Honoring Rancho Santa Margarita Visionary, Richard Reese

The SAMLARC Board of Directors is saddened to note that beloved Rancho Santa Margarita founder, Richard Reese, has peacefully passed away in the community that bears his fingerprints. For more than 30 years, Mr. Reese’s expert community design has brought joy to thousands of families. Mr. Reese’s everyday connections with Rancho Santa Margarita – his genuine joy in nature, his kindness towards all he met, and his desire to encourage a deeply compassionate community – will be deeply missed by all.

As the area’s Master Planner, Mr. Reese was the driving force behind Rancho Santa Margarita’s visionary design and infrastructure. From its very conception, Rancho Santa Margarita was destined to be a place of refreshment – a place where families could establish intergenerational roots, weave a dynamic cultural fabric, and enjoy time in nature. Mr. Reese intentionally layered nature, practical use, and thriving relationships in Rancho Santa Margarita’s blueprints. His visions of the “historical past, pragmatic present, and possible futures” spurred him to sculpt a fully-fledged community out of the “cattle pasture of the Plano Trabuco Valley.”

Mr. Reese hoped to design a community that would reach beyond the “mere satisfaction of basic human needs for air, water, food, shelter, safety and economic opportunity, while embracing wellness, well-being, full-self expression and participative governance – as normal, everyday activities.” This would be his firm commitment when the first house was built in the mid-1980s and remains true today.

Mr. Reese was so earnest in his commitment to Rancho Santa Margarita’s vision that he decided to truly declare Rancho Santa Margarita his home. His favorite facet of the community was the Lago Santa Margarita – its brilliant reflection of the skies overhead, the Saddleback Mountains in the distance, and a patchwork quilt of red, white, and blue blankets on Independence Day. Mr. Reese’s daily walks around the Lake became a beloved fixture of Rancho Santa Margarita’s culture. Countless residents can recall short conversations and stories with Mr. Reese – all underscored by his characteristic kindness and enthusiasm for meeting people in his neighborhood. What few may realize is that when he was designing the Lake, Mr. Reese also took great care to build it in a way that emphasizes neighborly connections. The Lake’s circumference is an enjoyable 1.1 miles walk, and the shoreline is curved to bring pedestrians within hailing distance while maintaining the appearance of a much larger body of water. This intentional design has, without fanfare, brought hundreds of families closer together each year in celebration of nature, holidays, and friendship.

Mr. Reese’s kindness, optimism, and discernment have left a lasting impression on each Board Director, SAMLARC staff member, and volunteer. Our thoughts are with Mr. Reese’s wife and family at this time of reflection. We have been honored to know and work alongside Richard for many years, and we will continue to carry forward his vision for bright futures in a vibrant community.

SAMLARC Board of Directors