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LAGUNA HILLS : FOCUS : In Laguna Hills, A Man's Home May Be His Castle

July 07, 1988|Clipboard researched by Susan Greene and Dallas Jamison / Los Angeles Times. Page designed by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Driving along Interstate 5 in the southern sector of Orange County, a visitor may catch a glimpse of the spacious estates and castle-style homes high in the hills. At night, if the visitor's imagination is vivid enough, it's almost possible to envision Transylvania. If Bela Lugosi were alive, he'd be living on the Nellie Gail Ranch--an extremely affluent housing development in Laguna Hills.

Nellie Gail Moulton was an artist-philanthropist and widow of Lewis Moulton--majority owner of the historic Moulton-Niguel Ranch. Moulton died in 1938 and Nellie Gail maintained the 21,000-acre ranch for 12 years after his death. At the age of 93, in August, 1978, the grande dame died, leaving a legacy to her survivors and Orange County residents.

Custom homes in the Nellie Gail section start around $325,000 and range upward to about $3 million. It is the sole remaining development in Orange County offering lot sizes of 2 and 3 acres. And it offers prospective residents who bleed Dodger Blue the cachet of having one of their heroes in the neighborhood, for Nellie Gail is home to pitcher Don Sutton.

Equestrian trails and stables exist throughout the area. In fact, many varieties of four-legged species, ranging from your average house feline to the South American llama, live in the area.

Leisure World-Laguna Hills--a gate-guarded planned retirement community--was built in September, 1964, the second ever of its kind to be built in Orange County. (The first was built in Seal Beach in 1962.) When Leisure World opened, prices were $11,000-$14,000. Homes, from apartments to single-family dwellings, now range in price from $40,000 to more than $400,000 (land not included).

In 1973 the Laguna Hills Mall was developed at a cost of $30 million, a joint venture by Rossmoor Corp. and Ernest W. Hahn Inc. Last year total sales amounted to approximately $100 million.

Statistics Population: (1987 est.) 38,901 Median household income: $30,260 Racial/ethnic mix: white, 96.3%; Latino, 2.8%; black, 0.4%; other, 3.3% (Total is more than 100% because racial/ethnic breakdowns overlap)

Employment status Employed persons: 9,401 Unemployed: 238 Not in labor force: 20,214 Per capita income: $12,042

Education Adults over 25 Years of school completed: 0-11 years: 14.6% 12 years: 30.1% 13-15 years: 26.6% 16+ years: 28.7% Median years completed: 13.5

Population Median Age: 63.1 years

Statistics: Donnelley Demographics

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