Master Planned Community with Michael Stockstill: An Interview Summary

Welcome to an insightful discussion with Michael Stockstill, the co-author of the book “Transforming the Irvine Ranch”. This dialogue offers a fascinating look at the evolution of Irvine, California, from a ranch to a thriving community.

Understanding the Irvine Journey

An Orange County native, Stockstill worked in journalism before transitioning into the public relations department of the Irvine company. Deeply engaged in the diverse interests of the company, including water, agriculture and infrastructure, Stockstill and his co-author were inspired to document the transformation of Irvine.

The story starts with the demise of James Irvine II in 1947. Inheriting the ranch in the late 1800s, James Irvine transitioned it from a sheep ranch into an agricultural empire, with crops ranging from lima beans to citrus fruits. After his death, the James Irvine Foundation made a seminal decision to transform the ranch, through controlled growth and planning, into a thriving community.

Decision-making behind Irvineโ€™s Development

The creation of the University of California, Irvine, marked a turning point in the city’s development. Amid continued growth, community leaders decided to incorporate Irvine to prevent poaching of its residents by neighbouring cities.

Irvine’s growth has been meticulously controlled, starting with a well-defined general plan. Through three iterations, this plan has guided the city’s expansion, factoring in infrastructure needs and adjustments according to the economy’s ebb and tide.

The Evolution of Infrastructure

In terms of infrastructure, one significant decision was the formation of the Irvine Ranch Water District (IRWD). Initially Irvine company-controlled, this entity was converted to a public agency after a lawsuit. Currently, it is one of the most progressive water agencies in California.

Collaboration across Jurisdictions

Interestingly, the development of Irvine needed cooperation across multiple jurisdictions that make up the Irvine Ranch. While growth was resisted in Newport Beach, cities like Tustin welcomed expansion. This flexibility in jurisdiction was like having an extra deck of cards during a poker game, offering additional choices for growth as per the locale’s inclination.

Infrastructure Management

Irvine’s cross-city infrastructural development proved somewhat challenging but ultimately successful. For instance, the Irvine company initially set up its own water district without a municipal water system. This was later transformed into a public agency, the Irvine Ranch Water District, now renowned as one of California’s most progressive water agencies, mainly due to their decision for dual piping for recycled water.


In conclusion, the growth and transformation of Irvine from a simple ranch into a bustling community is a testament to intentional, well-guided planning, beneficial collaborations, and adaptive decision-making. Stockstill’s account provides an insightful examination of this process and the challenges and victories along the way.

For more deep dives into topics like these, stay tuned to our regular segments, including the Book of the Month (BOM) features. In July, we’re excited to feature Stockstill’s book, “Transforming the Irvine Ranch”. For those interested, you can visit the bookโ€™s website โ€“ or its Amazon page.

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