Buying Woodstock

Is Ladera Ranch the green revolution or the same development crap in a new package?

According to Ray and Anderson, Traditionals and Moderns have been waging a culture war since the birth of the nation. Only in the past 30 years have Cultural Creatives, a growing slice of the pie (now 26 percent), emerged to bring peace to the world—and buy homes.

Which brings us back to Terramor, "a place designed to meet the different lifestyle desires of those people searching for tightly knit, socially progressive, non-auto-oriented neighborhoods with a strong environmental orientation."

So says Anne Marie Moiso, director of marketing for Rancho Mission Viejo LLC, Terramor's master planner and developer. "These are people who express their core values of altruism, idealism and concern for others through concern for the environment and cultural innovation. They appreciate all that is authentic within their homes, neighborhoods and communities—while sharing a special concern for key issues impacting the broader community. They are well educated, successful and extremely curious about life—they are the Cultural Creatives."

And you can practically hear the brass erupting in Aaron Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man."

Moiso is a fifth-generation member of the landowning family that ranched, farmed and then developed most of southern Orange County. When family patriarch Richard O'Neill Sr. began buying up ranchland in 1882, the land was a plein air heaven of rolling hills and grazing cattle and sheep.

By World War II, O'Neill's property holdings extended over 200,000 acres—from El Toro on the north to Oceanside on the south. Then in a move both traditional and modern, the U.S. government appropriated Camp Pendleton and El Toro Marine Base for the war effort.

By the 1960s, the family was ready to suburbanize segments of its remaining 52,000 acres. In 1964, they formed the Mission Viejo Company and began plans for their first crack at suburbia, the 10,000-acre planned community of Mission Viejo. In 1999, Ladera Ranch debuted.

And today is the grand opening of a "Visionary Village."

"This is a landmark for Southern California," Moiso says, "as Terramor takes its place as the largest green-oriented residential village of its type in the nation."

"Do you have any similar developments planned?" I ask her.

"With Terramor, we pretty much raised the bar," she says. "Other areas of Ladera Ranch will also have green development standards."

I ask Moiso if she's a Cultural Creative.

"I thought I was, but actually I'm a 'Winners With Heart.'"

A dominant subgroup of Moderns, Winners With Heart are goal driven and status oriented—that's the "Winners" part. They're also environmentally aware and yearn for psychological growth—that's the "Heart."

Moiso continues. "We've done annual psychographic profiling of Ladera Ranch residents as well as our interest list. We've identified four psychographic profiles that find Ladera Ranch to be their lifestyle solution—Cultural Creatives, Traditionals, Winners With Heart and Modern Cynics.

Modern Cynics, another subgroup of Moderns, are highly analytical, and want success and its trappings, but feel disenfranchised and cynical. At least that's what the marketing consultants say. They also say, "Terramor truly is destined to be a place like no other. It will be a welcoming village where the opportunity for self-expression is nurtured, solitude is sacred, interaction is fostered, and you can be as green as you want to be."

As long as you don't spell green with a political G. The Mission Viejo Company won't emphasize the global environmentalist side of Terramor. In a survey of potential buyers, the company found "only 28 percent feel strongly about preserving the earth." As a result, Terramor's marketing consultants downplayed the politically charged "Green" image and conjured the ambiguous slogan, "360-Degree Living."

Lynda Hernandez, an Orange County Green Party council member, calls 360-Degree Living mere marketing. Well, no, she doesn't. She calls it "bullshit."

"360-Degree Living means nothing," Hernandez says. "And I don't believe the low percentage of people, the 28 percent identified by the developer's marketing department. There is an extremely high percentage of the population who are concerned about the environment, especially if they are made aware of what is actually being threatened."

What is being threatened?

"Around Terramor, we are talking about some of the last open space in the county and the removal of critical wildlife corridors," Hernandez says. "In fact, the land adjacent to Ladera Ranch and Cleveland National Forest has been identified as one of the top 25 global hotspots—one of the most unique areas on the planet, since it is composed of endangered species and plant life specific to that region only."

What about Terramor's "non-auto-oriented neighborhoods"?

"Unless these residents plan to just stay in their private enclave and not venture out with the rest of us," Hernandez says, "they'll be forced to fight the same traffic jams created by this never-ending suburban sprawl—especially since they are living on the edge of it."

Hernandez says the only really green development would take place in the county's urban centers. "A much better solution would be to create attractive, sustainable communities in areas already developed—mixing homes with local businesses and positioning them close to mass transit stations to minimize auto use," she says.

And what about Terramor's "strong environmental orientation"?

"If that was the case," Hernandez says, "they wouldn't buy or support this type of destructive development in the first place. Once this environment is gone, it's gone forever. Let's save some of it for our grandchildren."

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