How one village drew four families together

They met the way neighbors usually do – over kids and dogs and evening walks – in a setting they couldn’t imagine any more perfect: Laguna Altura.

Soon they were celebrating nine children’s birthdays together and exchanging gifts among all 17 people at Christmas. Then there were car pools and barbecues and swim meets, even vacations, spent together.

“We’ve become one big family,” says Kelly Tran, an optometrist and mom of three.

She and her husband, Huy Nguyen, an interventional cardiologist, were among the first homebuyers when Laguna Altura opened in 2012.

They loved the Mediterranean homes nestled on a hillside that’s minutes to Laguna Beach and Irvine Spectrum Center. But they had no idea the village would also bring lifelong friends.

“What we have here is special,” says Ladan Macklin, vice president of sales for a leading technology company. “The parks and pool and landscaped walkways encourage us all to come outside and socialize.”

Connie Yang, left, and Kelly Tran in Laguna Altura.

The friends say they can’t imagine life with any other people – in any other place.

“It’s definitely the location,” says Lillian Malik, senior vice president of asset management for Shea Properties. “This village is designed for families. Everything is so close and so well-kept.”

They start talking about how safe their neighborhood is, which leads to how beautiful their hilltop views are, which leads to how their kids have grown up as lifelong friends.

“We moved here because of this,” says Connie Yang, whose home became babysitting-central once her daughter was old enough to watch the rest.

Leave it to 12-year-old Lily Nguyen to sum up the feelings of all eight adults, nine kids, five dogs and three tanks of fish that seem perpetually connected to each other in the hills of Irvine.

“All my favorite memories are here,” she says, “with them.”