West University Park Irvine

We have all heard the expression, “It’s a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” One thing that strikes me about Irvine is that it is a boring place to visit, but it’s a great place if you live there. Irvine is all about the joy of the mundane, and the happiness of daily life. For me life in Irvine revolves around the time I spend with my family in the various activities available in our great city. As a “bitter renter” I have lived in three different neighborhoods of Irvine, and I have friends in other neighborhoods. Through various family activities, I have become acquainted with several of Irvine’s neighborhoods. If this post is popular, I may profile other parts of Irvine with which I am familiar. The following is about the West side of University Park.


University Park is defined by the roughly triangular shape defined by the 405, Culver Drive and University Drive. Michelson Drive is the major collector street ushering people through the area. The pictures in this post were taken in the neighborhood west of University Community Park and south of Michelson.

Trail 2

University Park is one of the first neighborhoods in Irvine. Most of the housing was built in the late 1960’s. The architecture is a bit dated, but the houses tend to have more interior and exterior space and larger individual rooms. What really sets this neighborhood in Irvine apart is the quality of the land planning. Back in the 1960’s, large master planned communities like Irvine were a relatively new phenomenon. Some innovative thinkers melded together some relatively simple ideas to create a wonderful place to live. The first of these ideas was to create a pedestrian walkway system linking the neighborhood in a way that creates a very safe place to get around with a minimum of interference from automobiles. One of the beautiful features of this community is its mature trees. It makes for a wonderful stroll down the winding pathways.

Park 1

The backyard pedestrian walkway links a number of tot lots. It is quite common to see parents walking or biking with their young children to these parks. One of the unique features of these parks is their relative inaccessibility by car. If you drove through this neighborhood, you would never see these walkways or parks as they are all on the pedestrian system in the collective back yard.

Trail 1

The back yard pedestrian path is ideal for younger families with children who may be learning to ride bikes or roller blade.

Park 2

The tot lots are generally of high quality. Kids really do enjoy playing on them. Sometimes when a tot lot is too small or lacks interesting climbing apparatuses, children will lose interest quickly. This is not usually a problem with these tot lots.


Near the center of the community, there is one location where the pedestrian pathways intersect a lightly traveled local street. Here is one of the many community pools in University Park. All of the pools require either a key or a code available only to University Park residents (and their friends).

Park 3

University Community Park is the central feature of the master plan. It has something for everyone.

Adventure Playground

The Adventure Playground according to the City of Irvine website: “Since 1977, the City of Irvineโ€™s Adventure Playground has been creating challenging programs for children to explore and learn in an environment that was once naturally available but is now virtually nonexistent. Adventure Playground, or A.P., is an enclosed area dedicated for children to develop, stir their imaginations and encompass the benefits of free and natural play. This living playground is constantly changing and always supervised. Maintained by trained and friendly staff, you are sure to have an enjoyable experience every visit.


The baseball field is lit, there are concrete dugouts and a fan seating area.

Basketball & Tennis

There are basketball courts, tennis courts, and racketball courts.

Frisbee Golf

Did you know there is a professional disc golf association?

Park 4

Univesity Park Elementary School is adjacent to the community park. It has one of the better childrens play areas.

Also at University Community Park but not pictured here is a branch of Orange County Public Library.

Obviously, Irvine has plenty of activities to keep every member of the family active. Irvine also has the great weather to make using these activities part of the daily lives of its residents. It is easy to step out your door and walk to any of a dozen parks or play areas and invest quality time with the family. On the weekends my family will often make day trips to enjoy the other activities Southern California has to offer; however, sometimes we choose to have an “Irvine Day,” and just hang out at the parks and pools in our neighborhood and take it easy. It is great to live in a community with so much to offer.

29 thoughts on “West University Park Irvine

  1. Bill Jones

    The reference to “tot lots” and young families makes me wonder how many families with small children (or those hoping to have children) can afford a place in this neighborhood. Maybe it is a sign of how much things have changed – that when this neighborhood was first built it was designed as a place for starter homes. Now, however, I doubt that many families “starting out” can afford a place here.

  2. IrvineRenter

    Bill Jones,

    The problem you describe is a real concern for Irvine. Many families who bought homes years ago ended up staying. The aging of Irvine has already prompted the Irvine Unified School District to put two of its elementary schools up for sale. They no longer believe enrollments will rebound to historic levels. With the price rally over the last 5 years very few young families can afford Irvine.

  3. JoonB


    I think you mentioned Vista Verde elementary in a previous post. Which is the other school you are talking about that is up for sale?

    What does this mean for a child that was supposed to go to Vista Verde? Do you know where they will go- Turtle Rock/Bonita Canyon?

    I rent a home in Woodbridge, and it does concern me that I don’t see any kids. I would say the majority of people are in their 50’s- far from retirement, and probably never moving either.

