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Irvine Makes Top 10 List Of Fastest-Growing Cities In US

An image of a single story building in Irvine that includes Vietnamese and Korean restaurants.
The Diamond Jamboree shopping center in Irvine features Asian-centric dining and retail stores.
(Josie Huang
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Irvine, a bustling business hub recognized for its safety and schools, has landed on the top 10 list of the country’s fastest-growing cities — the only place in California to make the cut, according to U.S. Census data released Thursday.

The Orange County city grew 45% over the past decade, from 212,375 in 2010 to 307,670 in 2020. Irvine ranked 10th on the list of rapidly-expanding cities with populations of more than 50,000 people.

Mayor Farrah Khan credited the city’s population boom to its reputation as a master-planned community with top-ranked schools, open space, low crime and diversity.

Much of the growth was fueled by incoming Asian American and immigrant residents, estimated at more than 40% of the city. Khan helms a city council in which three of the five members are of Asian descent.

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A grayscale map of the 10 fastest-growing cities in the U.S.
Irvine is the tenth fastest-growing city in the country.
(U.S. Census Bureau)

In recognition of its large Asian population, city officials responded to the national surge in anti-Asian hate incidents by creating an online portal that allows residents to report hate incidents in seven different languages.

Khan said the city also plans to launch a nine-part interactive online workshop with recent Chinese immigrants on how to adapt to their new home, with tips on everything from how to enroll children in school to how to get landscaping done.

Some people will claim that it’s lacking in character ... And there's some truth to that, but nevertheless it's a very pleasant environment.
— UC Irvine economist Jan Brueckner

“We want to make sure that they feel welcome, that they feel that they're connected, and they know who to reach out to when it comes for a time of need,” Khan said.

Jan Brueckner, an economist at UC Irvine, said job growth estimated at 30% over the past decade is driving much of the city's expansion. Companies as diverse as Taco Bell, Activision and Edwards Lifesciences are all headquartered there. He said that Irvine embodies agglomeration economies.

“Those are the benefits from being near other businesses that are doing similar things," Brueckner said. “There are exchanges of ideas where you have spillovers of knowledge and creativity across firms.”

Irvine also offers businesses a proximity to airports, an educated workforce produced by area schools such as UC Irvine — which is one of the city's biggest employers — and the amenities the city has to offer.

“Some people will claim that it’s lacking in character, because it's so landscaped and manicured. And there's some truth to that, but nevertheless it's a very pleasant environment,” Brueckner said.

Exterior of Taco Bell Headquarters And Restaurant Shoot
Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine, California.
(Joshua Blanchard
Getty Images )
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Khan has watched Irvine expand rapidly over 17 years of residing there, but still expressed some surprise by her city’s national showing. It was a reminder that Irvine’s infrastructure and services need to keep up with an increasing number of residents.

“We know we've stayed safe for the past 15 years as the safest city in the nation, and want to make sure that we continue these metrics with the growth that we're experiencing,” Khan said.

Because of a rising youth population, public school enrollment has ballooned nearly 29% — from 28,000 in 2011 to 36,000 this year, according to the Irvine Unified School District.

Since 2012, the district has opened or begun construction on nine schools at all grade levels — four elementary schools, three K-8 schools, one middle school, and one high school.

UC Irvine is one of the city's biggest employers. Graduating students wave to fellow students during a commencement ceremony.
(Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images
Getty Images North America)

With the growth also comes the need to build more affordable housing. The city is to construct more than 23,000 units over the next 8 years, per state mandate said Khan, who counted the Irvine Spectrum area, the Great Park, the train station and the Irvine Business Complex among potential locations.

Texas dominated the list of rapidly-expanding cities, taking four slots: Frisco (#2), Conroe (#3), New Braunfels (#5) and McKinney (#7).

The rest of the list: Buckeye, Ariz. (#1); Meridian, ID (#3); South Jordan, UT (#6); Kent City, WA (#8); Goodyear, Ariz. (#9).

What questions do you have about Southern California?

Updated August 12, 2021 at 6:11 PM PDT