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FOCUS : Neat As A Pin in Northwood

January 26, 1989|Clipboard researched by Susan Davis Greene, Dallas Jamison, Henry Rivero, and Rick VanderKnyff / Los Angeles Times. Graphics by Doris Shields / Los Angeles Times

Leaving the noise and frenzy of the nearby Santa Ana Freeway behind, you enter this walled Irvine community and are instantly aware of an aura of upper-middle-class well-being that pervades the place.

Wide, accommodating streets guide the visitor past large stucco-and-brick homes painted in quiet grays, browns and beiges. A distinctive feature of many of the homes is the enormous, flat roofs that tip slightly askew, like gigantic commencement mortarboards. Station wagons and vans bearing the scratches and dents of assorted camping vacations, supermarket sorties and last-minute dashes to the hardware store sit solidly in front of three-car garages--serviceable vehicles for unpretentious families.

Built by a consortium of 22 developers, including the Irvine Co., Northwood has seen steady growth since the first of its homes were constructed in 1970. Today there are more than 6,900 units, blending both townhouses and single-family residences in a semirural setting. The population stands at an estimated 26,000 but will escalate as the construction of additional units continues through the end of the decade.

Nine public parks, three shopping plazas, three grade schools and one intermediate school support the neighborhood's growing families. Other amenities include tennis and basketball courts, picnic areas and a scattering of hiking and biking trails.

If the carefully maintained public spaces and precisely manicured private lawns and shrubs of Northwood are a barometer, residents place great value indeed on a well-ordered existence.

On a recent blustery day, six neatly uniformed maintenance men with brooms and heavy plastic garbage bags were chasing a tiny pile of whirling leaves and bits of branches shaken off nearby trees by Santa Ana winds. Realizing that they were being observed, or perhaps sensing the comic futility of their mission, they quickly squeezed into the cab of their truck and barreled down the street to a spot where other leafy offenders danced in the gutter.

Such attention to detail, while ludicrous elsewhere, is a hallmark of this neat-as-a-pin neighborhood.


Population: (1987 est.) 26,686

1980-88 change: +99.4%

Median Age: 31.1 years

Racial/ethnic mix:

White (non-Latino), 77%; Latino, 13%; Black, 1%; Other, 9%

By sex and age:


Median age: 32.0 years


Median age: 30.4 years


Per capita: 24,816

Median Household: 69,882

Average Household: 72,402

Household Distribution:

Less than $25,000 7%

$25,000-49,999 18%

$50,000-74,999 31%

More than $75,000 44%

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