  4. Thomas

    IrvineRenter –

    I love the idea of featuring different Irvine neighborhoods (pros and cons to each). Thanks for all the time you put into this blog – a lot of people are benefiting from it.

  5. IrvineRenter


    The other school is Alderwood in Woodbridge. Your observations are backed up by the demographic studies.

    I don’t know where these students will go. I imagine they will be sent to the nearest elementary.


    Thank you, perhaps we can get some reader participation as well. Anyone who wants to submit photos or a write up about their neighborhood will be welcome.

  6. EvaLSeraphim


    Really good stuff, and a great (potential) series of posts.

    I have a theory that the Tax Code change that caused the James Irvine Foundation to have to sell The Irvine Company was very detrimental to the future planning of the City. Once private investors became involved, the focus was more on maximizing profit than on creating a great community.

    See, e.g., http://www.irvine.org/about_irvine/history.shtml

    I also suspect that changing demographics may also have something to do with the loss of neighborhood public space. There are certain communities of people who would likely find the “collective backyard” concept (or collective anything) anathema.

    When I was a kid, there were 15 or so of us all the same age that would get together and play in our front yards. That seems to have gone the way of the dodo. Very sad.

  7. Aaron

    I just rented a house near Meadow elementary in Woodbridge. My family arrives next month. I saw the parks, playgrounds, schools, pools, etc… and assumed there were a ton of kids. I haven’t spent much time there yet, so I honestly don’t know – can anyone say if there is a kid deficit in that area? If so, I need to start managing expectations.

    We’re coming from an urban environment, but we had four families with children on just our block. I would hate to move to the suburbs and find fewer children. That would really suck.

  8. JoonB


    I live in Woodbridge and live on the north side. I don’t see many kids where i am (mine are 3 and 5). However, I see that Meadow Creek elementary is near the South Lake- I’ve been told by realtors that Meadow Park is very popular and that “Emerald” Street is the place to be (where there are kids in Woodbridge.) I think you might have better luck than me!

    good luck with your move

  9. almon


    as a newcomer to Irvine (late 2003), i very much appreciate your writeup. please keep them coming!

    Aaron – you may want to drive around the newer parts of irvine (woodbury, quail hill, etc.). we live in quail hill and find an abundance of kids, probably because the neighborhood didn’t exist before, ummm, ’02 or ’03.

    EvaLSeraphim – thanks for your reply in the other thread…methinks the old way of hanging out with friends have gone away for good. when i went to college in the late 80s we would never stay in on fri/sat nights. nowadays many college kids stay in on weekend nites just to be on the computer all nite. when we lived in manhattan opposite an NYU dorm, i couldn’t believe how many people stayed in on weekends.

  10. steve

    you failed to mention that Park West (Irvine’s only ghetto) is located at the corner of Michelson and Culver. it’s not pretty, it’s not safe and it’s getting worse every year!

  11. tj & the bear

    Hi IrvineRenter!!!

    Nice blog. Visited before but haven’t posted ’til now.

    I find it interesting that you’re pretty bearish on housing prices despite not citing any of the many huge issues facing us besides housing itself. I’m extremely bearish, as you no doubt have noted from my posts at HBB.

    Regarding University Park, I had relatives living there for a long time. Life there appeared almost idyllic for a kid visiting from out-of-state, which is why I ultimately ended up moving to California. Still looks as nice, but the neighborhood does seem dead compared to my youth when kids were everywhere and the activity centers were always jumping. Nice memories…

  12. Justin

    I don’t think park west is a ghetto, its not THAT bad. Any crime/murder in irvine is huge it seems, even if it was just a random incident of someone passing thru the city. I think the price of rent in that area keeps out most of the ghetto implications.

  13. Donut

    IR, I know the area you’re talking about and agree. As you mentioned, the newer areas aren’t quite like that. IMHO, the best parts of Irvine are the older neighborhoods. The layout is better, the density is lower.

    Moped, interesting take on Ladera, I know that was the original intention, my primary memory from the outside is lotteries for the right to buy and prices rocketing through the roof. Oh, and mello-roos. ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Jethro


    Jes a lookin’ in from Fresno over the innernet, and it’s lookin’ mighty-invitin’ down there in irvine, next to that mighty big blue pond and all. In fact, me and my clan is a thinkin’ of moving down, since our shack went and got covered up by the dust bowl cloud! So I’s a loaden’ up the waggon right now with the kidds and vittles, and we’re gonna be buyin once the FEMA gubment money comes in and this here housing crash gets to commencin’ underway.

    Thanks kindly future neighbors,


  15. Hope To Buy In Irvine Some Year

    My wife & I just drove over to Sand Canyon and Irvine blvd (I think they call this East Woodbury) where they have the new Trader Joes, Home Depot, Carls Jr, Starbucks, Chik Filet, Panera Bread, and other places in the works. I heard a new Jalapenos mexican restaurant opens up over there. Such a nice area, it sure would be nice to buy around there maybe in 2-3 years minimum. I agree Irvine is a great area to live. Good luck to you all in your plans to buy here.

