What are the key steps involved in the entitlement process?

The key activities for this project include the following steps:

  • Plan Submittal and Review (3-6 months)
  • Environmental Review (6-12 months)
  • Development Agreement Preparation (on-going)
  • Public Hearing Preparation (2-4 weeks)

Each activity is described in more detail below. 

Plan Submittal and Review

Once a development application is submitted to the City, the Planning Division and Public Services Division review the development application and plans to identify missing or incomplete information the City must have to evaluate the project against City requirements.  Outside agencies such as the Orange County Fire Authority and public utility providers also review project plans.  The development application will include the following City zoning applications, which could be revised further once the City has a better understanding of the project:

·      Site Development Permit (Development Over 20,000 Square Feet/ Master Sign Program/ Public Art)

·      Conditional Use Permit (Health Club/Hotel/Joint Parking Use Permit)

·      Development Agreement (Establishes property development standards and conditions – generally)

·      Precise Plan (Mixed Use Development) 

·      Vesting Tentative Tract Map (Subdivision for five or more Parcels)

During the Plan Submittal and Review phase, the City develops a written checklist of information MGP must provide to allow the City to continue processing the development application.  This process is commonly referred to as a “completeness check.”  The development application is “deemed complete” once all missing information and development materials are submitted to City staff.  During this phase, the City may request that MGP consider additional changes to project design features and/or the site plan.  Once the City deems the application complete, it allows the City to begin the project’s Environmental Review. 

Environmental Review

This phase entails the preparation of all of the environmental studies and analyses required to identify and disclose all of the project’s environmental impacts.  The completion of this activity is required in order to comply with State environmental regulations known as the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA).  Studies associated with Environmental Review for The Village at Laguna Hills will include, at a minimum, the following: 

  • Air Quality Impact Analysis
  • Traffic Impact Analysis
  • Noise Impact Analysis
  • Geotechnical Study
  • Water Supply Assessment
  • Hydrology Study

Other potential impacts that may not necessarily require the preparation of a separate special study are also conducted by environmental professionals and included as part of the project’s environmental analysis.  When the studies and analyses are completed, and the type and severity of all of the project’s environmental impacts are known, the City determines what type of CEQA document should be prepared based on the preparation of an “environmental checklist.”

CEQA allows different approaches to be used to complete a project’s environmental evaluation depending on the severity of a project’s impact on the environment.  For large projects, an Environmental Impact Report (EIR) can be needed if no prior environmental review was ever completed for the development of a site.  However, the City has completed two extensive prior environmental analyses encompassing MGP’s property – one for the City’s General Plan EIR in 2009, and another in 2016 when the Five Lagunas project was approved (Addendum No. 3 to the 2009 General Plan EIR).  While the City has yet to understand the extent of environmental impacts The Village at Laguna Hills may have on the environment, the project may be able to partially rely on information from prior environmental analyses completed in 2009 and 2016, and provide updated environmental studies and analyses of impacts based on the proposed project. 

The City will not be able to make a determination on which CEQA approach is appropriate to use until it has a better understanding of the proposed project’s environmental impacts.  

March 2021 Update: In analyzing MGP’s submittal, the City has determined that MGPs project is a modification of the Five Laguna’s project approved by the City in 2016. The Village at Laguna Hills’ potential environmental impacts were evaluated pursuant to Public Resources Code Section 21166 and CEQA Guidelines Section 15162.  An Addendum to the City’s 2009 Program Environmental Impact Report, as previously addended for the Five Lagunas Project, has been prepared and will be considered during the project’s public hearing. 

Development Agreement

State law authorizes cities and property owners to enter into an agreement governing the development of property known as a “Development Agreement” (DA).  MGP has requested a DA since it anticipates that the development of The Village at Laguna Hills will take place over an extended period of time.  By law a DA cannot exceed a 15-year timeframe.  DAs provide certainty to the public and the property owner concerning the timing and phasing of development, type and scale of development, public benefits, and development certainty.  Negotiating a DA is time consuming, and the negotiations typically are not concluded until a project is ready to be presented to the public and City Council for consideration at a project’s public hearing.  The DA must be approved by the City Council at a public hearing. 

