Is this the best place to live in Orange County?
For families it very well could be.
Residents and city officials still are gushing over a study last week ranking Irvine the third-best place among 219 U.S. cities to raise a family. Last Tuesday's City Council meeting was filled with comments about the ranking--but no one seemed shocked.
The new distinction comes on the heels of a November study ranking Irvine one of the safest cities in America--No. 1 in Orange County--with a population greater than 100,000.
The more recent distinction was bestowed by Zero Population Growth, basing its conclusions by weighing crime statistics, air and water quality, drop-out rates, teen pregnancies, poverty and other factors.
"The initial planning and vision that made this place possible was incredible," Police Lt. Tom Hume said. "It's a well-planned community."
Still, Irvine, accustomed to praise for its stable home prices, architecture and planning awards, test scores, top schools and safe streets, refuses to grow complacent.
"For the last five years we've been one of the safest cities," City Councilman Mike Ward said. "We're not going to get a big head because we know this is a great place to live and now other people are recognizing it."
Though Irvine is only 26 years old and does not face the growing pains of older cities, it also is laid out in such a way to prevent urban problems.
The streets are wide and well-engineered. Commercial and residential structures are spotless and well-separated.
"If you look at our strategic business plan, keeping up the appearance of the city is No. 1," Ward said.
Hume agreed that preventing graffiti and blight has priority: "There's no areas that are allowed to deteriorate."