  16. Irvine_native

    When they built these older neighborhoods in Irvine, they had to sell the concept. There was nothing here. This is why the older areas are much less dense and of higher quality. Now that the concept of Irvine is sold, they can put up crap and people still flock to it (well they did until now).

    We have friends in Ladera. Nice place – even though it does indeed give me the creeps. It reminds me of Irvine in the early 80s in demographics with all of the young families. We are a young family with a 2 year old and another on the way, but as nice as Ladera is, we are stying in Irvine. My wife and I both work in Irvine, I grew up here, and my parents are here. I can’t leave that. Also, even though we have kids, it actually prefer the quieter neighborhoods without them ๐Ÿ™‚

    Plenty of cheap rentals around. Who cares about the silly house prices here for now? It will crash hard eventually.

  17. Live And Work In Irvine

    I lived in Northwood for 14 years and never saw a lot of kids outside playing. At Halloween we might see 15-25.

    I moved to Oak Creek at Jeffrey and Alton about a year ago and still don’t see many kids. I started to notice a lot of decorations in the windows and thought I should prepare for an invasion.

    Last Halloween we had over 200 kids that came to the door. It was unbelievable. Thank goodness I shop at Costco. I used everything that I had left in the house (microwave popcorn was a smash hit.)

    I guess everyone locks up the kids during the day.

    P.S. Great quality pictures IR.

  18. k.o.

    I grew up in Irvine during the 80s and 90s, and it was quite a different place than it is today. In the neighborhood where I grew up there used to be kids everywhere, but today, very few. I know that some of the newer neighborhoods seem to have more young families, but still doesn’t appear to be in the large numbers it was when I grew up. But the parents seem older than my parents were back in the day – probably had to save up for a while to afford living here. (And I know I’m in this boat; I can afford nothing in the area.)

    There was a class I took at UC Irvine that talked about the history of urban development and there were a few lectures about Orange County, specifically Irvine. Originally it was going to be a university town – the city was to be completely centered around the college. But then the master planned community concept really took over and it was decided that Irvine would be this way.

    I miss the orange groves that used to be all around town. Orange blossoms are quite possibly one of the best smells in the entire world.

  19. ripcord


    Can I ask that you profile Turtle Rock next time? I lived there from 2003 until Fall of last year, when I sold my house (thank goodness). I love the neighborhood to pieces, and my wife and I are considering moving back there when the prices fall.

    The best part about Turtle Rock is the walking. Incredible walks right out your front door. And Mason Park is walking distance too… my dogs LOVE Turtle Rock.

  20. OldIrvine

    I think one reason why you don’t see many kids playing outside is the growth of Asian immigrants to Irvine. Usually those kids are busy with other activities – like piano lessons, SAT prep courses at age 9, Chinese school on Saturday. I took a computer class at IVC and there were 12 year olds in my class. I know when I was a kid there were several families from Taiwan in my neighborhood and their kids were never allowed to play outside with the rest of the kids.

    On another subject, I don’t think Irvine was ever going to be a “university town” with the way the Irvine Company controlled all of the land. All of the bland sameness that results from thier high lease of retail space is pathetic. It’s interesting to see how different the shopping centers that aren’t managed by the Irvine Company are in comparison.

  21. Schahrzad Berkland

    I love this post, absolutely love it! I had hoped to do something like this, featuring a different neighborhood on my home page every few weeks, but have not kept up with it as well as I hoped. You have inspired me to get back into it.

    This is a great service to our readers, who are deciding where to buy.

  22. DannyBonaduce

    If one requires a meal out in Irvine, one must eat at an approved chain restaurant. No tasty Mom n’ Pop diners allowed!

  23. IrvineRenter2

    Nice feature on the Uni area. We also rent in Irvine – Woodbridge. We moved here for the school district and amenities that Woodbridge and Irvine offers. I have to agree with “Danny Bonaduce” about the restaurants. I am surprised anyone can afford to buy a home in Irvine in the newer parts of town – Mello Roos anyone?

  24. Ken

    Thanks for the write up of my “home town”. I was among the first wave of kids to grow up in University Village. I was born in 1969 and my parents bought a brand-new house on Lancewood Way in 1970. It was definitely a great place to be a kid: not just the planned paths and parks, but all the alleyways, greenbelts and a few secret “through-the-hedge” clearings all became our playground. I learned to swim at the community pools, and still miss them (having several to choose from was great)! My father taught at UCI, my mom was a graduate student and part-time high-school teacher, and together they could just afford the place, which they bought for around $30,000. Today Zillow estimates its value at around $740,000! That works out to a sustained appreciation rate of over 9% for almost 4 decades, a period in which median incomes have barely beaten inflation. It makes me genuinely sad to see this market priced out of the range of the young middle-class families it was designed for, perhaps one happy side-effect of the coming implosion will be making these areas affordable again.

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