Irvine is an established planned community in Orange County, CA, that offers a variety of lovely home styles and types, and terrific employment opportunities, especially at the prestigious University of California at Irvine. Families choose Irvine for its highly rated schools; safe neighborhoods; a wide variety of quality amenities; and beautiful greenways, parks, and public spaces. Young professionals, families, and seniors enjoy festivals and special events that are held year-round in Irvine’s ideal mild climate.
Rated A+ for Amenities, Safety, Schools, and Weather by areavibes.com, Irvine has earned an overall Livability Rating of 82/100. The rating would be higher if the city’s cost of living, driven by ultra-expensive housing, weren’t so high. Irvine’s economy is robust, the job market is strong, and residents enjoy one of the highest median incomes in the country.
Another reason folks love Irvine is because of its proximity to beautiful Pacific coast beaches that are just half an hour’s drive west, top-tier shopping at South Coast Plaza and Irvine Spectrum Center, or the convenience of John Wayne Airport on the city’s northwest border. Access to weekend destinations is easy — In a few hours, you can be camping and exploring in Joshua Tree, Anza Borrego, or sitting by the pool in Palm Springs. Just a few hours south you’re in San Diego or Baja California, Mexico. You’re on the path to a terrific lifestyle if you choose to live in Irvine.
Living in Irvine, CA: What to Know Before Moving to Irvine
Thoughtfully planned out in a ‘villages’ concept during the 1960s, the City of Irvine was originally part of The Irvine Company, a 110,000-acre cattle, olive, and citrus ranch. With a population of 282,572 residents, Irvine covers about 66 square miles and has a density of over 4000 people per square mile. Each of the 24 villages is unified by homes, apartments, condos, and commercial buildings of a similar architectural theme. Schools, churches, entertainment venues, parks, greenways, and commercial centers are integral to each village. Because of UC Irvine, the city has evolved into a distinguished higher education center and headquarters for large tech and semiconductor industries.
Pros and Cons
All cities have their ups and downs. Here are some pros and cons for you to consider before you move to Irvine:
- Weather — Mild year-round weather with low humidity
- Economy — A strong economy means a healthy paycheck
- Top-rated education — Highly rated K-12 public schools and the top-notch University of CA at Irvine
- Safety — A+ ratings by areavibes.com. Irvine rates as one of the safest cities in the nation
- High housing costs — median home value is $861,600
- Cost of living — Irvine is 79% more expensive than the US average
- One season — Some residents would like to see more rain, more seasonal weather
- Car-dependent — You’ll probably be able to walk and bike for errands and commuting in your village. However, you’ll likely need your car to access other villages plus So Cal regions not served by MetroLink.
Economy and the Job Market
Approximately 124,000 people out of the 282,572 residents have employment in Irvine. The industries employing the most people are: Professional, Scientific, & Technical Services employing 20,215 people; Manufacturing with 16,428 employees; Educational Services employing 14,635; The highest paying industries are Utilities $123,359, Manufacturing $87,405, and Finance and Insurance $87,093. Surprisingly, for such an affluent community, 13% of residents live below the poverty line, slightly below the national average of 13.4%.
Employment grew 3.58% between 2016 and 2017. The most popular job sectors are Management with 20,303 people employed; Sales and Related Occupations 14,137; Business and Financial Operations 12,237; Office and Administrative Support with just under 11,000; and Computer and Mathematical Occupations, also employing just under 11,000 people. The highest paid jobs (not industries) are: Law Enforcement Workers, earning on average $147,524; Architects and Engineers $102,709, Legal Occupations $101,849, Health Diagnosing and Treatment Practitioners $98,550; and Computer and Mathematical Occupations $97,490.
Based on company financial health, salaries, and employee diversity, zippia.com names these employers some of the best to work for in Irvine: Edwards Lifesciences, CoreLogic, Ingram Micro, Endologix, and Advantage Solutions.
- Income tax: California has a graduated income tax rate system. Nine income brackets are taxed based on specific rates. For example, married/registered domestic partners and singles who file separately pay 9.3% on taxable income between $56,086 and $286,492. Check out the rates and brackets for your potential income. Income earners of $1 million or more pay a 1% mental health tax surcharge. For heads of households or married people who file a joint return, the rates remain the same, but the income brackets double.
