Available, affordable housing plays major role in seismic population shift in O.C.

A softball player and family walk past a sign at the Great Park in Irvine in July 2021.
A softball player and family walk past a sign at the Great Park on a day in July 2021 in Irvine. Suburbs like Great Park have had a boom in growth in the past few years while other Orange County communities, like Anaheim and Costa Mesa, have lost population.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Good morning. It’s Wednesday, May 17. We are Carol Cormaci and Vince Nguyen, bringing you this week’s TimesOC newsletter. Together we’ve aggregated the latest local news and events.

Over the last 30 years, the population in Irvine has nearly tripled.

That number surpassed Santa Ana in 2023, and it’s currently not too far behind Anaheim as Orange County’s most populous city, according to this story from Los Angeles Times data reporter Terry Castleman.

“Amid California’s housing crisis, Irvine has stood out as a city that has grown while others lose population,” Castleman writes.

In Orange County, data show an accelerating shift of population from older central Orange County cities to other cities in the county where there’s been more space. The trend has been going on for years, with urban areas like Fullerton, Costa Mesa, Santa Ana and Anaheim at the forefront of the decline.

A Times analysis of U.S. Postal Service data shows those ZIP Codes in Orange County where recent move-outs most outpaced move-ins. The data, consisting of change of address requests submitted by families, individuals and businesses to the postal service, show that Anaheim had the most net move-outs and Irvine had the most move-ins.

What’s contributing to that trend?

Castleman spoke to John Rose, the general manager of Santa Ana-based moving company Pro Movers Inc. Rose says the trend among locals has been an exodus from the eastern and southern parts of the county to more affordable communities.

“Usually people are leaving those areas for better places to raise a family,” said Rose, noting that cities like Yorba Linda, Corona and Riverside were recent, frequent move-in destinations.

Those who move are looking for “bigger homes and more affordability,” he adds.

Deborah Diep, director of the Center for Demographic Research at Cal State Fullerton, told Castleman the high rate of move-ins in “Irvine and [Rancho Mission Viejo] are most likely due to new housing construction.”

That can be a problem for some communities.

Population decline and lack of housing are “issues our city will be looking at and wrestling with,” Anaheim city spokesperson Mike Lyster told Castleman.

Lyster notes Anaheim is “a largely built-out city,” saying new housing must come through rezoning and redevelopment. “We can’t build [housing] fast enough,” he said. “We know that demand is much bigger” than what the city can accommodate.

With older cities, an aging ownership base can explain some population decline, Castleman reports.

UC Irvine sociology professor Susan K. Brown told Castleman when people first move into a neighborhood, they tend to be families with young children.

“Over time, spouses die, kids move out, and the number of people in each household will decline,” she said. “The result is over time, most neighborhoods will have contracting populations even without families changing.”

Curious as to where your area stacks up? The top five O.C. ZIP Codes seeing more net move-ins over the past five years, according to Castleman’s reporting, are 92618 (Irvine), 92694 (Rancho Mission Viejo), 92886 (Yorba Linda), 92651 (Laguna Beach) and 92677 (Laguna Niguel). The five ZIPs seeing the most net move-outs are 92804 (Anaheim), 92626 (Costa Mesa), 92704 (Santa Ana), 92831 (Fullerton) and 92627 (also Costa Mesa).


The church choir performs during the memorial service for the Laguna Woods/Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church shooting.
The church choir performs during the one-year anniversary memorial service for the Laguna Woods/Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church shooting on May 14 at Geneva Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

— The congregation at Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church in Laguna Woods this past Sunday marked the one-year anniversary of the shocking mass shooting that took the life of Dr. John Cheng, who confronted the shooter to save the lives of others. Our L.A. Times colleague Jeong Park covered the service. David Wenwei Chou, 69, has been charged in both state and federal court with murder, attempted murder and hate crimes, with prosecutors alleging that he targeted the church because of the congregants’ Taiwanese national origin. Five were wounded in the attack.

