Most cities would be thrilled with any of this year’s best moments in Irvine. They touch on every aspect of life – school, safety, jobs and open space. And they explain the results of a recent survey (see No. 5) in which 89% of Irvine residents rated their quality of life as either excellent or very good.
1. State’s Best Parks
Irvine opened two new community parks this year, both with lighted ballfields and beautiful community centers. Portola Springs Community Park and Los Olivos Community Park bring Irvine’s total to an amazing 268 parks, which have been named California’s best by The Trust for Public Land.
2. Wildflower Super Bloom
March dazzled us with a super bloom of wildflowers along trails winding through the Irvine foothills. At the Irvine Ranch Conservancy’s 12-acre Native Seed Farm, volunteers harvested wildflower seeds to replant throughout Irvine’s open space in the fall.
3. Beautiful Music
More than 650 Irvine Unified School District singers and musicians performed at the 37th annual Donald Bren Honors Concert at Segerstrom Concert Hall. The concert is named in recognition of Irvine Company and its Chairman Donald Bren’s 20-year, $45 million commitment to support art, music and science education at IUSD. Past performers have become professional musicians, professors, scientists and Supreme Court clerks.
4. Irvine Lake Reopens
Residents cheered to see Irvine Lake reopen in August. The 750-acre lake closed temporarily in 2016. But collaboration among public agencies, led by OC Supervisor (and former Irvine mayor) Don Wagner, brought back public access. The lake was created in 1931 and originally opened for recreational use in 1941.
5. ‘Unprecedented’ Quality of Life
That’s according to a survey conducted by a national research firm that showed 89% of residents rate the quality of life in Irvine as “excellent” or “very good,” and 88% view the Irvine Master Plan positively. The firm called Irvine’s high marks “unprecedented” in its years of surveying American cities. The survey was conducted Aug. 27-Sept. 3 on behalf of the Greater Irvine Chamber of Commerce.
6. Shopping Centers Get Even Better
Irvine’s renowned shopping experiences continually improve and this year was no exception, with major updates completed at Quail Hill Shopping Center, Alton Marketplace, Campus Plaza, Walnut Village Center, University Center and Cypress Village Shopping Center. These updates follow a recent $30 million reinvestment at Woodbridge Village Center and a $250 million reinvestment at Irvine Spectrum Center.
7. America’s Safest City
It’s easy to take for granted how safe it is in Irvine. For the 14th straight year, Irvine was ranked the safest big city in the U.S., according to FBI statistics. This data showed something more: Irvine is twice as safe as the No. 2 city. How did this happen? Police credit the city’s master-planned design, city leadership and you – engaged residents.
8. Study: Strong Home Values
New research showed that since 2005, Irvine new-home values more than tripled Orange County’s overall appreciation rate – 77% versus 22%. That analysis, by market-research firm Metrostudy, also showed that Irvine home values increase more in good times and drop less in challenging times compared with surrounding communities. More good news: 2019’s historically low interest rates have created major savings for new-home buyers.
9. UCI is No. 1
America’s No. 1 college isn’t Princeton or MIT. It’s our own UC Irvine, according to Money magazine’s annual list. It’s the first public university ever to take the crown. UCI’s men’s basketball team also made national news this year when it upset Kansas State in the NCAA tournament, its first such win in school history.
10. Attracting Top Jobs
The much-anticipated Spectrum Terrace workplace community opened this year, primed to meet the demands of Irvine’s growing tech sector. The glass-enclosed buildings near the 405 Freeway and Laguna Canyon Road quickly attracted the world headquarters of $6.2 billion data giant Alteryx. Its CEO, Dean Stoecker, told the Orange County Business Journal that the campus “gave us the opportunity to attract more talent.” Spectrum Terrace was designed by world-renowned architecture firm Pei Cobb Freed & Partners.