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It’s possible that the first man was in the Irvine area up to 18,000 years ago as there is evidence of rock shelters in the uncultivated portions of the city. 2,000 years ago, the Gabrielino Indians moved into the area and set up villages by the dozens. Belonging to the Shosonean language group, the Gabrielinos had an abundant supply of shellfish, waterfowl and land animals. Their habitats were woven huts and they were master basket weavers and jewellery makers.
In 1769, a Spanish explorer named Gaspar de Portola arrived in the San Joaquin Valley and the easy lives of the Gabrielinos ended. The arrival of Portola brought forts, missions and herds of cattle and the King of Spain started to share portions of lands for more missions and grants that were given to private owners. Once the Mexican government gained independence from Spain in 1831 and gained control of land holdings, they began giving out grants so that Mexican citizens could own ranchos.
The Irvine Ranch is born of three large Spanish/Mexican grants. They include Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana, Rancho San Joaquin and Rancho Lomas de Santiago. Of these three, Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana is the oldest and it was given to the Yorba family.
In 1846, Mexico lost in the battle of the Mexican-American War; after which the Treaty of Guadalupe was signed and California was added to the United States. This forced landholders to reapply to the Board of Land Commissioners to regain a proper title to their lands. By this time, the original grantees had grown their families and were deeding, selling and trading parts of their ranchos to family as well as outsiders. Unfortunately, the title of Rancho Santiago de Santa Ana got tied up in a messy title dispute among four sheep ranchers. And in 1868, Abel Stearns won his suit to divide the rancho into four titles among the claimants who were: Benjamin and Thomas Flint, Llewellyn Bixby and James Irvine.
During this time, the owner of Rancho San Joaquin was deeply in debt. His name was Jose Sepulveda and in 1864, which was the year of the Great Drought, he sold his 50,000 acres for $18,000 to Irvine, Flint and Bixby. Then in 1866, the 47,000 acre Rancho Lomas de Santiago was acquired by Irvine, Flint and Bixby for $7,000. While the land was not great for cultivation, it did border the Santa Ana River on the north which secured valuable water rights.
Even though tenant farming was permitted during the 1870s, the Irvine, Flint and Bixby ranches were designated for sheep grazing. Later on in 1878, James Irvine bought his partners’ shares for $150,000 and his land then covered 110,000 acres stretching 23 miles from the Pacific Ocean to the Santa Ana River. When James Irvine died in 1886, the ranch fell under ownership of his son James Irvine Jr who incorporated the land into the Irvine Company. World War I brought forth an intense growth spurt in agriculture as well as the selling of land to the government to facilitate two Marine Corps air facilities. In 1947, James Irvine, Jr died and his son Myford became the new president. During his tenure, Myford began allowing for small sections of the ranch to accommodate urban development. He died in 1959.
That same year, the University of California asked The Irvine Company for 1,000 acres of land for a new campus. The request was granted and the State further purchased 500 acres from The Irvine Company. Master plans were drawn up, giving consideration to the city’s population of 50,000 at the time. These plans included industrial zones, residential and recreational areas, commercial centers and greenbelts. By 1970, the villages of Turtle Rock, University Park, Culverdale, the Ranch and Walnut were completed. That same year, The Irvine Industrial Complex West, which we today call The Irvine Business Complex also opened. The people who resided in the area at the time voted to incorporate a city larger than was originally planned. They sought to control the direction in which the area would grow and also protect its tax base. The City of Irvine had a population of more than 250,000 people by May of 2015 which made it one of the top 75 or 80 most populated cities in the United States. The square footage of the area grew to 66 square miles.
The Irvine we know today is the result of a master plan backed by people who were committed to seeing it through. Irvine is in the hands of leaders and staff who hold tightly to securing a quality environment for its residents. It is one of the safest and most business-friendly communities in the U.S.
The median household income is $101,667 as of 2019.
Population: Approximately 273,157 as of 2019
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