Having spent my formative years in OC (I emigrated to the Pacific Northwest in '94), I have a couple things to add.
Point the first: the air quality in OC and LA are both equally bad. The two counties sort of merge seamlessly in that special way only two identical sets of suburbia (suburbiae?) can. The weather is also the same; overcast in the AM, burning off by 10, eighty degrees by noon.
B: as for soullessness - ever been to Bellevue? One takes one's soul where one can find it. I remember quite a few awesome little places (coffeehouses, bookstores, etc) in downtown Fullerton, of all things. Although it is true that Newport/Laguna rocks.
3: dead right about the sprawl. You'll be hard-pressed to find a building taller than 3 stories anywhere in OC, even in corporate centers like Irvine.
So, all in all, a place like any other. A place to be born, a place to be raised, and a place to get the hell away from.
God, I'm tired