Grading could begin as early as September on land for thousands of new homes as the long-awaited housing development gets underway.
After expressing appreciation for the patience of developers, the unanimously approved the project Tuesday evening.
"We feel like we're here at the cusp of a milestone," said Bob Yoder, division president of Shea Homes. "We're really trying to build something special for the city."
Seven neighborhood parks are planned for the community. One will contain a dog park, and another a rose garden. Three will have private recreation centers with swimming pools.
The development will also boast a 7.27-acre community park to be dedicated to the city for public use. Two more greenbelts will be "linear" parks with long trails for walking or running.
A maximum of 25,000 square feet may be used for non-residential development. No schools were in the plans approved Tuesday, Yoder said.
Instead, developers will pay fees to the Saddleback Valley Unified School District. The money will be used to improve already-existing campuses. Yoder said that SVUSD rejected a proposal to build an elementary school, citing declining enrollment.
Fewer units will be built at Shea Baker Ranch than were initially planned; the maximum is now 2,379 units, down from 2,800, Yoder said during the meeting.
Shea Baker Ranch will be built in two phases. The current timeline for the project has the first phase opening in the spring of 2014, with models available for viewing in late 2013.
City commissioners on April 12 also , which will fill an 387-acre swath of the city with homes.
Shea Baker Ranch is one of five properties working through the development process as part of Lake Forest's Opportunities Study. To encourage residential construction, the City Council used the plan to rezone a massive swath of land that formerly comprised the El Toro Marine Corps base flight path.
The land is bounded generally on the north by the 241 toll road, Bake Parkway to the southeast, Commercentre Drive to the south and the Borrego Canyon Wash to the west.
As part of the Shea Baker Ranch project, a bypass channel will be constructed parallel to the Borrego Canyon Wash to deter further erosion from upstream runoff.