State regulations concerning Development Agreements are located at: https://leginfo.legislature.ca.gov/faces/codes_displayText.xhtml?lawCode=GOV&division=1.&title=7.&part=&chapter=4.&article=2.5.

The City’s requirements for DAs are found in Chapter 9-84 of the Municipal Code: https://www.codepublishing.com/CA/LagunaHills/#!/LagunaHills09/LagunaHills0984.html#9-84.

Public Hearing

This is the last step in the City’s development process where the City Council decides whether or not to approve MGP’s development application.  The City Council also considers the project’s Environmental Review.  Since the City does not maintain a Planning Commission, the City Council acts as the Planning Commission, only one public hearing is required to approve or deny zoning applications filed with the City.  City staff prepares its report on the project, and presents all material previously completed related to the development application including plans, the project CEQA document, studies, development agreement, and all public correspondence received concerning the proposed development.  Other materials typically included at public hearings where new development is being considered include Conditions of Approval, if being recommended for approval by staff, and the findings required to approve or deny a project.  Findings are part of the City’s legal record describing the basis on which the City Council is approving or denying a project.  The findings used by the City are found in the City’s Municipal Code at Section 9-92.080 at the link below. 


Prior to the public hearing the City notifies by mail the surrounding property owners and any interested parties who have asked to be notified of a project’s public hearing.  A notice of a project’s public hearing is also published in the Saddleback Valley Newspaper. Notices are mailed and published 10 days prior to the public hearing.  To be included on the City’s public notification list for this project please submit your contact information by email to Jay Wuu at jwuu@lagunahillsca.gov.

March 2021 Update: As of April 6, 2021, the City has completed all of the work required to bring the project forward to the City Council. A public hearing is scheduled for April 27, 2021 and will be held in the Community Center located at 25555 Alicia Parkway. The City Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 7PM. Project documents are available on the City’s web site at: https://www.lagunahillsca.gov/176/Planning-Projects-New-Developments under “Village at Laguna Hills”.

Show All Answers

1. Explain the current zoning, conditional use permits, and land use for the 68-acre property [the former Laguna Hills Mall] and adjacent developments. What can/can’t the City Council control?
2. What is the status of the plan MGP showed the community at their April 2019 Community Forum? How does it compare to the approved 2016 plan?
3. How much housing does the City’s Zoning Code allow on the property?
4. Does the City consider traffic in evaluating development proposals in the UVSP?
5. In 2016, the City approved over 926,000 sq. feet of retail and office building area and 988 dwelling units. If MGP is an established developer, why has Five Lagunas taken so long to get started?
6. What does the City Council see as a viable solution for the development of the site? When considering a new development, does and can the City Council factor in the greater good of the community?
7. How do the new and future proposed/approved Oakbrook apartments factor into any decision making?
8. What are current vacancy rates for existing apartment complexes?
9. Why doesn’t the City insist MGP provide more retail space and less office and housing space?
10. What creates the most value for the city and community: High-density multifamily housing, retail, or commercial office?
11. What kind of retail space can residents expect to see since the outlook for traditional storefronts is so negative?
12. How much revenue has the City lost from the mall closing?
13. How has the City responded to this loss of revenue?
14. How will property taxes benefit the city and how much will the city actually receive?
15. How does more development on the site, especially more residential development, impact community infrastructure such as police services, fire and paramedic services, traffic, water, schools, etc.?
16. What were the projected traffic levels for the originally approved Five Lagunas Project? What is the difference between retail development and apartment development with respect to traffic?
17. How will high-density apartments/multifamily housing benefit residents? Did the 09 General Plan call for 300 apartments w/ options to add more in future phases? Are the approved 988 units mandated
18. What if residents do not want to see more housing developed beyond the 988 units approved in 2016 in a future project?
19. Why doesn’t the City simply ignore State housing element law?
20. What is the City’s obligation to help address the Statewide/federal affordable housing shortage, including low-income and homeless shelters?
21. What exactly is the Housing Crisis Act (SB 330) and how does it impact the new project submitted by MGP?
22. What are the key steps involved in the entitlement process?
23. How long will it take for the project to reach the public hearing?