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Keepers of the Promise: Mission Viejo Company

We Give You America’s Most Successful New Town

Mission Impossible: plan, build and market America’s most successful family-oriented community from scratch. Take 11,000 acres of vacant, virgin land--with only 11 trees-- and turn it into a full-scale community with 30,000 families and one million trees. At the same time, keep the prices low enough for first-time buyers, respect the adjacent property owners, protect the environment, conserve energy, and preserve the Ranch heritage.

The Company commenced in 1963, with three owners, Donald Bren, the George A. Fuller Company, and the O’Neill family. The Board of Directors (and shareholders) consisted of Donald Bren, Philip J. Reilly, James E. West, Richard J. O’Neill, Anthony R. (Tony) Moiso, and J. Jerome Moiso. They recruited the best professionals in the field to build a top-notch team of dreamers and doers. The executives were Donald L. Bren, President; Phillip J. Reilly, Executive Vice-President (and later President); Harvey Stearn, Executive Vice-President; James E. West, Secretary; Wendell F. Strong, Treasurer; Thomas D. Colvin, Controller; James G. Gilleran, Vice-President of Finance; James G. Toepfer, Vice-President and Director of Planning; Van Stevens, Vice-President of Advance Planning and Engineering; Donald G. Zellner, Vice-President of Finance; Frank L. Fehse, Director of Engineering; Robert E. Osborne, Vice-President of Construction; John T. Martin, Vice-President of Marketing; Donald Schulz, Director of Product Development and Sales; Dale L. Harvey, Director of Construction; and Steven Trammell, Director of Construction.

The Mission Viejo Company first did its homework: two years of feasibility studies, market analysis, planning research, and engineering surveys. It concluded that it needed to create a community identify as quickly as possible; to provide well-designed homes with more value in a variety of price ranges; an attractive total environment; and to develop a balanced community of homes, schools, churches, shopping areas, parks, and recreational facilities. The Company’s task was to develop the raw land intelligently and to merchandise what it had to offer in terms of the market’s needs.

They drew up a master plan with goals and objectives. Starting with 11,000 acres of barren, raw land, they devised a General Plan, with 5400 acres for residential uses, 3000 acres for parks, recreation and open space, 700 acres for school and churches, and 900 acres for business properties. They engaged in long-range planning and carried out planned, controlled growth in carefully implemented phases with the highest quality control.

Although it was a big investment with huge risk, the visionary founding fathers firmly believed in their undertaking: If you plan it right and build it will, the people will come. They shattered all convention by viewing and treating governmental agencies, school districts, utility companies, other developers, big business, and the homeowner associations as partners in a joint venture, rather than as hurdles to the process, and they developing good working relationships by divulging their long-range plans and showing scheduled development to these entities to seek their input and to allow them to anticipate--and prepare for--the added demands.

--written by Robert Breton, former Mayor of Mission Viejo