Reviews & Comments
Lake Forest, CAGreat place to live if you can afford it
As a retired senior who has lived in Lake Forest (formerly El Toro) since 1977 I think LF is a great place if you can afford it. When we moved here in June '77 homes were selling in the mid to upper five digits, $60 - 100k. May sound low today but a good salary back then was in the $15k - 25k range so relatively speaking houses were expensive but not as much as today. The Saddleback school district was fine back then and still is. Our two daughters went to local public schools and did fine, both going thru the Calif. public system thru grad school. Back then minorities, we're Asian, were a very small percentage but has now grown to a larger pct over all in all ethnicities. We have had no discrimination. Our multiple next door neighbors have been nice and friendly but not real close. Our circle of 12 -15 seniors encompass five ethnic groups and both political parties, we get along just great at our weekly get-togethers.
The restaurant scene is very varied and just great, all price ranges. The local junior college, Saddleback College, offers an Emeritus program for seniors that provides dozens of free classes and lectures year round in numerous subjects from exercise classes, history, photography to philosophy and religions, etc. UC Irvine is about 20 min. away and is a premier 4-year university of very high caliber. There is also a branch of Cal State Univ - Fullerton in nearby Irvine. The brand new gorgeous Lake Forest city center has state of the art facilities including a beautiful, stand-alone senior center. There are numerous programs, facilities and parks for families, kids and seniors. So the positives are many including low crime, great weather, even during winter when it gets chilly (low 40's in the early hours) we get an occasional heat wave in the 80s. If you like gardening like me it is a year round activity, including all kinds of fruit trees and tropical plants.
I'd say the negatives are the very high cost of real estate and the property tax if you are not moving from some other high priced county in Calif. as there are Prop 13 issues that can make the property tax low or high depending. Since I have not moved from this house in decades the property tax is just a bit over $1k a year, whoever buys my house some day will likely pay 6-7x that per year. So with low prop tax, no mortgage, a decent pension and SS plus a good retirement nest egg we live very comfortably. For new incoming families, it's a great living environment if you can afford it. Btw, one of my cars is an EV (Tesla) so with the sales incentive of free life of the car charging at the Tesla SC station in Mission Viejo 5 miles away my fuel costs are negligible. A family buying a house in LF should seriously consider installing solar panels, more so if the roof has a south facing exposure. Gasoline at Costco in Irvine (4 miles) is not bad for this area, there is also a Walmart there and another less than 4 miles distance, also a couple of Home Depots. The Irvine Spectrum shopping complex nearby is a massive area with dozens of stores, restaurants, 21 screen theater, giant ferris wheel and merry-go-round for the kids, first class place. Skiing in the Big Bear area is about 1.5 - 2 hr away. Beaches like Laguna Beach is about a 25-30 min. drive, Disneyland is 20 min away a bit more for the Knotts' Berry Farm entertainment complex. John Wayne airport is 20 min. away for flights thru out the US, LAX is 50 min. in non-rush hour, during rush hour about 1.5 hr. The Segerstrom center multi-venue complex is a world class venue for plays, and performances of all kinds, that's 18 min. away. There is also the beautiful performance hall at Soka Univ. of America 18 min. away in Aliso Viejo, wonderful year-round performances there as at performance venues at UC Irvine. One would be hard pressed to find all these amenities in easy driving distance elsewhere.
I used to commute for 17 min. Those with a lesser income commute to LF from 30min - 1hr away, typically. So now you know why the real estate is high, if you can afford it and have a good income, working or retired, this is a really great place to live, otherwise you'd likely have a hard time. Note that the median income is currently about $92,800 and homes at $718k, both on the high side. Numerous high-paying professional jobs are in the surrounding area all within a 20-40 min. or less commute. LA is an hour north and a world away, San Diego is 1.5 hr south on I5.