon, a lake, and numerous trails within the community. One of SAMLARC's most popular parks, Central Park located next to City Hall, contains a large amphitheater where a number of community events are held each year. Central Park is also home to an arena soccer rink that was converted from a roller hockey rink. SAMLARC also maintains a popular skate and dog park that are located within SAMLARC's Canada Vista Park.
Dove Canyon is a private residential community located in eastern Rancho Santa Margarita. It is a small enclave of approximately 1,200 homes and 5,000 residents. Included within the guard-gated entry is a Jack Nicklaus signature golf club, pool, tennis courts, a small child's park, a wide field, a shopping center (just outside the entry), and a reservoir. The majority of its residents are upper middle class residents of Orange County, and all of the homes in Dove Canyon are single-family residences. It is located in the Southeasternmost foothills of Orange County. Major roads include Dove Canyon/Bell Canyon and Sycamore Canyon. A horse trail starts at the waterfalls outside of the community and continues until the end of Sycamore Canyon. From there, hikers, horse riders, bikers, etc. can continue into Dove Canyon's neighbor community, Coto de Caza.
Robinson Ranch is a mid-sized residential community located northeastern Rancho Santa Margarita south of Trabuco Canyon. It is one of the older communities in Rancho Santa Margarita. It has several condominium areas closer to Plano Trabuco Road and two large parks. Major Roads include Robinson Ranch and Shadow Rock. Like Dove Canyon and Rancho Cielo it is assigned with a Trabuco Canyon zip code even though the areas were annexed into Rancho Santa Margarita when the city incorporated in 2000. The street at the bottom of the hill is the entrance into O'Neill Regional Park.
Rancho Cielo is a smaller residential community located in eastern Rancho Santa Margarita. It includes gated entry with security guard. It is near the intersection of Plano Trabuco Road and Dove Canyon Drive. All of the homes are all single family residences and the majority of its residents are upper-middle class. Major Roads include Rancho Cielo and Camino Del Cielo.
According to the City's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top 11 employers in the city are: