January 31, 2023

NEW BOOK EXPLORES TRANSFORMATION OF IRVINE RANCH FROM AGRICULTURE EMPIRE INTO AMERICA’S MOST SUCCESSFUL NEW TOWN

NEW BOOK EXPLORES TRANSFORMATION OF IRVINE RANCH FROM AGRICULTURE EMPIRE INTO AMERICA’S MOST SUCCESSFUL NEW TOWN

A new book chronicling the transformation of the Irvine Ranch in Orange County from a farming empire into a New Town is the subject of Transforming the Irvine Ranch: Joan Irvine, William Pereira, Ray Watson and THE BIG PLAN.

Covering a critical three decades in the California ranch’s 146-year history, elements of corporate intrigue, family disputes, planning theory and execution and the extraordinary stories of personal achievement highlight the book.

At the heart of the story is Joan Irvine Smith, granddaughter of James Irvine II. An intelligent, beautiful young woman, she inherited 20 per cent of the ranch at age 14, then spent the next 30 years of her life trying to gain control of it. She played a key role in the decision to locate UC Irvine on the ranch and lobbying for passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1969.

William Pereira towers over the landscape in the role of planning philosopher/king. Charismatic and shrewd, he translated his architectural dreams and designs into structure and form at the new university and community.

Ray Watson grew up in a boarding house in Oakland, and with intelligence and hard work, rose from young planner to president of the Irvine Company in his 17-year career there. He led a group of planners and managers in creating local landmarks such as Newport Center, Eastbluff, University Park and Woodbridge.

The lives of these three people intersected in the early 1960’s as the University of California built new campuses in southern California. The hard-fought decision to build UC Irvine on 1,000 acres donated by the Irvine Company became the foundation for the planning and development of what would become the most successful New Town in the United States.

Because James Irvine II willed the majority of his stock in the Irvine Company to a private foundation, its leaders had ultimate control of the ranch until passage of the Tax Reform Act of 1969. That law forced them to sell shares in the company in a public bidding war that attracted national attention. The book ends in 1977 when a group led by retail magnate Alfred Taubman made the winning bid of $337.44 million.

The book is authored by Pike Oliver and Michael Stockstill. Both worked at the Irvine Company in the 1980’s. They spent two years researching and writing the 308-page book. Details about the book can be found on the book website, www.thebigplanbook.com

The book is available on Amazon in paperback, hardback and Kindle. It is also available from the publisher, Routledge, on its website.

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