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Orange County

Irvine, Inland Empire High on U.S. Growth List

While the O.C. city takes fifth place, five of the 25 fastest-growing cities over a three-year period are in Riverside and San Bernardino counties.

June 24, 2004|Sandra Murillo | Times Staff Writer

Six of the nation's 25 fastest-growing cities are in Orange County and the Inland Empire's San Bernardino and Riverside counties, according to a new census report.

Irvine ranked fifth on the list and was joined by Rancho Cucamonga and Fontana in the top 10. Corona, Riverside and Moreno Valley made the top 25.

"The city has been growing at a rapid rate for some time -- as planned," said Irvine Mayor Larry Agran.

From April 2000 to July 2003, the period covered by U.S. census estimates for all cities on the list, Irvine registered 19.2% growth, to a population of 170,561.

The city's population is expected to reach about 250,000 in the next 20 years, Agran said. He attributed the pace to several factors, including a thriving local economy that's generating jobs.

"We have an international reputation for planning, low crime rates and excellent schools. I truly believe that not only the [ethnic] diversity, but the socially and economically integrated nature of our community has served to attract people from all over the country and all over the world."

The census numbers also came as no surprise to city officials throughout the Inland Empire communities, where thousands of new residents have moved after fleeing Los Angeles and Orange counties in search of more affordable housing.

"They don't laugh about the name Rancho Cucamonga anymore," said Mayor Bill Alexander, referring to Jack Benny's old radio skit when a train station announcer calls out stops in the hinterlands: "Anaheim, Azusa and Kook-a-monga!"Alexander said the city's growth is a result of several factors, including the recent extension of the Foothill Freeway, a busy Metrolink rail line through San Bernardino County, and new housing and commercial development in the city.

The census showed that Rancho Cucamonga's population grew 18.7%, to 151,640 residents.

"There's high-end housing here now, and professionals are bringing their businesses," Alexander said. "It's being done with a lot of forethought and within the planning process."

In Fontana, population grew 17.8%, to 151,903. About 1,000 to 1,500 homes have been built every year since 2000, said Mayor Mark Nuaimi. The hot real estate market has driven up home prices and attracted interest from commercial developers, he said.

"Our challenge is trying to get both residential and commercial development here at the same time, and I think we're doing a pretty good job of that," Nuaimi said.

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Most prolific cities

Southland cities ranked among the fastest-growing in the U.S. from April 2000 to July 2003.

*--* Rank City Percent change 1. Gilbert, Ariz. 32.1% 2. North Las Vegas, Nev. 25.1% 3. Henderson, Nev. 22.5% 4. Chandler, Ariz. 19.6% 5. Irvine 19.2% 6. Port St. Lucie, Fla. 18.8% 7. Rancho Cucamonga 18.7% 8. Fontana 17.8% 9. Peoria, Ariz. 17.4% 10. Cape Coral, Fla. 16.1%

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Source: Census Bureau

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Times staff writer David Haldane contributed to this report.

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