I think one of my friends is commuting from Costa Mesa to his job at Irvine now, I believe he said he couldn't find a place in his budget for around the same price a month. My old apartment in Irvine for 2 years was about $2,200 a month, and that was a 1 bed 1 bathroom with a shared parking structure, no personal driveway. I stayed another 1.5 years in Irvine with 2 friends, which was about $2000 a month for the room itself, it was a 2/2, and that place had shared garages (i.e. 2 cars from 2 different complex in 1 garage), but the quality of the place was considerably worse.
(I move a lot. 14 times in my life and about to go for 15 to Miami. lol)
I don't know about housing in and around the area, but I'd take a look at Costa Mesa, Tustin, Santa Ana, maybe Lake Forest, and if you can do a bit farther, than maybe Garden Grove or Anaheim? A few of my friends live in Garden Grove.