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Irvine: A Planned Suburban Community

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Irvine is a planned, suburban city, a commercial hub for Orange County and home to UC Irvine, voted one of best college in the nation. Irvine is seemingly devoid of any real character with cookie-cutter perfect planning, but it was this careful planning combined with a low crime-rate that has created a business friendly environment, and won the city the title of safest city in America and one of the best places to live.

Lay of the Land

The city of Irvine spans approximately 66 square miles, bordered by Newport Beach to the south, Santa Ana and Tustin to the west, and Laguna and Lake Forrest to the east. The northern border of Irvine extends into the Santiago Canyon and other still developing land areas in what is considered the Eastern Transportation Corridor.

Getting Around Town

Bicycling: While Irvine is typical of Orange County in that it is definitely a car town, the city was also rated a bike friendly city for its extensive bikeways infrastructure and other programs to support and encourage bicycle commuting. Some might be wary of bicycling around Irvine, however, the flat topography and grid-like roadways make commuting by bike locally a viable alternative to driving.

Orange County Transportation Authority: Of course, the Orange County Transportation Authority, provides an accessible transportation option as well, particularly for those commuting to work from surrounding cities. There are many routes servicing UC and other commercial districts. Important routes include 59, 70, 76, 86, 175, 178, 179, 213 and 473.

Housing and Real Estate

The design and development of Irvine can be credited largely to The Irvine Company, which maintains developmental control over most of the city. The city is divided into villages, all with similar layout and architectural design. Many of these villages are also governed by housing associations that exercise a certain level control over home appearances, sometimes including landscaping, roofing and paint color.

Irvine is not exactly the most affordable in terms of housing. Nearly 60 percent of the occupied residential properties are owned, single-family dwellings. Rental units are available, and often come with resort-standard amenities, but for a hefty price tag. For college students looking for affordable housing, the Newport-Mesa area provides a proximate option. Depending on income level, young corporate up-and-comers may be able to afford rental housing in Irvine, but looking to surrounding areas for a better deal and a more lively nightlife is advisable.

Median condo or house value: $559,000
Median Rent: $1,760

Schools

Irvine Unified School District has a history of high academic performance, with eight elementary schools achieving California Distinguished status and the highest graduation rate in both Orange County and Southern California. Students living in the northwestern part of the city attend schools in the Tustin Unified School District, which also has a record of academic excellence and three California Distinguished elementary schools.

There are several local colleges in Irvine, including University of California, Irvine, one of the nations top-rated universities, particularly for its excellent research institutions, as well as its "highly regarded" business and engineering graduate programs. In 2002, CSU Fullerton, also a top-rated California University, opened an Irvine campus to serve south Orange County. Irvine Valley College is an affordable community college option, with an offering of 61 associates degrees and other vocational certificates. All of these colleges have great proximity to the beach and encourage bicycle commuting.

Shopping, Dining & Nightlife

There isn't a whole lot of shopping to speak of in Irvine, beyond the every day aminities. However, the Irvine Spectrum is considered one of O.C.'s best shopping centers. At the Diamond Jamboree Shopping Center, on Alton Parkway and Jamboree Rd., is where you'll find a variety of Asian cuisine, including HMart Asian Supermarket and the delicious patisserie, 85°. Other shopping centers include Irvine Village Shopping Center at Jamboree Rd. and Irvine Center Dr., Culver Plaza on Culver and Irvine Center Dr., The District on Barranca Parkway and Jamboree, Rd. and The Market Place on Jamboree north of the I-5 freeway.

Almost every shopping center in Irvine provides a variety of eateries. There are a few happy hours catering to young professionals as well as the collegiate crowd. Popular happy hours include Houston's on Michelson Dr., Bistango on Von Karman Ave., McCormick & Scmick's on Main St., as well as RA Shushi and Sharky's at the District. However, Irvine lives up to it's reputation as a sleepy suburb with no nightlife to speak of after 9:00 p.m.

Green Space

Irvine has 18 community parks, 37 small neighborhood parks and some 5,200-acres of open preservation area. Among the community parks is the O.C. Great Park which features a community farm, a helium balloon and lots of other fun activities for the family to enjoy. There are also approximately 44-miles of on- and off-road bikeways.

By the Numbers

Population: 221,375
Median Age: 33
Median Income: $84, 950

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