Many of our nation’s cities were developed in a hopscotch manner. Not Mission Viejo, California. A great deal of forethought and planning went into constructing this attractive little city in southern Orange County. Every feature of the community – from distinctly shaped street lamps, to a 125-acre recreational reservoir – was designed to enhance the city’s aesthetic and purpose, while maintaining its unique Spanish-style motif.

Not every aspect of Mission Viejo’s creation was thoroughly planned, however — at least not in the way land transactions are conducted today. The early developers of this area did not rely on underwriters or escrow agents. In fact, they did not even reduce their partnership agreement to writing. A handshake was all it took to close the deal. Fortunately for all of us, the partners honored their commitments, and this wonderful city later came to be.

Integrity is important to us at Neale & Fhima. Our personal injury and vehicle accident clients need reliable and trustworthy legal advice, and that is exactly what we provide. Keep reading to learn more about the history of Mission Viejo – just one of the Southern California cities we are proud to serve.

The Flood & O’Neill Partnership

James C. Flood was a first-generation American of Irish decent. Equipped with only an eighth-grade education, Flood came to San Francisco in the 1850s and made a fortune in Nevada’s Comstock Lode silver rush (as well as his trading of related mining stocks).

Richard O’Neill, Sr. was an Irish immigrant also living in San Francisco at the time. O’Neill was a rancher in the old country and had a reputation as a skilled cattleman. When the two men met in 1882, they agreed to start a cattle operation in Southern California. Flood agreed to supply the money to purchase 200,000 acres of grazing land. O’Neill agreed to supply the expertise and hard work.

Honoring the Deal

The two men put their plan into action. By the time Flood passed away in 1889, the ranch was a success, due in large part to O’Neill’s careful management. Flood’s son (who took over his father’s business interests) recognized the value of O’Neill’s contribution. In 1907, he decided to honor his father’s handshake-agreement made 25 years earlier in San Francisco. He conveyed a 50-percent ownership stake in the ranch to O’Neill shortly before O’Neill passed away. For several generations thereafter, property rights to the ranch passed to members of the respective families.

The 1963 City Blueprint

Flood & O’Neill’s ranch contained as many as 25,000 head of cattle in its early years. That exceeded the population of Orange County at the time. However, by 1930, the county’s population had grown to 100,000 people. By 1960, it was 700,000. Urban development was clearly becoming a regional priority.

Residential developers purchased the northern 11,000 acres of the ranch in 1963. After much deliberation, they drafted the Rancho Viejo master-plan. The blueprint called for approximately the following ratio of uses:

  • 54 percent: Homes
  • 30 percent: Parks, places of recreation, and open spaces
  • 9 percent: Businesses
  • 7 percent: Schools and churches

This mix of designated uses and the other elements of the master-plan caught the public’s attention. Homes began selling as early as 1965, before construction had even begun.

Living in Mission Viejo Today

As unnecessary as it appears in hindsight, the city’s developers launched a nationwide advertising campaign in the 1960s to attract homebuyers. They described life in Mission Viejo as a realization of “The California Promise.” The slogan persisted and made its way onto city memorabilia produced decades later, like this 1984 Mission Viejo postcard. To city residents today, The California Promise could mean scenic views, water sports on the lake, community events, or quiet time spent at home with family. Mission Viejo offers all of this and more – and it all started with two partners shaking hands.