1st Edition

Transforming the Irvine Ranch Joan Irvine, William Pereira, Ray Watson, and the Big Plan

    338 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    338 Pages 35 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    From citrus trees to spring breakers, Transforming the Irvine Ranch tells the story of Orange County’s metamorphosis from 93,000 acres of farmland into an iconic Southern California landscape of beaches and modernist architecture. Drawing on decades of archival research and their own years at the famed Irvine Company, the authors bring a collection of colorful characters responsible for the transformation to life, including:

    • Ray Watson, whose nearly century-long life took him from an Oakland boarding house to the Irvine and Walt Disney Company boardrooms
    • Joan Irvine Smith, a much-married heiress who waged war against the US government and the Irvine Foundation's reactionary board and won
    • William Pereira, the visionary architect whose work became synonymous with the LA cityscape.

    Spanning the history of modern California from its Gold Rush past to the late 1970s, Transforming the Irvine Ranch chronicles a storied family’s largely successful attempts to remake the vast Irvine Ranch in its own image.

    Preface. Introduction. 1. A Decade of Determination. 2. A Planner's Path: Early Life, Education and Real Work. 3. Ray Arrives at a Company on the Brink of Change. 4. "We are not Gods." 5. Athalie. 6. Joan. 7. The Birth of UC Irvine. 8. Inclusions, Exclusions and the Campus that Never Was. 9. Pipes and Plans. 10. Defending the Borders. 11. The Campaign for Cityhood. 12. The New City: Partners of Antagonists, or a Little of Both? 13. The Magic of Planning. 14. From Plans to Reality: Eastbluff and Newport Center. 15. The Tax Reform Act of 1969. 16. Acceleration. 17. Conflicting Visions of the Upper Newport Bay. 18. Politics and media. 19. Low-Cost Housing: "A Problem from Day One." 20. The Jewel in the Crown. 21. The Best of All Possible Coasts. 22. Town and Gown. 23. Joan Redux. 24. Buying Time. 25. Schout's Honor. 26. Wise (and Rich) Men from the East. 27. Going All In. 28. Ray Departs. 29. Villains No More. 30. The Bigs Plans of William Pereira. 31. Reasons for Success. 32. Epilog - Follow the Money. Bibliography.


    H. Pike Oliver has worked on real estate development strategies and master-planned communities since the early 1970s, including nearly eight years at the Irvine Company. He was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and resided in the City of Irvine for 15 years. As the founder and sole proprietor of URBANEXUS, Oliver works on advancing equitable and sustainable real estate development and natural lands management. He is also an affiliate instructor at the Runstad Department of Real Estate at the University of Washington. Earlier in his career, Oliver worked for public agencies including the California Governor’s Office of Planning and Research where he was a principal contributor to An Urban Strategy for California. Prior to relocating to Seattle in 2013, he taught real estate development at Cornell University and directed the undergraduate program in urban and regional studies. He is a member of the Urban Land Institute, the American Planning Association, and a founder and emeritus member of the California Planning Roundtable.Oliver is a graduate of the urban studies and planning program at San Francisco State University and earned a master’s degree in urban planning at UCLA.

    C. Michael Stockstill received a degree in journalism from Humboldt State University in 1971. After a year as a legislative staff member in the California Assembly, he worked as a reporter and editor in Orange County before joining the Irvine Company in 1978. During his 13-year career there, he helped formulate and implement strategy for major planning and policy issues, including a multi-year effort to pass a half-cent sales tax for local transportation improvements. Stockstill also worked for the Transportation Corridor Agencies, which built the first toll roads in modern California history, CalOptima, Southern California Edison, and as a public affairs consultant. Stockstill moved to Irvine in 1975 and was active in local government, youth sports, and education while raising a family there. Now retired, he lives in Irvine. He has written for national magazines including Planning and Parks and Recreation.

    "Transforming the Irvine Ranch: The Big Plan is a must read for anyone interested in local community planning, California history, and American real estate development. The authors provide a thorough, thoughtful, and behind-the-scenes account of the birth of a major city, university, and foundation that have had profound impacts on the people of California."

    - Mark Baldassare, President and CEO, Public Policy Institute of California

    "Transforming the Irvine Ranch: The Big Plan combines memoir, oral history, and in-depth research to show how big personalities and bigger ambitions propelled Irvine from ranchland to metropolis. Innovative urban planning, corporate infighting, and expansion of California’s university system are part of this fascinating story. Essential for real estate professionals and anyone who cares about the future of California."

    - D. J. Waldie, author of Becoming Los Angeles: Myth, Memory, and a Sense of Place

    "In Transforming the Irvine Ranch, [Oliver and Stockstill] lay out in highly readable form the history of this most successful, and epoch-shaping developments. There may be no other place with the resources and locational advantages of the Ranch, but there are many lessons to be learned by the next generation of planners and developers."

    - Joel Kotkin, author of The Human City: Urbanism for the Rest of Us

    “For devotees of new towns, Pike Oliver and Michael Stockstill’s book, Transforming the Irvine Ranch: Joan Irvine, William Pereira, Ray Watson, and the Big Plan, is a must read. The book is a compelling, entertaining, and very accessible account of the beginnings and history of Irvine (CA), one of the United States’ pre-eminent new towns… not only enjoyable and hard to put down but also a unique insiders’ perspective of what it takes to build a new town.”

    - Richard Peiser, Harvard University, USA