- Property tax: Irvine property taxes depend on Orange County’s rates. Your Irvine property will be taxed at 0.715%. The average annual tax on an Irvine home with an assessed value of $500,000 home will be $3,575. The nation’s average property tax rate is 1.211%, which means the property tax on the same $500,000 home would be $6,055.
- Sales tax: Irvine’s sales tax rate is 7.75%, a combined rate of 6% California sales tax, 0.25% Orange County sales tax, 0% Irvine sales tax, and 1.5% special sales tax.
- Other taxes: Some Irvine villages levy a homeowners association fee, and some are subject to a Mello-Roos special tax. These taxes can add significantly to the cost of living depending on which neighborhood you choose. Be sure to check with your realtor about added assessments or fees.
The median home value is $861,600, with a 0.6% value increase over the past year. Zillow forecasts housing prices will drop 0.3% between May 2019 and May 2020 so now may be a good time to buy. Housing types range from homes on large lots to newly built attached two bedroom homes with decks, large walk-in closets, and elevators. Approximately 4.5% of homes were built when the community planners laid out the city in the 1960s. Another 56% of homes were built between 1970 and 1999, and 39% of homes were built in 2000, or more recently. About 60% of the homes are two and three bedrooms.
Over half, or 53%, of Irvine residents, rent despite the competitive rental market A sampling of Irvine apartments showing prices and photos is available to review on walkscore.com. The median rent price is $3,482 — $282 higher than the LA-Long Beach-Anaheim Metro area. Some recently built high-end apartments with luxurious lobbies, rooftop pools, and in-house gyms make Irvine rental living pretty cushy.
Cost of Living
Compared to the US cost of living index of 100, Irvine’s cost of living index is over twice that at 211.5. The Housing cost index is 456; Health cost index is 89, Groceries 100, Utilities 98, and Transportation 120. It’s easy to see that housing will be your major expense, and you’ll need a healthy paycheck to cover home ownership or rental expenses. Irvine residents’ median income is $95,573.
The family budget calculator reports that an Irvine family of four, with two working adults and two children, will pay $1,876 for housing, $845 for food, $1,331 for child care, $1,277 for transportation, $890 for health care, $1,282 for taxes, and $1,098 for other necessities totaling $8,598 monthly, or $103,174 per year.
Weather and Natural Disasters
Even though a few locals complain of little seasonal variation and not enough rainfall, after you move to Irvine, you’ll be able to understand why most residents love the Mediterranean climate. You’ll be able to enjoy Irvine activities year-round in the mild and sunny climate. Expect the highest summer temperatures to be in the low 80 degrees Fahrenheit range with low humidity and overnight lows in the 60s. Winter day highs will be in the mid-60s and rarely dip below the mid-40s at night.
Irvine gets less than 14 inches of annual rainfall compared to the US average of 38 inches. Most of the rain falls between late November and early March, with January and February getting the majority. On average, you’ll only need your umbrella 36 days of the year. In the late spring, summer, and fall, hillsides surrounding Irvine will be golden brown. Snow isn’t something Irvinites ever see, except on distant mountain peaks for a month or so during the winter.
Irvine isn’t immune from the natural disasters that can threaten any Californian community. The state dealt with its most recent drought for seven long years, from 2011 through winter 2018. Over the past few years, the Golden State has been subject to severe wildfires that threaten and destroy communities. During the early fall, hot, extremely dry, strong Santa Ana winds can stir up wildfires. Earthquakes are another concern throughout California. Every Irvine resident should have a well-stocked family and pet emergency kit ready to go in case of evacuation. You can download the City of Irvine Emergency Management Plan on their emergency preparedness website. Be sure to check it out.
Traffic and Transportation
Irvine is easily accessible from the LA or San Diego areas by two major freeways. Interstate 405 runs north-south on the west side of Irvine, and Interstate 5 runs north-south bisecting the middle of the city. California state route 73 runs along the far western border, and Jamboree Rd creates the northern border. Californians refer to their freeways using ‘the’ before the freeway or highway number: “It was a breeze to drive the 405 this morning.”
