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OC Insider: Irvine Exodus?

Orange County’s fastest-growing city the past decade, Irvine, isn’t in growth mode right now, if the latest state population figures are to be believed.

Data released by the California Department of Finance in May reports that OC’s second-largest city lost 0.9% of its population in 2022, with a total of 303,051 residents at the start of 2023.

OC as a whole lost half a percent of its population in 2022, according to the state’s figures. There are now 3.1 million residents here.

California, with 38.9 million residents as of Jan. 1, lost 0.4% of its population last year.
Brea saw the biggest percentage boost in population among OC cites, up 2.6% year-over-year to 48,184. Just eight of the 35 areas in the county tracked by the finance department saw increases last year, according to the latest data.

Other cities with notable declines were Santa Ana, which lost 1.5% of its population, and fell to 299,630 residents. Anaheim, OC’s largest city with 328,580 residents, declined 2.2%.

Irvine’s recent losses could be steeper, based on prior state figures released in 2022 that estimated the city’s population closer to 310,000.

The finance department didn’t explain the nearly 5,000-person discrepancy in its prior estimates of Irvine’s population, a figure approaching that of Villa Park, OC’s smallest city.

If Irvine really saw a decline in population last year, it came despite continued new home and apartment construction. The state’s latest data indicates that the 1,289-unit boost in single-family homes in Irvine for 2022 was seventh-most in California last year. Another 526 multifamily homes were also added.

Affordable housing in the city remains limited. A glance at the website for the apartment division of Irvine Co., the area’s largest owner of rental units, indicates that its most affordable offering right now in the city, at the San Mateo complex near City Hall, counts monthly rents at $2,240.

Several other complexes in the city with availabilities indicate their lowest prices start well over $3,000 right now.

Irvine Co. has been pushing the theme of affordability for some of its most-recently proposed multifamily projects; a new 1,261-unit development at the Irvine Market Place has been pitched as a way to provide a boost in workforce housing.

According to city data, a total of 211 units at the Market Place complex, which would replace 200,000 square feet of largely vacant retail space, would be designated as affordable housing units.

OC was well represented at the May 13 edition of the Ellis Island Medals of Honor, an annual event that highlights “acclaimed Americans of immigrant descent and others of distinguished character for their contributions to the world.”

Among the roughly 90 honorees at the N.Y. event were local ophthalmology exec Jim Mazzo—part of this week’s OC50 listing of top healthcare execs—as well as Lugano Diamonds’ Idit and Moti Ferder.

Another non-local honoree, actor and Ukraine activist Liev Schreiber, is involved in the forthcoming West Coast debut of the United Ukrainian Ballet, taking place from June 29 to July 2 at Segerstrom Center for the Arts.

They’re performing Alexei Ratmansky’s Giselle.

Proceeds from ticket sales will go to Schreiber’s nonprofit organization, BlueCheck Ukraine, which helps frontline organizations provide humanitarian aid to victims of the Russian invasion.

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