The search for a new UC campus, increasing pressures from surrounding cities to make land use decisions, as well as politics prompted the Irvine Company to consider a bold plan: Maintain The Ranch under single ownership and develop a Master Plan for its orderly transition from agriculture to urban land uses.
By the late 1950s, the urban sprawl of Los Angeles was marching southward, following the freeways into Orange County. This prompted the Irvine Company to take its stewardship of The Irvine Ranch® into a new era. Mindful of the uniqueness of its holdings, the company’s directors made the decision to forego obvious short-term financial gains realized from selling off holdings. Instead, they explored a visionary concept: the creation of a large-scale, master-planned community designed to provide a careful balance of working, living, learning and recreational environments-all integrated in a logical and aesthetic fashion.
By the early 1960s, Orange County was one of the nation’s fastest-growing counties. The area attracted the attention of the University of California Board of Regents as it was considering sites for a new campus. The concept of building a new town in concert with a new campus provided the Irvine Company and the university system with a rare opportunity to create a vibrant campus and adjacent town environment that would complement one another.
To help fulfill this dream, the Irvine Company sold 1,000 acres to the University of California for one dollar. This was the genesis for the creation of a new University of California campus. Pereira was commissioned to draw up a Master Plan for a community that would grow up around this new campus.
Pereira’s plan for The Irvine Ranch was completed in 1960, the same year plans were approved to build the University of California, Irvine. Soon after, work began on the adjacent 10,000-acre city of Irvine.
During the earliest days of The Irvine Ranch, cattle, horses and sheep grazed on the land. In the late 1800s, as farming operations expanded, the Ranch became an agricultural empire, known for a variety of crops, including avocados, oranges and lima beans.
By the late 1950s, urban sprawl from Los Angeles was pushing towards Orange County, prompting the Irvine Company to create a large-scale, master planned community that called for a balance of housing, job centers, shopping centers, schools and generous recreation and abundant open space that would all blend both functionally and aesthetically together.
As planning on the Ranch evolved through the decades, greater emphasis was placed on open space preservation. For more than 50 years, preserving open spaces and providing a variety of recreational opportunities has been a core philosophy of The Irvine Ranch Master Plan. The original Master Plan called for 10,400 acres – or roughly 11 percent of the 93,000 acre ranch – to be set aside as parks and open space. Today, nearly 60 percent of the entire Irvine Ranch – 55,000 acres – has been permanently preserved as parks, trails and natural open space.
Seeking input from local residents is an integral part of each step in the planning process that the Irvine Company uses to build great communities. Over the years, in an effort to identify key issues of concern, determine priorities and discuss potential opportunities, officials have worked closely with community groups, local civic leaders and city staff, sharing information and receiving feedback on specific plans.
“Public participation is built into the planning and approval process,” says Robin Leftwich, vice president of Community Affairs for the Irvine Company. “Working together, we create thoughtful plans that complement and add value to each community. Public participation is encouraged and continues throughout the planning process.”