The villages within Irvine are accessible to one another via landscaped six-lane streets. As the city developed, planners integrated a unique system of traffic flow enhancement. Ground sensors and traffic cameras monitor traffic flow through the city to adjust signal timing and allow motorists to avoid red lights whenever possible. So, although you may face gridlock on the freeways during rush hour or accidents, traffic will usually be flowing smoothly in Irvine.
Irvine’s overall Walk Score is 44, Transit Score is 27, and Bike Score is 66, designating Irvine a ‘car-dependent’ city. The overall Walk Score depends on how you’d get around Irvine’s 66 square miles on foot. But many of the villages are more walkable than the overall score indicates because they have their own shopping centers and parks. For example, the Westpark village Walk Score is 56, and Bike Score is 79. The most walkable villages are the University Town Center, Irvine Center, and Irvine Business Complex.
Two forms of public transportation will be available when you prefer to leave your car at home. If you’re headed farther afield to LA, Riverside, San Bernardino, or San Diego areas, you can jump on a train at MetroLink’s Irvine station. Within Irvine, you can commute to work or run errands using Irvine’s bus system, aptly named the iShuttle. Buses conveniently transport Irvine residents to major employers, residential areas, shopping centers, and other key locations four times a day each weekday.
John Wayne Airport (SNA) is conveniently located in the northwestern corner of Irvine and offers many regional flights per day within California and other parts of the country. For flights that SNA doesn’t offer, head 42 miles northwest of Irvine to Los Angeles International Airport (LAX). Plan on about a 55-minute drive on the 405 to or from LAX unless freeway traffic is particularly bad.
Things to Do
Now and then you’ll probably want to head over to the beach or maybe go to LA to watch a Lakers game, but Irvine offers so much to do for culture lovers, outdoor enthusiasts, and sports fans, that you won’t need to leave the city to stay busy in your free time.
Irvine developers were dedicated to providing residents with a balance of nature amid the urban/suburban villages. The city is known for its well-planned parks, greenbelts, 5,250 acres of preserved open spaces, and interconnected bike network. Within Irvine, you’ll find trails, 20 community parks, over 40 neighborhood parks, three senior fitness centers, and athletic fields.
- Irvine owns and operates the 1,300-acre Orange County Great Park where you’ll find an amphitheater, lake, 19 soccer fields, 25 tennis courts, basketball and volleyball courts, ten baseball diamonds, and hiking trail access.
- Loved by mountain bikers, hikers, and equestrians, Whiting Ranch Wilderness Park has 23 trails among amazing rock formations.
- Stroll the 12.5-acre University of California at Irvine Arboretum
- Hike Bommer Canyon’s beautiful trails and canyons amid magnificent oak and sycamore groves
- Explore the San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary’s plants and animals and learn about water conservation and environmental protection at the interpretive center
- Pedal the more than 50 miles of off-road bike trails and 300 miles of on-road bike lane trails
- Visit Tanaka Farms to pick organic melons, pumpkins, and strawberries
- Irvine Farmers Market
Festivals and Fun:
- Diamond Jamboree International Food Festival
- Annual Irvine Korean Cultural Festival
- Irvine Global Village Festival, the largest multicultural festival in Orange County, held every October
- Irvine Spectrum Center’s 108 foot tall Giant Wheel in south Irvine
- Spectrums’ ice skating rink
- Great Park Balloon can take you up to 400 feet for spectacular views of Irvine and surroundings
Museums and Memorials:
- Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial, venerating fallen service members of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars
- Irvine Barclay Theater for world music, chamber music, contemporary dance, live theater, and family events
- FivePoint Amphitheatre to hear Grammy award-winning artists
- UCI Claire Trevor School of the Arts for art, dance, drama, music, galleries, lectures, and classes
- Irvine Museum, dedicated to the display and conservation of California Impressionist paintings
- Pretend City Children’s Museum
- Irvine Fine Arts Center to see original works and meet the artists
- Irvine Ranch Historic Park to learn the area’s history and how the city developed
- Orange County Soccer Club
- Tee-up at one or more of Irvine’s four courses. There are ten more courses in adjacent cities
- University of California Anteaters compete in 18 various Division 1 Intercollegiate sports
A little farther afield:
- Crystal Cove State Park tide pools, coves, 3.2 miles of sandy beaches in 2,400 acres
- Joshua Tree National Park for camping, geological marvels, and primo desert exploring
- Anza Borrego Desert State Park for camping, more primo desert exploring, and hip Borrego Spring town
- Los Angeles for just about anything you can imagine
- Disneyland, just 15 miles north, for family fun at the ‘Happiest Place on Earth’
Schools and Universities
Your children will receive a top-notch education in Irvine. Established in 1972, the Irvine Unified School District (IUSD) now serves over 34,000 K-12 students through its 22 elementary schools, six middle schools, and six high schools. Half of the elementary schools receive 9 and 10 out of 10 ratings from greatschools.org. The middle and high schools are rated 9 and 10 out of 10, except for San Joaquin Alternative Education High School which was rated 6/10. Graduation rates are some of the highest in the country.
