Lifestyle

Urban Living Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley and San Jose

The Silicon Valley and San Jose areas are seeing a resurgence in the popularity of “urban living” neighborhoods. If you are looking to rent or buy a home in one of these areas, you may wonder where you can find them.

For those not familiar with the “urban living” name, it refers to areas where homes and shops are close together, so that residents are not so dependent upon cars. Some sites refer to them as “walk to town,” though that phrase is used less now to be inclusive of non-ambulatory citizens.

Here’s a quick list of areas to consider if you want the urban living experience:

(1) Downtown San Jose

In the downtown district of San Jose, you will find both new high rise condos (several were built all at once), ranging from nice to extremely upscale & elegant. Additionally, there are some neighborhood in or near downtown with houses full of character and architectural charm as they were built in about the 1920s. Once such neighborhood is Japan Town, where many of the homes are Spanish or Mediterranean style, and there’s a little “downtown” area (apart from the more congested, sky scraper area) with wonderful shops and restaurants. San Jose’s Japantown, by the way, is one of only 3 in the country – all of which are in California. The others are in Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Read more about San Jose’s Japantown in my blog through the link.

Find my San Jose Real Estate Market Update through the link.

(2) The Willow Glen area of San Jose

Willow Glen was once its own town but has been incorporated with San Jose for nearly a hundred years. Downtown Willow Glen is found along Lincoln Avenue between Bird and Minnesota. The area is old (some homes are Victorian and date back to the late 1800s) and many of the houses there are from the early part of the 20th century. There are some newer places, though, including apartments, condos and townhouses.

Find my Willow Glen Real Estate Market Update through the link.

(3) CampbellCampbell water tower

The city of Campbell is south of San Jose and borders it. It enjoys a lovely and popular downtown area along Campbell Avenue, clo
se to the Los Gatos Creek trail, parks and a par course, and also within a short jaunt to the Pruneyard Shopping Center. This part of the valley has both older homes (again dating back to the Victorian home era) as well as newer, and an added bonus is that the metro area’s light rail comes right into Campbell.

Find my Campbell Real Estate Market Update through the link.

(4) Los Gatos

A bit closer to the hills from Campbell is the town of Los Gatos, snuggling up to the base of the foothills. I have written about Los Gatos extensively on my Live in Los Gatos blog, as this is where I live. The downtown area is extremely beautiful and vibrant – and costly!  As with most “urban living” areas, it’s much less expensive the further out you get.

View a slideshow of Los Gatos (and links to more slideshows from there) courtesy of Mary Pope-Handy.

Find my Los Gatos Real Estate Market Update and the Market Trends by Price Point and High School District through the links.

(5) Saratoga

A little north of Los Gatos, Saratoga is also up against the coastal range so is very scenic. Saratoga is smaller and quieter, and many would say also more upscale. The schools in Saratoga are fantastic so most people moving there today do so for the schools. Prices are extremely high by Silicon Valley standards, but those who live in Saratoga will insist it’s worth it! The downtown area is lovely and full of wonderful places to dine as well as three for wine tasting.

Enjoy a slideshow of downtown Saratoga Village (photos and show by Mary Pope-Handy, link will open in a new window)

Find my Saratoga Real Estate Market Trends by Price Point and High School District through the link.

(6) Mountain View

If you love to dine out, you will find your way to Mountain View sooner or later! Like Los Gatos, the downtown Mountain View area is very vibrant and not terribly small. It’s right along the Cal Train route too so is a fabulous commute location for anyone going up the peninsula or to San Francisco.

Find my Mountain View Real Estate Market Update through the link.

(7) Palo Alto

Adjacent to Mountain View, and immensely expensive, is the very impressive city of Palo Alto. Home to Stanford University and some of the best schools in the nation, the downtown area also boasts wonderful eateries, shops, a classic movie theater, and much more. Everyone loves Palo Alto.  The only trick is affording it!

I don’t do regular market updates for Palo Alto, but occasionally I will compare it to other South Bay markets. See Comparing cost of housing in West Valley communities from Palo Alto to Los Gatos to Blossom Valley: what will a 4 bedroom home cost?

(8) Santa Clara’s Rivermark Area

The city of Santa Clara destroyed its original downtown many decades ago, so the main part of that fine city unfortunately has a “generic American” look to it now, though there are some lovely residential areas with beautiful older homes. A few years back, a new neighborhood was designed and built at the northern part of Santa Clara near the bay (on the land formerly housing the Agnews Developmental Center): Rivermark (just off River Oaks Parkway). The area includes a big retail area with a grocery store, banks, shops and restaurants, a park, several types of housing (apartments, condos, townhomes and houses). There is a private school in the neighborhood, too. (The local public schools are not noted for high scores.) Most of the homes in the area were built between 2005 and 2009, so the neighborhood is very popular with those who strongly desire to buy new construction.

Find my Santa Clara Real Estate Market Update through the link.