A trio of fifth-graders at Costa Mesa’s Mariners Christian School are putting their values into practice, writes Daily Pilot reporter Sara Cardine. Tim Mustard Jr., Henry Klatt and Anees Mudawar recently raised money to buy toys for Once Upon a Room through the school’s Difference Maker program, which offers seed funding and mentoring to applicants who’ve identified a need in their community and are willing to partner with local charitable organizations. Together the trio crafted a plan to purchase toys and activities children could use indoors — LEGOs, remote-controlled vehicles, dolls and craft kits.

— The Orange County Power Authority announced Joe Mosca, the agency’s director of communications and external affairs, will be the interim CEO while a nationwide search is conducted for a permanent chief. Mosca is anticipated to start effective June 1, replacing outgoing chief executive Brian Probolsky, terminated last month in the wake of criticism from state auditors and a grand jury report about a perceived lack of transparency at the community choice energy provider. A 20-year member of the California Bar Assn., Mosca formerly worked for San Diego Gas & Electric and Southern California Gas Co.

— Federal regulators say Amplify Energy Corp. should be fined nearly $3.4 million for safety violations stemming from the 2021 oil pipeline spill that impacted Southern California beaches. In a letter proposing the fine, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration says the energy company ignored 83 alarms indicating the offshore pipeline had leaked and failed to notify federal authorities or shut down the pipeline to San Pedro Bay until 17 hours after the first alarms.

— Supporters of the Balboa Island Ferry want the California Air Resources Board to give the ferry an exemption from the 2025 deadline that would require it to meet new harbor craft mandates, which could cost the Newport Beach operator up to $5 million. As part of ongoing strategies put into play to at least delay that 2025 deadline, our colleague Lilly Nguyen reports the Balboa Island Ferry operator launched a petition on change.org earlier this month.


A landslide damaged the historic Casa Romantica cultural center in San Clemente, sending debris down the bluff.
An April landslide damaged the historic Casa Romantica cultural center in San Clemente, sending dirt, building materials and other debris cascading down the bluff to the beach below.
(Gary Coronado / Los Angeles Times)

— The Casa Romantica landslide is the latest in a season of crumbling cliffs in California following a winter of remarkably wet and powerful storms, and the damage has been a difficult blow for San Clemente residents, writes L.A. Times reporter Gabriel San Román. The property remains closed to visitors, multiple couples have canceled their summer wedding dates and are slated to receive refunds, and passenger and freight services were halted for an extended period of time. Businesses are feeling the financial effects of both closures, prompting state lawmakers to seek a temporary solution: a massive sand replenishment project along the affected areas. “It will take time,” San Clemente Mayor Chris Duncan said of rebuilding Casa Romantica.

— Three members of an O.C. family were killed, including two children, and four others seriously injured in a crash that took place shortly after 7 a.m. Sunday on the 10 Freeway near Palm Springs, according to the California Highway Patrol. Nine family members from Anaheim were traveling in a Chevrolet Suburban on the eastbound 10 Freeway, where the SUV collided with a Tesla Model 3 and crashed into the center divider, the CHP said in a news release.

An ex-boyfriend of Elizabeth Lyn Vargas pleaded guilty May 9 to attacking the former “The Real Housewives of Orange County” cast member and was immediately sentenced to six years in prison. Ryan Matthew Geraghty, 34, was arrested in February 2022 following a roughly two-hour standoff with Newport Beach police at Vargas’ home in the 100 block of Medina Way.

— A 42-year-old man was convicted of opening fire on a pickup full of six men in a road-rage dispute in Costa Mesa on Thanksgiving Day that killed one and wounded four. Lee Queuon Walker was convicted of fatally shooting 30-year-old Lucas Rivera-Velasco of Costa Mesa on Nov. 24, 2022, at 423 W. Bay St. Also wounded in the shooting were Salvador Pulido-Nieto, Bernardo Millan-Pulido, Hugo Medina-Rivera and Gilberto Medina-Rivera, while Jaime Nieto-Millan escaped injury.