Post-secondary education opportunities in Irvine are outstanding. Premier among them is The University of California, Irvine (UCI), a prestigious public research university. Other higher education options are available at Concordia University, California Southern University, and Irvine Valley College, the Orange County Center of the University of Southern California (USC), Brandman University, and satellite campuses of California State University Fullerton (CSUF), University of La Verne, and Pepperdine University. Tustin Unified School District serves a small section of northern Irvine.
Crime is a minor issue in Irvine. For several years, Irvine has been considered one of the nation’s safest cities. Sperlings bestplaces.net assigns Irvine a violent crime rating of 8.9 compared to 22.7 for the US average. Property crime is 22.6 compared to the 35.4 US average. You can check out the neighborhoodscout.com map for detail of crime levels in various Irvine neighborhoods. According to this map, crime is highest near the John Wayne Airport and a few other small pockets of the city.
Be sure to set up your utility accounts as soon as you know your specific Irvine address; arrange to have services turned on and ready to go before moving day.
- Electricity: Southern California Edison (SCE) is the electricity provider for Irvine residents. Call 1-800-655-4555 or set up your service online. They’ll require a social security number and drivers’ license to establish your new account.
- Gas: Southern California Gas Company provides gas to Irvine homes and businesses. Call them at 1-800-427-2200, or you can also set up or transfer your service online.
- Water and sewer: Irvine Ranch Water District requires at least one business day to set up service. They provide household water service, plus free water conservation devices, landscape workshops, and water awareness tours. Call 949-453-5300 or click on the setup service link above.
- Waste Management: Waste Management of Orange County provides trash and recycling for Irvine residents. Customers are billed quarterly in advance. Trash and recycling are picked up once per week. Learn more about their services on their website, then call 949-642-1191 to set up your service.
- Phone, Internet, and Cable: Many Orange County, CA cell phone, internet, and cable service providers will vie for your business. To find the service best for your specific needs, all you have to do is enter your new Irvine zip code, then compare pricing and plans. For cell phone service in Irvine, go to wirefly.com to review various companies’ plans. Enter your new zip code to find available cable providers. To find internet providers, you can also enter your zip code to see which companies service Irvine.
Best Neighborhoods in Irvine, CA
When deciding on the best village that will provide the quality of lifestyle you’re looking for, you’ll want to know about home values, schools, crime, shopping, and more. The schools listed below show greatschools.org ratings. Each of the following eight villages has received A+ for their Amenities, Safety, Schools, and Weather from areavibes.com. As you investigate various Irvine neighborhoods, notice how most villages feature a distinct architectural style, and many even have a shopping center within walking distance of your new home.
Jamboree Rd at the north, ‘The 5’ at the east, Culver Drive on the south, and Springer Ave on the western border define Walnut Village’s borders.
The convenient Walnut Village Center provides just about anything you could need from banks, bakeries, restaurants, gas stations, dentists, a pharmacy, cleaners, and even a Trader Joes. Homes are Prairie Style, and 63% of residents own their homes. Apartments, condos, and townhomes round out the housing options. Tree-lined streets and several parks add to the green Harvard Community and Windwood Parks.
