How Irvine became America’s Best Planned City

In 1960 the planners and architects of the Irvine Company began developing a vision for the city of Irvine.

“What we are developing here are plans, carefully and expensively worked out plans for a completely new city,” they wrote. “We call it the city of Irvine.”

They called this document the Irvine Master Plan, and it still guides the city’s progress today.

It helped get a third off Irvine’s land as an open space.

Modern business centers have been created to ensure high employment in high-wage jobs.

And it designed an entire city of villages – each with parks, schools, and shopping areas – connected by hiking and biking trails that lead to natural wilderness areas.

As a result, Irvine is one of the most successful, safest, and greenest cities in America.

What could have been

In the late 1950s, LA County’s unbridled growth began to spread southward like “oozing molasses,” as the late Ray Watson, the Irvine Company’s first architect, called it.

On his way was the 93,000 acre Irvine Ranch, which stretched from the Pacific to the Cleveland National Forest and encompassed one of the rarest ecosystems in the world.

The Irvine Company was under overwhelming pressure to divide up – to meet the demand for new homes. But the famous architect William Pereira had a better idea.

What if we planned the entire Irvine Ranch?

Nobody had ever dared to experiment like this, but he suggested giving the University of California 1,000 acres and designing a “city of the intellect” around it.

In September 1960, the Irvine Company transferred the land to UC and the Irvine Master Plan was born.

Pereira’s vision for Irvine caught the attention of TIME magazine, which featured him in its September 6, 1963 cover story.

Today Irvine is the city of the intellect, where 90 percent of high school graduates attend college. where UC Irvine is ranked 7th Best Public University in America; and where to find a third of all STEM jobs in the county.


Pereira stressed that the master plan should serve as a roadmap that can adapt to ensure Irvine grows and matures over time.

And it has.

The vision, begun in 1960, has grown into one of America’s most desirable cities.

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