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Lake Forest incorporated as a city on December 20, 1991. Prior to incorporation, the community had been known as El Toro. Following a vote in 2000, Lake Forest expanded its city limits to include the master-planned developments of Foothill Ranch and Portola Hills. This expansion brought new homes and commercial centers to the Northeastern boundary of the city. Lake Forest (along with its neighboring cities Mission Viejo and Irvine) is ranked as one of the safest cities in the country.
Lake Forest has two lakes from which the city gets its name. The lakes are man-made, and condominiums and custom homes ranging from large to small line their shores. Neighborhood associations manage the lakes. Lake 1, known as the Lake Forest Beach and Tennis Club, and Lake 2, the Sun and Sail Club. Each facility features tennis courts, gyms, basketball courts, barbecue pits, volleyball courts, multiple swimming pools, saunas, hot tubs and club houses for social events.
The “forest” for which the city is also named lies in the area between Ridge Route, Jeronimo, Lake Forest and Serrano roads, and consists mostly of Eucalyptus trees. It is also man-made, and was created in the first decade of the 1900s when a local landowner, Dwight Whiting, planted 400 acres (1.6 km2) of Eucalyptus groves in the vicinity of Serrano Creek as part of a lumber operation intended to draw development to the area. In the late 1960s, the Occidental Petroleum company developed a residential community in and around the Eucalyptus groves, which had long since expanded and grown much more dense.
El Toro Road at the I-5 Freeway was the epicenter of the Saddleback Valley from the late 19th century to the end of the 20th century. However, the area gradually deteriorated, and most of the shops closed or moved to other cities. After years of planning, the city has worked with the property owners of some ageing strip malls and developed the “Arbor at Lake Forest” commercial district. The new center can now compete with large shopping centers in cities that surround Lake Forest.
Lake Forest is bordered by Irvine on the west, Laguna Hills on the southwest, Mission Viejo on the southeast, Trabuco Canyon on the east, and Limestone Canyon Regional Park on the north.
El Toro/Lake Forest/Portola is located in the heart of the Saddleback Valley. It is also in the northern section of South Orange County.
It has two man-made lakes identified by the clubhouses on the lakes — the Beach and Tennis Club (Hidden Lakes, formerly Lake I) and the Sun and Sail Club (Lake II).
The Census reported that 76,749 people (99.3% of the population) lived in households, 299 (0.4%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 216 (0.3%) were institutionalized.
There were 26,224 households, out of which 10,407 (39.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 15,603 (59.5%) were married couples, 2,710 (10.3%) had a female householder with no husband present, 1,299 (5.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 1,217 (4.6%) unmarried partnerships, and 201 (0.8%)same-sex couples. 4,883 households (18.6%) were made up of individuals and 1,432 (5.5%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.93. There were 19,612 families (74.8% of all households); the average family size was 3.30.
The population was spread out with 19,115 people (24.7%) under the age of 18, 6,775 people (8.8%) aged 18 to 24, 22,099 people (28.6%) aged 25 to 44, 22,184 people (28.7%) aged 45 to 64, and 7,091 people (9.2%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37.2 years. For every 100 females there were 98.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 96.5 males.
There were 27,088 housing units at an average density of 1,513.1 per square mile (584.2/km²), of which 18,579 (70.8%) were owner-occupied, and 7,645 (29.2%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.3%; the rental vacancy rate was 4.3%. 54,082 people (70.0% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 22,667 people (29.3%) lived in rental housing units.