After winning a long, bitter and expensive fight with environmentalists, the Santa Margarita Co. moved ahead with the Las Flores planned community this week and sold development rights to four builders.
A company spokesman said construction will start on the first phase of the 1,005-acre project within a few months and the first homes should be erected by next summer.
The Santa Margarita Co. expects to build 2,500 homes by 1998 in Las Flores. Architecture and planning will mirror in some ways the early California styles of the company's larger planned community, neighboring Rancho Santa Margarita.
"While the architecture of Las Flores will help reflect the heritage of land, as it does in Rancho Santa Margarita, the overall feel of Las Flores will be different," said spokeswoman Diane Gaynor.
Although the community will share a ZIP code with Rancho Santa Margarita, Gaynor said the future 4,000 to 6,000 residents will be able to list a Las Flores address. The first phase will see 619 homes built directly south of Rancho Santa Margarita.
The Santa Margarita Co. chose to work with the San Juan Group, Standard Pacific Corp., Warmington Homes and SeaCounty Homes Inc.
Local environmentalists battled for two years to stop Las Flores in court and hoped to force the county Board of Supervisors to protect dwindling wilderness resources.
They argued that environmental studies were inadequate and that endangered species such as the California gnatcatcher live on the development site. The final appeal was turned down in 1992, clearing the way for the new planned community.