While many of California’s cities grew by accident of geography, agriculture, or transportation, Irvine was a planned city from the beginning. The Gabrielino Indians were early settlers in the entire region, and Orange County was divided into large ranchos owned by several families, including the Irvines.
James Irvine bought out his partners in 1878, creating the Irvine Ranch, which stretched from the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Ana River. Eventually, The Irvine Company sold parcels to the U.S. government and, later, to the University of California, and in 1970 began the process of transforming the undeveloped land around the new UCI campus into a master-planned community. Agriculture took a back seat to residential and commercial development, while thousands of acres of permanent open space was built into the original design.
Incorporated in 1971, Irvine now has a population over 250,000 who live in attractive townships called villages, each served by nearby stores, schools, and places of worship. The schools are exceptionally well regarded and the area has attracted many companies requiring a skilled workforce. Since 2008, Irvine has appeared numerous times in the top ten, or even the top fi ve best places to live, safest cities, top cities for start-ups, fastest growing job markets, and best-run cities, in rankings by CNNMoney.com, Business Week, The Wall Street Journal, and other publications. With its film-friendly economics and policies, Irvine is also a popular location for cinematic projects.
Along with the University of California, Irvine is home to campuses of more than a dozen other colleges and universities. It is a city known for its arts—music, theatre, visual art, dance—and its many parks, including The Orange County Great Park, still under construction, which will eventually be twice the size of New York City’s Central Park. Built on the site of the former Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, the Great Park will span some 1,300 acres of sports, preserved parkland, historic exhibits, classes, and family-friendly activities and rides.