My way of building city is to create an very aesthetic utopia, where everyone is 100% happy, there are no problems and everything looks beautiful.
There is no taxation and payments are maxed so everyone is that rich as its possible, while city is still not losing money.
Sadly there are actually a lot of additional limits on this map. I cannot have horses so elite houses cannot be maxed and there are no walls / towers / gates avaiable so city is not protected, but atleast there is no one who could attack me, because (obviosly) everyone loves me.
I lost around 40-50 population because of bug. When i had 80 full improved houses i noticed i have only ~4750 people in city when it should be 4800. I saved the game and started crushing entire housing blocks to check where is this failing place - i didn't found that. Its just a bug, so you can actually add 40-50 population there, which will be something around 15930