- Population: 9,197
- Median home value: $640,100
- Median rent price: $2,392
- Cost of Living: 74% more expensive than the US average
- Median household income: $99,164
- High school graduation rate: 95%. 14% higher than the US average
- Schools: College Park Elementary School 8/10, Venado Middle School 8/10, Irvine High School 9/10
One of Irvine’s more urban neighborhoods, WestPark is located between the John Wayne Airport and Irvine’s business/industrial area. Boundaries are Culver Dr on the southeast, ‘The 405’ on the southwest, Peters Canyon Creek on the northwest, and Barranca Pkwy on the northeast.
The village, built in the 1980s and 90s, was planned with curving, attractively landscaped streets, and large California-style stucco homes that unify the area but are still individual and attractive. WestPark is lush with five parks that the city keeps green with reclaimed water.
The WestPark Walk Score is 56, and its Bike Score is 79. You can easily access the village’s commercial center if you want to leave your car in the garage. WestPark Plaza has cafes, banks, markets, restaurants such as Cafe Rio Mexican Grill and Luna Grill, and a community center. Residents tend toward liberal politics, and 40% own their homes.
- Population: 23,037
- Median home value: $597,469
- Median rent price: $2,327
- Cost of living: 68% higher than the US average
- Crime: 61% lower than California average
- Median household income: $108,066
- High school graduation rate: 16%. 96% higher than the US average
- Schools: Plaza Vista School 8/10, Westpark Elementary year-round school 9/10, South Lake Middle School 8/10, Woodbridge High School 10/10
Named after an iconic turtle sculpture created in Turtle Rock Community Park, Turtle Rock abutts University Drive and Mason Regional Park on the north, Culver Drive on the west, Shady Canyon Drive on the south, and Strawberry Farms Golf Club and Ridgeline Drive to the east.
One of the five original villages founded in 1967, Turtle Rock is in the southern part of Irvine directly east of the UC Irvine campus. Concordia University sits at the village’s northern edge. Over 74% of residents own their homes, which come in a variety of styles that include townhomes, condos, and apartments. Established trees and landscaping line the graceful curving streets and open spaces.
Outdoor enthusiasts and nature lovers relish their Turtle Rock lifestyle. They not only have access to Chaparral Park and Ralph C Bren Memorial Park, but to the trailhead of Bommer Canyon Natural Trail at the southernmost section of the neighborhood, and the five-acre Turtle Rock Nature Center.
- Population: 10,223
- Median home value: $1,168,567
- Median rent: $1,921
- Cost of living: 129% higher than the US average
- Crime: 72% lower than California average
- Median household income: $134,619
- High school graduation rate: 98%
- Schools: Turtle Rock Elementary School 10/10, Rancho San Joaquin Middle School 9/10, University High School 10/10
The village borders are Jeffery Rd on the northwest, Barranca Parkway on the southwest, San Canyon Avenue on the southeast, and ‘The 5’ freeway on the east and northeast. Here, 52% of residents own their homes, which feature a mix of styles. You’ll be able to choose from a variety of housing, from apartments, condos, townhomes, or houses.
Oak Creek is another example of a village you probably wouldn’t try to walk to from other Irvine villages. But you can certainly walk and bike inside the village, especially to the Oak Creek Shopping Center with its several banks, Gelson’s Market, coffee shops, cafes, Maizuru Sushi Bar, Jimboy’s Tacos, and I Can BBQ Korean Grill. Once you’ve had your fill of ethnic food, head over to work it off at Orangetheory Fitness. In addition to Irvine Valley College, Oak Creek is home to Oak Creek Golf Club and Driving Range, and Oak Creek Community Park.
- Population: 11.939
- Median home value: $610,700
- Median rent: $2,299
- Cost of living: 23% higher than California average
- Crime: 75% lower than California average
- Median household income: $106,515
- Schools: Eastshore Elementary School 8/10, Lakeside Middle School 10/10, Woodbridge High School 10/10
The Irvine Company started building out Woodbridge in 1975, and most homes were completed in an Atlantic Coast style by the mid-1990s. In 2013, builders finished constructing 48 new homes named The Branches. In Woodbridge, 57% of residents own their homes. Located in the middle of Irvine, two lakes bisect Woodbridge into North Lake and South Lake. A wide strip of beautifully maintained landscaping among commercial and retail buildings divides the lakes. It’s easy to walk or bike to the retail strip from many homes in the village.
