Irvine, California

Suburban Master Plan



Sunny Days: 280
45100 Affordability
100100 Schools
62100 Diversity
92100 Safety

Orange County is a place where you can ask people if that's their real hair color; you can ask them if that diamond is real; you can ask if that car is a lease. But you cannot ask if someone is a Democrat.
-US Rep: Katie Porter

The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

"Master planned community" which means either homogeneous and sterile or well controlled and predictable (depending on your view). The Irvine Master Plan envisioned a livable city of parks and open space connected by trails and bike paths. It’s practically owned by the Irvine Company, the home prices are very high, the homeowners associations are run by a lot of old people with too much time on their hands (it is said that In Irvine you can paint your house any color you like, as long as it's beige.)

They are known for their “Karens”' and busybody complainer neighbors. It’s ethnically diverse -- there are significant Asian, Indian, Persian populations, many of whom are international expats in the OC for several years and taking advantage of the good schools. However, it is not known as a place where these multi cultures really integrate. It is not economically diverse. You have to have/make some dough here.

The Best Thing About Irvine?


The ocean is 5-10 miles away with spectacularly beautiful beaches, decent surf within 30 minutes and diving harbors. Mountains are 90 minutes away. Really good skiing is a 6 hour drive. You can be in the desert in 90 minutes and LA or San Diego in 1.5-2 hours. San Francisco is a one hour, fairly cheap, flight away from John Wayne Airport and Las Vegas is a 4-5 hour drive or 45 minute flight. It's a nice and safe suburb with SoCal weather and access to all things SoCal. People get DisneyLand annual passes.

Here's a write-up from a local on Irvine:
It's nice, actually. It's safe as hell, it's within driving distance (and you WILL need a car in SoCal) of really great stuff all over the rest of OC (because not much happens past 10pm in Irvine), within about 20 minutes to the beach, and about 3 or 4 hours to the mountains. There's shopping, there's decent places to eat in Irvine itself, and a bunch of great places all across OC within driving distance. Google Fiber is coming in the next few years (maybe not soon enough for your 2-year project) and the local cable provider (Cox Communications) is installing gigabit internet fiber across the city soon, too.

The Worst Thing About Irvine?

Local Culture

There is not much "culture" in Irvine. The Irvine Spectrum is a big shopping /entertainment/dining center -- a gigantic mall. There’s a comedy theater, a huge movie theater, and lots of restaurants in the Spectrum and a few hotel rooftop bars nearby. Most people work in something called The Irvine Business Complex. (Are you getting the Master Plan yet? -- it’s called “The Irvinization.”) It is also said that “they” have programmed the traffic lights so that traffic moves at the slowest possible pace to enhance safety.

Chances are you won't be able to walk from your home to go out and do things - nothing is within walking distance of anything anywhere -- it’s considered pretty soulless. But, Laguna Beach is a short drive and Costa Mesa is right there.

If you are a bit aged and prefer a calmer, safer, and soothing city, then Irvine is for you. Be prepared to pay though. Irvine is fairly expensive compared with the surrounding area. There are more expensive areas (beach communities), but still, it takes a good wage to afford Irvine.

Review of Irvine from a local:
Irvine is great city for families. It is a "master planned community" which means either homogeneous and sterile or well controlled and predictable (depending on your view). If you are single or kid free, Irvine might be a very dull choice unless you like a quiet life and want to be close to work. It is not bad, it just is very little going on. There is a fairly large university in town, but even that area is sedate.

Lifestyle Of Irvine

If you are single or kid-free, Irvine might be a very dull choice, even suburbia hell. Unless you like a quiet life, there is very little going on. There is a large university in town, but even that area is sedate. If you’re into nightlife, look at Costa Mesa right next door. For families Irvine can be a dream come true. Modern homes, entire neighborhoods built around maximizing the family experience. Proximity to Orange County beaches spices up the master-planned community experience.

If you're interested in what the locals get up to in Irvine check out the calendar of events:

Worklife Of Irvine

Irvine is rated #1 for fiscal health among the 116 U.S. cities with a population over 200k. It is also the driver of a lot of the economy of broader Orange County. Basically if you work in a professional job in Orange County there’s a good chance it will be within the borders of Irvine. Much of the jobs here are tech/communications, life sciences and education. This is an extremely well-educated and professional city and it's as safe a place to move for a job as any city in California. Side note: consider your commute before you pick your neighborhood. Every “Welcome To” sign in California should have that caveat but we’ll just state that it is even more true in SoCal.

Why You Should Move Here Now?

Schools and Sunshine

The schools are excellent and it’s super safe, and bike-friendly if that’s your jam. It’s actually very green (meaning sustainable but also literally -- much of the grass is spray painted green as a drought measure.) And, it is Southern California -- the average temperature is 71 degrees.

Neighborhoods in Irvine

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Irvine Business Complex

Young Professionals

Irvine is not a thriving city for the youngsters so if living a walking distance from a really active social scene then try Costa Mesa. Assuming you want to be right next to work then look at the condo/apartment scene near the Irvine Business Complex. It’s boring but you don’t have to wrestle with a commute on the daily. Bella Terra is another option that adds a commute to most work options but you get shopping, malls and some local nightlife. It’s also driveable to downtown Huntington Beach which has much more of a scene.

  • Irvine Business Complex
  • Bella Terra



Northwood is a good neighborhood for a family to start their search. You get a nice blend of suburban Craftsman and Spanish Revival homes but also decent commercial experiences - restaurants, with some eclectic dining choices, and shopping at the big Town Center. The neighborhood also has some of the best elementary, middle and high schools in the city and amazing facilities for music training in the Conservatory, and classes, sports and general recreation at the Community Center.

A good alternative to check out is University Park. While it’s right next to UC-Irvine and Concordia University, it is not in the least a “college” neighborhood in terms of noise and bars, although you get the beautiful grounds bordering your blocks when you feel like walking through a nice campus. University Park also has some of the highest rated schools in the city and has three great parks and green spaces for hiking, biking, walking and playing with the kiddos when they aren’t learning at those great schools.

  • Northwood
  • University Park
  • Oak Creek

Laguna Woods


Irvine, like many California cities, is pricey for most retirees. If you can afford it then Irvine is a “pleasant” option - warm weather, extremely safe, and nice roomy homes. You’re also close to the rest of Orange County, San Diego and Los Angeles if you’re looking for more action. There are a number of large retirement communities just south of Irvine that are probably the best place to start your search if you prefer a planned community. Laguna Woods is a city entirely built around a retirement community and Casa Del Sol in Mission Viejo.

  • Laguna Woods
  • Casa Del Sol