Orange County Business Journal

Irvine Won’t Max Out For Decades

DEVELOPMENT: Planners see city of 300,000+ Mark Mueller Saturday, October 13, 2012
Los Olivos: Irvine Company has 1,750-unit apartment project in works in Spectrum.  LeBlanc: market indicates when “we need to tweak plans”  (Inset)

Los Olivos: Irvine Company has 1,750-unit apartment project in works in Spectrum. LeBlanc: market indicates when “we need to tweak plans” (Inset)

Irvine looks set to retain its place among California’s fastest-growing cities for the foreseeable future, but there are limits to the masterplanned city’s growth.

The city saw a 2.5% bump in population to 223,729 last year, and once again ranked as Orange County’s fastest grower, according to this week’s Business Journal list (see related story, left; list starting on page 8).

The addition of 5,376 residents last year also gave Irvine the fastest-growing headcount among California cities with a population under 300,000. Its new arrivals nearly equaled the population of Villa Park, the smallest incorporated city in OC, with 5,867 residents, according to state figures.

Only six of California’s more than 400 cities of any size showed a bigger percentage increase last year than Irvine, which is OC’s third-largest city. Anaheim is the largest OC city, with 343,793 people. Santa Ana is No. 2, with a population of 327,731.

The No. 3 rank will probably hold for awhile, based on projections by city officials that indicate Irvine’s population will grow to 256,300 by 2020, 277,100 by 2025, and top out at 302,900 by the time of its build-out some time after 2035.

“Assuming market conditions continue to hold, my guess is that there’s another 10 to 20 years of development (in Irvine),” said Mike LeBlanc, an Irvine Company senior vice president who heads up much of the Newport Beach-based developer’s entitlement efforts.

Bucks Trends

The city has bucked state and national trends the past few years by rapidly adding new for-sale housing amid an otherwise down market, with more than 2,100 homes sold on Irvine Co. land since 2010.

The Irvine Ranch was the fourth best-selling masterplanned community in the country last year with 764 sales, according to Irvine-based John Burns Real Estate Consulting LLC.

Sales are stronger in 2012, according to Irvine Co., which owns much of the city’s undeveloped land and has overseen a majority of its development over the past 40 years.

More than 1,000 homes have been sold at Irvine Co.’s Stonegate, Laguna Altura and Portola Springs neighborhoods so far this year, according to the developer.

Stonegate and Laguna Altura—which both opened last year and are largely being built by the developer’s Irvine Pacific homebuilding division—are each over 50% built out now, LeBlanc said.

“We’ve seen some upticks (in sales) of late,” he said. “The market is always telling us how we’re doing, and if we need to tweak plans.”

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