Woodbridge covers about four square miles and is one of the larger Irvine neighborhoods. Its boundaries are created by ‘The 405’ on the southwest, Culver Drive on the northwest, Irvine Center Drive on the northeast, and Jeffrey Rd on the southeast.
The village maintains a lush green ambiance due to Mike Ward Community Park, Ashwood Park, Arrowhead Park, and Windrow Community Park. Plus, the HOA maintains landscaped areas in utility right of ways making the entire village appear green and attractive. Do you love to swim? This village has two beach lagoons, 22 pools, 16 spas, and 13 wading pools.
- Population: 25,315
- Median home value: $633,965
- Median rent price: $1,927
- Cost of living: 69% higher than California average
- Crime: 73% lower than California average
- Median household income: $100,560, 82% higher than the US average
- High school graduation rate: 95%. 15% higher than the US average
- Schools: Eastshore Elementary 8/10, Lakeside Middle School 10/10, and Woodbridge High School 10/10
As its name implies, Northwood Pointe is in the northern section of Irvine, close to the city of Tustin. Its boundaries are Irvine Blvd at the west, Culver Drive on the north, Portola Parkway on the east and Jeffrey Road on the south. Homes were built in Bungalow and Craftsman styles starting in the 1990s, and 85% of residents own their homes.
The village is known for its majestic eucalyptus windrows which were planted back when farmers worked the land here. Some of the lots are large and have lovely views of the Santa Ana Mountains to the east. Residents love the quality of life in Northwood Pointe with its highly rated schools, low crime rate, beautiful green spaces such as Citrusglen and Meadowood Parks, plus restaurants, and cafes.
- Population: 8,913
- Median home value: $1,030,700
- Median rent price: $1,392
- Cost of living: 106% higher than the US average
- Crime: 64% lower than California average
- Median household income: $167,331, 202% higher than the US average
- High school graduation rate: 16% higher than the US average
- Schools: Canyon View Elementary School 9/10, Sierra Vista Middle School 9/10, Northwood High School 9/10
Between Woodbridge Village and Turtle Rock Village, University Park is bordered on the north by ‘The 405’, Culver Drive on the west, and University Drive on the south and east. Within the village, winding, curving streets and greenbelts connect Adventure Playground, Vista Bonita Park, Anteater Recreation Center, Aldrich Park, and Bren Events Center with commercial shopping spots.
The village started development under a master plan in the mid-1960s, building a variety of home sizes and types to meet the diverse demographic that would be attracted to the UCI campus. 62% of University Park residents own their homes. Cyclists and pedestrians can navigate through University Park’s green spaces to all amenities on an extensive network of pathways without having to share roads with cars.
- Population: 8,436
- Median home value: $582,867
- Median rent price: $1,997
- Cost of living: 64% more expensive than the US average
- Crime: 75% lower than CA average
- Median household income: $101,097
- Graduation rate: 96%, 20% higher than California average
- Schools: University Park Elementary School 7/10, Rancho San Joaquin Middle School 9/10, University High School 10/10
UC Irvine Campus Village
We included this village for folks who are considering UC Irvine for employment or higher education. You’ll find extensive student housing options in UC Irvine Campus Village, where just 26% of residents own their homes. But there are also purchasing options for university employees. With housing costs accounting for Irvine’s sky-high cost of living, Campus Village is a super solution when trying to keep your housing costs under control. Various sizes and types of student housing are available, from undergraduate options to graduate family housing. Full-time university employees are often interested in buying an affordable home. The Irvine Campus Housing Authority manages the sale, rent, and sublease of homes on campus and reports that usually 25 to 35 resale homes come on the market annually.
- Population: 14,912
- Median home value: $266,700
- Median rent: $1,353
- Cost of living: 12% lower than California average, but 22% more expensive than the US average
- Crime: 81% lower than California average
- Median household income: $43,060
- High school graduation rate: 100%. 25% higher than California average
- Schools: University Park Elementary School 7/10, Rancho San Joaquin Middle School 9/10, University High School 10/10
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