(9) Santana Row

Like Rivermark, Santana Row is a newer development but this one is in a well-established area at the intersection of Winchester Blvd and Stevens Creek Blvd, right where the cities of Santa Clara and San Jose meet. This is San Jose’s answer to Rodeo Drive – it’s where you’ll find the Gucci, Brooks Brothers, Coach and other similar stores. The complex is mixed use with shops below and apartments, townhouses and condos above. It’s young, it’s lavish, it’s European feeling – so as you might expect, this upscale area is not inexpensive! Whether you buy or rent a home there or just spend a weekend (there is a hotel) or an evening, it’s a great place to hang out, dine, stroll, shop and people watch. A grocery store is a mere block away and a movie theater tops off the attractions here, so this neighborhood truly seems to have it all.

A description of Santana Row with Slideshow (will open in a new window) by Mary Pope-Handy.

Find my San Jose Real Estate Market Update through the link.

 

Moving to Silicon Valley in fall or winter? A few things to know.

Winter Arrival Graphic - says "Winter Arrival"If you are moving to Silicon Valley, whether San Mateo or Santa Clara County, you should know that things are a little different in fall and winter than they are in spring and summer.  Here are just a few areas that might not be intuitively obvious to the newcomers.

First, a word on appearance.  In Santa Clara County, we have two primary sets of hills – one closer to the Pacific Ocean and Monterey Bay (west side), and one closer to central California (east side).  Because our local weather is dominated in very large part by the Pacific Ocean, much of the weather blows in from the coast.  A lot of the rain gets dumped in the coastal range, also known as the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Less makes it all the way to Los Gatos, less still to downtown San Jose, and a much smaller amount to the east foothills and places such as Alum Rock Park.  The coastal range (also called just “the hill” by locals) is green year round as it is full of redwoods and other trees which love the moisture. The east side, though, is more grassy, fewer trees, and gets far less rain.  In winter the grasses are a lovely green.  With drought or in summer, however, the grass turns brown or pale yellow.

For people coming from the east coast, the hills there are more likely green in summer and brown in winter.  Here, though, it is the opposite.  We don’t usually get rain in summer, so the grasses die and the hills go brown.

Rain, when we get normal patterns, usually begins in November and comes and goes between then and late April.  In a typical year, San Jose gets 15-20″ of rain (Los Gatos more, the Los Gatos Mountains much much more).  If we get an El Nino pattern year, temps will be warmer than usual and rain will be much more common than typical.  It’s not much fun to have an El Nino year, but right now we desperately need the rain, so folks here are all hoping for it.

Second, a word on roads and travel.  Silicon Valley enjoys a sub-tropical climate with mild temperatures and not too much rain, even in a normal year.  With very little rain most of the time, our streets and highways can develop a dusty, oily film.  Whenever we get rain after a dry spell, those highways and roads can be slicker than you might expect.  It’s not that we need a ton of rain for the surfaces to become more slippery, either.  A very small amount of precipitation can do the trick, so be careful!

If your destination requires going over “the hill”, be triply careful!  Too many people, whether regular commuters or first time adventurers, either tailgate or drive too fast, and it can make it too easy for accidents to happen when a little weather is added into the mix. Continue reading

Beach Traffic

One of the many lures to the San Jose area and Santa Clara County generally is the fairly close proximity of the beach at Santa Cruz, Capitola, Rio del Mar, and other scenic places that line the Monterey Bay. From most of Santa Clara County, it’s under a one hour drive. If you live in Los Gatos, it could be just half of that.  That said, not all days are created equally when it comes to beach traffic. Go on a regular weekday in summer and it’s pretty much a piece of cake. Go on a weekend or holiday and it’s a whole other matter.

Photo of Capitola Beach as seen from the Capitola Pier on a sunny summer day with colorful beachfront condos lining the shore

Capitola Beach as seen from the Pier – photo by Mary Pope-Handy

Most of the locals know this about holidays or weekends and the shore: go early or don’t go.

How early is early enough?

If you want to get over the hill before it’s stop and go traffic, I suggest 9:30am or earlier.  It can be backed up as early as 9:30 or 10. Coming home from the coast, the line of cars may move sluggishly as early as 3 or 4pm if the fog rolls in early.

If you go early, you can enjoy breakfast with a bay view in Capitola on the esplanade. Or hit wonderful Gayle’s Bakery in that same town with some piping hot coffee before taking in a walk at the coast.  Sometimes there may be a marine layer (fog), but it usually burns off by late morning.  The beach will be fairly quiet if you arrive before the crowds.  Or go a little later and have an early lunch at the Crow’s Nest at the harbor.  Play in the surf  and sand and return around 3:30 or so, and it will be a lot easier than a 5pm trek across the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Related reading on MPH’s other sites:

Spending Summer Days In Santa Cruz? Some Tips & Favorite Places to Share (Valley of Heart’s Delight blog)

Beach towns in Santa Cruz County (from popehandy.com)

Traffic patterns in Silicon Valley

On another of my websites, I wrote about congestion and traffic patterns on Silicon Valley highways and roads.  For many transplants to the San Francisco Bay Area and especially the Peninsula and South Bay areas, traffic is an enormous consideration on where to live and how much to pay for real estate.

