Irvine, California

Suburban Master Plan

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What's it like to live in Irvine?

Living in Irvine, Yay or Nay?

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 reasons not to live here are that it's boring, it's practically owned by the Irvine Corporation which raises rents on good restaurants and stores and forces them out, the home prices are very high, the homeowners associations are the only legal gangs in the city (hyperbole, but never underestimate the spite-filled overly righteous board member senior citizens with too much time on their hands, walking around and tallying up infractions while everyone else is at work/school).

That said, I think it's a great little city, and the good outweighs the bad in my opinion.

What advice would you give to someone who is moving to Irvine, CA?
Profile photo for John Quaid
John Quaid
, lives in Laguna Beach
Updated Jul 13, 2017
The best piece of advice I could give you is to do your homework and make sure Irvine is right for you and your family. I moved here 6 years ago because I travel for work and the FBI rated it as the safest city in America! So for me it has been perfect, as my son has been riding his bicycle back-and-forth to school since fourth grade, and I have never once worried about his safety.

But what I was not expecting is that it is also known as a home for international ex-pats, most of whom are only here for 3 to 5 years. Even though you are living in California, you will experience 3 to 4 different languages being spoken in public places.

Growing up in Asia, I thought this would be fun. Unfortunately the culture clashes here are rather huge. People do not smile at each other in public, and even something as simple as walking into a Starbucks has a completely different vibe then in one a few miles down the street in Newport or Lake Forest, as people do not make eye contact or even look up from their computers or iPhones.

Our home costs $1.6 million. Nothing special, it's just an average house on our street, but most of California is this way… but what surprises me is after living here six years, we only know two of our six neighbors on our street. My neighbors all come home by going directly into their garage and close the door before getting out of their cars. It's not that they are rude or unfriendly, they just are not friendly. Smiling back at strangers Is just not in the daily habits of people in Irvine.

What advice would you give to someone who is moving to Irvine, CA?

I’ve lived in Woodbridge Village, Irvine for 38 years and have absolutely no regrets. If you find that your neighbors are not friendly, make an effort to get to know them better. We’ve been hosting the annual Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day block parties for over 30 years. There will always be people who don’t attend but we still have stopped to chat with them when we see them in their front yards.

Each Irvine Village has a look and feel about it. Woodbridge is very family oriented with two lakes, two lagoons (chlorinated), 20 tennis courts, many neighborhood pools, miles of bike lanes and running trails. We raised two kids here and we felt safe letting them explore the area and play on the street (we live on a cul-de-sac).

The schools are highly rated which attracts people from around the world.

If you’re a nature lover and photographer like me, you would love it. You are surrounded by miles of outdoor space to hike, ride a horse or mountain bike. I am a volunteer with the Irvine Ranch Conservancy (Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks) which offers many activities and ways to give back to the land. You can easily hike the mountains and catch an awesome sunset at the beach in the same day.

Do some research on the ‘personality’ of each village. Come visit and have someone show you around.

Living in Irvine, Yay or Nay?

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). Many people choose Irvine for the public schools and consequently the public education is very good with a lot of community involvement and support.

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. Costa Mesa, Newport Beach (if you can afford it) and Huntington Beach are often recommended areas for younger or single people.

Irvine is fairly expensive compared with the surrounding area. There are more expensive areas (beach communities), but it takes a good wage to afford Irvine.

Irvine is culturally diverse compared to most of Southern California, but it is not very economically diverse. By and large, Southern California tends to be white American's with dense pockets of a single group here or there. Irvine has a mix of cultures I have not seen in other areas. At the same time there is not much "culture" in Irvine: no museums, no music to speak of, no theater.

It is relatively close to most of what Southern California has to offer:

Ocean - 5-10 miles, spectacularly beautiful beaches, decent surf within 30 minutes, diving, harbors.

Mountains - 90 minutes, passable skiing, lakes, forests. Really good skiing is a 6 hour drive.

Desert - 90 minutes, not for me, but some people like it

LA - 1-2 hours depending on traffic

San Diego - 1.5-2 hours

San Francisco - 6-7 hour drive, 1 hour fairly cheap flight

Las Vegas - 4-5 hour drive, 45 minute flight

I liked raising my kids here, but as they prepare to leave for college, I'm ready for a change.

What’s it like living in Irvine, CA? | Moving to Orange County