A former Orange County cheerleading coach has been charged with molesting girls in Southern California and faces similar charges in Florida. Erick Joseph Kristianson, 44, of Antioch, Tenn., is accused of molesting girls aged 11 to 16 while coaching at the Magic All-Stars club, a competitive cheer club, and while he was an assistant cheer coach at Trabuco Hills High School in Mission Viejo in the 2000s, prosecutors said. He is facing 16 felony counts, including committing lewd acts on a child.

— A former Anaheim elementary school teacher and high school wrestling coach, Richard O’Connor, pleaded guilty Monday to possessing child pornography. O’Connor, 45, previously worked as a fourth-grade teacher at Crescent Elementary School and was a volunteer boys’ wrestling coach at Canyon High School in Anaheim, according to federal prosecutors cited in a City News Service report. Investigators found at least 81 videos and 158 images of child pornography, some of which included infants or toddlers as well as violent material, prosecutors said. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in December.

Orange County sheriff’s officials are being accused in court records of planting evidence by moving drugs found in one investigation into the file of a second, unrelated drug case, according to the Associated Press. More than 17 grams of methamphetamine were found in five plastic bags in a room of a Buena Park motel during an investigation in 2020. But attorneys with the public defender’s office on May 10 alleged the drugs were moved nearly two weeks later into the evidence against another suspect.


A file photo of a Taco Bell that once operated in Laguna Beach.
“Taco Tuesday” has been a registered trademark of Taco Bell’s smaller rival Taco John’s for 34 years, and a lawsuit filed this week seeks to “free” that trademark for use by all who want to use it.
(Don Leach /Daily Pilot)

— Irvine-based Taco Bell grabbed some press after filing a lawsuit yesterday to liberate the phrase “Taco Tuesday” from trademark restrictions, CNS reported. According to the story, “Taco Tuesday” has been a registered trademark of a smaller rival, Wyoming-based Taco John’s, for 34 years, creating potential legal consequences for those who want to use the phrase, according to Taco Bell. No damages or trademark rights are sought by the suit. Instead, the company seeks “common sense for usage of a common term.” Those interested in showing support for the effort can sign a petition at change.org/freeingtacotuesday.

— Costa Mesa officials approved plans for a Northgate Market at the long-vacant site at 2300 Harbor Blvd. The Planning Commission approved several entitlements for proposed new additions to the 68,128-square-foot Harbor Center shopping center site, which will include a grocery store, bakery and tortilleria, indoor and outdoor dining, a bar and a stage for live entertainment.

— Cynthia Tran’s Hadley & Ren Floral Co. has helped her heal from loss and support other local mothers like herself. The dried floral shop inside SOCO’s OC Mix in Costa Mesa also carries products that support local small businesses. For the month of May, Hadley & Ren will be hosting not only work on dried-floral-arranging but calligraphy, candle-making and engraving.


Artist Alicia Rojas is shown with one of her artworks on May 8 in Santa Ana.
Alicia Rojas, who has an exhibit at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, called “With Honey in the Mouth - Con Miel en la Boca,” is shown with one of her artworks in this photo taken May 8.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

— “With Honey in the Mouth — Con Miel en la Boca,” an exhibit on display at Grand Central Art Center in Santa Ana, showcases the unique bee-inspired works of local artist Alicia Rojas, whose family fled Colombia in the 1980s. “I am trying to draw a line between nature and humans and the synchronicity and similarities of forced migration, inspired by my own family’s story coming into Orange County over 30 years ago,” Rojas told our colleague Sarah Mosqueda for a recent feature story on the show. “I believe the bees, like migrants, don’t deviate from their purpose, regardless of where they land.”

