Ladera Ranch is a census-designated place and a planned community located in south Orange County, California just outside the city limits of San Juan Capistrano, Rancho Santa Margarita and Mission Viejo. The Ladera Ranch development is divided into nine “villages”. Within each village, individual builders develop an area called a neighborhood. Five of the nine villages have clubhouses themed on a particular architecture style that is emphasized within that village. There are also parks, pools, playgrounds and open areas within each village. The Covenant Hills village is a gated community which is closed to the general public, but accessible to all card-carrying residents of Ladera Ranch. There are no other gated villages in the community.
In addition to the various clubhouses, the community has a private water park and skate park, 18 community parks, a dog park, six smaller neighborhood pools, many pocket parks and green belts, a shopping district called Mercantile East Shopping Center, and miles of hiking trails that connect to Doheny Beach. The community has several features that differentiate it from most others. For example, many traffic speed-reducing measures were put into use. Roundabouts, for example, are commonplace on smaller intersections. Narrow street widths are characteristics of Ladera Ranch’s small residential streets. Landscaped street medians are common on two-lane collector streets.
The community is served by the Capistrano Unified School District. A branch of the Orange County Public Library is located on the campus of Ladera Ranch School. Within the community are the Chaparral and Oso Grande Elementary Schools and the Ladera Ranch School, which is home to both an elementary school and a middle school on the same campus. Chaparral Elementary School received the “California Distinguished School Award” in both 2004 and 2008. Ladera Ranch School opened in 2004, and the Middle School received the “California Distinguished School Award” in 2007 and has been nominated again in 2011.