Laguna Niguel is an affluent master-planned community located in the San Joaquin Hills of southern Orange County, California. The name Laguna Niguel is derived from the words “Laguna” (Spanish for “lagoon“) and “Nigueli” (the name of a Juaneño Indian village once located near Aliso Creek). The population increased from 61,891 at the 2000 census to 62,979 in 2010. The city of Dana Point to the south separates Laguna Niguel and the Pacific Ocean. On the east side, Laguna Niguel is separated from San Juan Capistrano by a significant ridge running along Trabuco Creek.
Laguna Niguel is located on the Rancho Niguel Mexican land grant of Juan Avila. He retained ownership until 1865, when a severe drought killed off most of his cattle. Lewis Moulton, owner of the Moulton Company, bought the area of modern-day Laguna Niguel in 1895, along with significant other portions of the surrounding area from farmers that were hard-pressed to earn a living due to a local drought in the area.
Laguna Niguel occupies a hilly basin near the southern end of the San Joaquin Hills, a small coastal mountain range in southern Orange County. On the west is 650-foot Niguel Hill, which separates the city from Aliso Canyon, an immense gorge cut by Aliso Creek, one of the county’s primary watercourses. The Aliso Canyon area is home to Aliso and Wood Canyons Regional Park, a large wilderness area in the southern county. Although the creek itself only brushes the northwestern border of the city, a major tributary, Sulphur Creek, drains most of northern Laguna Niguel. Sulphur Creek runs through Crown Valley in eastern Laguna Niguel, Crown Valley Park, Laguna Niguel Regional Park and Sulphur Creek Reservoir (Laguna Niguel Lake). The two parks and the lake lie just north of the geographic center of the city.
Low ridges dissect much of the Laguna Niguel area. Most of these mountain ridges, some of them attaining heights of one or two hundred feet, run northeast to southwest, delineating the hydrography of the area. Laguna Niguel’s other primary drainage, Salt Creek, has two forks in the southern half of the city, flowing southwards to the Pacific Ocean. Laguna Niguel itself has no border on the ocean.
In 1959, the Laguna Niguel Corporation, made Laguna Niguel one of the first master-planned communities in California. A Vienna architect, developed a community plan for 7,100 acres which was later continued by other developers.
The construction of the San Diego, I-5, Freeway in 1959 allowed more people to arrive. The first communities developed in Laguna Niguel were right along the coast, touching the southern border of Laguna Beach. These communities were called Monarch Bay and the Monarch Bay Terrace built between 1960 and 1962.
On December 1, 1989, Laguna Niguel became an incorporated city in Orange County and became its 29th city.