— The OC Fair & Event Center is seeking seasonal workers for the upcoming 2023 Orange County Fair, which runs July 14 through Aug. 13, and has about 1,000 different positions for people 16 and older. Job postings are online at ocfair.com/jobs. For more information, contact the human resources department at (714) 708-1563 Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

 SkipHers, from left, Jane Hoffner Horst, Merry Cheers and Susan Jennings.
The all-female team sailing Balboa Yacht Club boat, SkipHers in Flight of Newport Beach, are from left, Jane Hoffner Horst, Merry Cheers, and Susan Jennings.
(Susan Hoffman)

— SkipHers, a women’s sailing clinic, began at Balboa Yacht Club as a trial program in August 2019 just to see how the idea would float among members. It was a resounding success, according to this feature story by Daily Pilot contributing writer Susan Hoffman. Now in its fourth year, the program for women that’s also taught by women runs between May and September, meeting every Monday night at the yacht club in Corona del Mar, and they’ve taken on the challenge of racing in Harbor 20 craft.


The Sage Hill School boys’ tennis team hoists the CIF championship plaque at the Claremont Club.
The Sage Hill School boys’ tennis team hoists the CIF championship plaque after winning the CIF Southern Section Division 2 title at the Claremont Club on Friday.
(James Carbone)

— The CIF Southern Section postseason is running at full strength, and on Friday, the Claremont Club played host to the boys’ tennis championships in which three O.C. teams came out as winners, and our colleague Matt Szabo was there to document it all. University defeated Corona del Mar for the Open Division title, Portola secured the Division 1 title over Beckman, and Sage Hill topped JSerra in the CIF Southern Section Division 2 championship match to win its third CIF title and first since 2019.

— The Newport Harbor boys’ volleyball team has won back-to-back CIF Southern Section championships for the first time after sweeping Battle of the Bay rival Corona del Mar in the Division 1 final on Saturday at Cerritos College. The Sailors are now 2-2 in section championship games against the Sea Kings, writes Daily Pilot reporter Andrew Turner. It’s Newport Harbor’s sixth section crown in 12 CIF finals appearances.

— In its first year of CIF Southern Section postseason eligibility, the Huntington Beach girls’ lacrosse program reached the Division 3 final and faced top-seeded Portola in the championship match. The Oilers, an at-large selection, were powered by sophomore Lauren Pilkington’s four-goal performance to be crowned Division 3 champions with a 12-9 victory over Portola.


Bugs Bunny, one of the many Looney Tunes characters the late animator Chuck Jones brought to life.
Bugs Bunny, one of the many Looney Tunes characters the late animator Chuck Jones brought to life. Jones’ grandson, Craig Kausen, will talk about the history of animation in a free presentation Saturday hosted by the Costa Mesa Historical Society.
(Courtesy of Cartoon Network)

— Craig Kausen, the grandson of the late animator Chuck Jones, will speak on the history of animation at 2 p.m. Saturday, May 20 in the Adams Room of the Donald Dungan Library, 1855 Park Ave., Costa Mesa. Jones worked at Warner Bros. in the days of Looney Tunes. He created iconic characters that are still popular today and was inducted into the Animation Hall of Fame. Admission is free, but reservations are required. Call the Costa Mesa Historical Society at (949) 631-5918 or respond by email, cmhistory@sbcglobal.net, by tomorrow, Thursday, May 18.

— The Sherman Library & Gardens’ Volunteer Assn. will spotlight local artists whose works have been inspired by the Corona del Mar botanical garden during the Spring Garden Art Faire on May 20 and 21, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event is free with garden admission. For more, visit thesherman.org.

A squirrel pokes its head out of a box at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center.
A squirrel pokes its head out of a box at the Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center on early last month in Huntington Beach. The facility invites the public to a springtime baby shower for the animals in its care this Saturday.
(Scott Smeltzer / Daily Pilot)

— The Huntington Beach nonprofit Wetlands & Wildlife Care Center invites the public to celebrate a springtime baby shower on Saturday, May 20, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., where participants can see baby birds and mammals on site, talk to wildlife specialists and more. The center is located at 21900 Pacific Coast Highway, at the corner of PCH and Newland Street in Huntington Beach. Free overflow parking is available across PCH with a pass that can be picked up at the center. For more information, visit wwccoc.org or call (714) 374-5587.


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We appreciate your help in making this the best newsletter it can be. Please send news tips, your memory of life in O.C. (photos welcome!) or comments to carol.cormaci@latimes.com or vincent.nguyen@latimes.com.