When old-timers say “Laguna” they still mean Laguna Beach. That town—named for the lakes at the top of Laguna Canyon (Cañada de las Lagunas)—was born in the 1870s. The hills above it have been called the Laguna Hills since at least the 1890s, but that didn’t become a community name until further development in the early 1960s. In the late 20th century, new communities wanted the Laguna Beach aura to rub off on them, so the neighborhoods adjacent to Leisure World incorporated as Laguna Hills in 1991, and Leisure World itself incorporated as Laguna Woods in 1999. Developers created the name Laguna Niguel in 1959 and it became a city in 1989. And don’t forget the Laguna Audubon development in the 1980s (no connection to the Audubon Society), where residents sued, saying they were sold houses in plain old El Toro when they thought they were buying in ritzier Laguna Beach.
Chris Jepsen is the O.C. Answer Man. Have a question? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.