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Discovering Irvine

December 1st, 2014 · No Comments · Long Beach, tourism, Travel

For most of my time in Southern California, Irvine was a place you drove through on the way from Long Beach to San Diego.

When I was young, we knew Irvine as a lake, not a city. Where the eighth-graders got to spend a day skylarking. To us, it was deep in the country, somewhere in Orange County. Off the map. The population was about 10,000. It was bucolic.

Irvine today is a big deal. The city, not the lake. And we spent a big chunk of the day in it, and were impressed by upscale, planned-community living, with lots of dining and social amenities.

My sister lives in Irvine, having bought early in the latest of the city’s planned communities. She was offered inducements to be one of the first in her development, near the 405 freeway, but the rent is going up. As appears to be the case for much of the city.

Irvine now has something like 240,000 people, making it one of the biggest cities in Orange County — if not the biggest. It has an ethnically diverse population. It is home to a University of California campus known for work done in the sciences (and for being one of the best schools in the country) — as well as for the mascot of the school’s sports teams: the Anteater.

The city is relentlessly tidy. Orderly. And no one is far from a major shopping or entertainment outlet.

We went to the Irvine Spectrum for dinner, appreciated the Ferris wheel (all cars named after Spanish cities) and the skating rink, then walked about the sprawling outdoors shopping areas. Everything seemed new, clean. Everyone seemed prosperous.

Lots of foreign visitors there, too, particularly Chinese, who reports seem to suggest have been buying real estate in the city, and Arabs from the Gulf, who seem to like to visit and go to school there. Saudis, in particular, I am told.

Irvine ranks high in all sorts of positive metrics, according to its wiki entry.

–It tends to rank in the top 10 cities in the U.S. in which to live.

–Irvine consistently ranks as the safest city in the country with a population over 100,000. We are told that any police stop tends to result in 2-3 cruiser units showing up — because police there have so little to do.

–This year, Irvine was named the “best-run city in the U.S.” by the publication 24/7 Wall Street.

Some people who actually live in Irvine find the city’s master plan to be a bit suffocating. This is not a place where Bohemians or hipsters would feel comfortable. The Irvine Company, which oversees all development, is not described as a beneficent entity.

But as a place to do business, or raise a family with little concern for crime, with good schools and great weather, as a place to visit … Irvine is a place to consider. Provided you can afford all that good stuff.


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