Wednesday, December 21, 2011


By RONALD CAMPBELL / The Orange County Register

Don't bother counting Beemers and Range Rovers. Don't even look for the priciest houses.

America's highest-income city is Yorba Linda.

So says the U.S. Census Bureau, which reported Tuesday that Yorba Linda had the highest median household income among more than 500 U.S. cities in 2006. Newport Beach, traditionally considered Orange County's wealthiest, ranked third. (See "Median Orange County household incomes, 2006" to see how other O.C. cities ranked)

By a narrower measure, median family income, Newport Beach ranked first at $147,697, followed by Yorba Linda and Newton, Mass. A household is one or more persons sharing a house or apartment. A family is two or more related persons.

Economists said the two cities' housing mix helps explain the finding.

While Newport Beach has many apartments, "Yorba Linda had the policy of not being friendly to townhomes and apartments," said Esmael Adibi, director of the A. Gary Anderson Center for Economic Research at Chapman University. "If you have lots of apartments and townhomes your median (income) is not going to be as high."

The numbers bear Adibi out. In 2000, the last year for which complete statistics are available, 44 percent of Newport Beach households were renters compared with 15 percent in Yorba Linda.

Since then, Yorba Linda has grown primarily through big-lot subdivisions - and that in turn has drawn families with big incomes.

"If you think about it, the new homes (in Yorba Linda) are a lot more expensive" than they once were, said Anil Puri, dean of business at Cal State Fullerton. "So there's a pre-selection of the kind of people who have moved there in the last five years."

You might call it quiet wealth.

"You go to Newport, and there's cars that cost $350,000 running up and down the streets," said Les Fujimoto, a Yorba Linda real estate agent. "You don't see that in Yorba Linda."

"Yorba Linda is mom and pop and apple pie," said Carole Geronsin, an agent with Prudential California Realty who sells homes there. "In general, most everybody there is unpretentious. They're not flashy. ... They're very fiscally conservative. You'll find wealthy people living in homes you'd be surprised they're living in because they don't believe in flash."

Mayor Allen Castellano said when the city invests in maintaining the infrastructure, it attracts residents with higher incomes to move into the community.

"People pay a little more for home here," Castellano said. "People have to have a little more money to enjoy a certain type of living."

The census reported median household income for all cities with a population of 65,000 or more. Yorba Linda was not included in previous years because it fell below that threshold until 2004 or 2005.

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