If this is a topic that interests you, please take a look:

http://popehandy.com/understanding-silicon-valley-traffic/

Guest Article by Vivek Ranadivé: “Discrimination in Silicon Valley is a Myth”

Florence Il Duomo Santa Maria eli FioreA few days ago I read the article below in the San Jose Mercury News, penned by Vivek Ranadivé, on the topic of discrimination in Silicon Valley.  I loved his striking analogy to Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance – a place where I studied in college – and thought that this piece had a lot of merit.  The one caveat, though, is that in my experience there is certainly a very pronounced, impossible to miss age discrimination in Silicon Valley among the high tech companies.  Anyone more than 50 or 55 years old may feel that his or her job may be cut at any time and handed to a younger, less expensive employee.  Once this last holdout of bias is gone, then perhaps the correlation with exquisite Florence will be exact. The article below is republished with permission. – MPH

Discrimination in Silicon Valley is a Myth, by Vivek Ranadivé

Lately, I’ve been hearing criticism about diversity in Silicon Valley that deeply saddens me. Some people seem to think that gender and race discrimination in the Valley are still roadblocks to career advancement, preventing some people from pursuing opportunities given to others.

I disagree with this completely.

It’s no secret why scores of foreigners flock to Silicon Valley each year. It’s home to some of the best universities, some of the world’s most innovative companies and some of the brightest minds in history. It’s a region that prides itself on disrupting the status quo and pushing the envelope.

What I’ve witnessed in my 30 years in the valley contrasts starkly with recent criticisms.

Since day one, it has welcomed me, and many other Indians, with open arms. And not just Indians — any ethnic group willing to pour their hearts and minds into developing the “next big thing.” Take a walk through the hallways of any business in Silicon Valley and you’re likely to witness a melting pot of young intellectuals from every corner of the world. Silicon Valley not only embraces ethnic diversity, it highly encourages it. That’s what has made this region so successful.

I like to compare Silicon Valley to Florence during the Renaissance. Led by some of history’s brightest and most progressive minds, Florence was the world’s epicenter for art, music, politics and technology. If you wanted to make a name for yourself in the early Renaissance, Florence was where you had to be. The parallels to Silicon Valley are clear — from the Traitorous Eight to the late Steve Jobs to the Google and Facebook guys, so many of the most innovative and intelligent people of the past half-decade have lived and flourished here. As a result, the valley continues to attract the best and brightest from all over the world. Continue reading

Where do people in Silicon Valley go for snow skiing, snow boarding, and cross country skiing?

SnowboardSnow sports are very popular with Californians, whether it’s downhill skiing, cross country, snowboarding or snowmobiling.  If you move to Silicon Valley, or anywhere in the San Francisco Bay Area, where is the nearest ski resort?  The closest sites are all in northern California, of course – but there are more in SoCal, so if your travels bring you closer to LA or Palm Springs, you will want to research southern California ski resorts.

The shortest travel time for snow boarding, skiing and cross country seems to be Bear Valley, which is about 3 hours east of San Jose and Santa Clara County.  Not bad!

A more popular area, though, is a little further: Lake Tahoe.  This spectacularly scenic area straddles the states of California and Nevada and people speak generally of “north shore” and “south shore” Tahoe.  The resorts are spread around the region and include spots at Truckee and Donner as well as closer to the water.   There are 15  resorts in all!  Some have higher elevations (such as Mt. Rose), so they will be open later into spring than those closer to the lake.  If you want to gamble and see shows, you will likely find yourself drawn to either Reno or South Shore, since they are in Nevada and casinos abound.  Some of these resorts have shared season passes (such as Squaw and Alpine).  A good site which gives and overview of each one is: http://www.onthesnow.com/lake-tahoe/ski-resorts.html    This tends to be about a four to five hour drive unless there’s terrible traffic, an accident, bad weather – in which case, it can be many times as long a drive.

Yet another beautiful place to ski is Yosemite Valley’s Badger Pass. Yosemite, like Lake Tahoe, is a beautiful place to visit year round.  (For Tahoe, winter and summer are strong tourist months, and there are often great deals on hotels in the “in between” seasons – between skiing and golf or hiking.)

How long is the ski season in northern California? The weather varies from year to year but often snow skiing season begins in November and finishes in March, but it all depends on the snow levels and temps.

It’s not too soon to begin planning your snow adventures!  Have a great season!

 

Which Silicon Valley areas are the most European feeling?

Beckwith Building in downtown Los Gatos, California

The beautiful Beckwith Building in downtown Los Gatos, California

I have been fortunate to have made 5 trips to Europe, one of them lasting 9 months, and will be returning again before the end of 2013 (this time to Belgium).  It is so diverse, beautiful and compelling! Having experienced a little culture shock myself (when living in Florence, Italy, for one year of university), I’m very sympathetic about how hard an international move can be, and I understand that for Europeans moving to Silicon Valley, there can be an acute culture shock, particularly for those coming from more rural areas.

The bulk of Silicon Valley is located in Santa Clara County, which is at the southern end of the San Francisco Bay.  In this county, there are approximately 1.8 million people, almost a million of them in the city of San Jose.  Some areas, or districts, of San Jose have a distinctive character and are almost like towns or small cities themselves.  So in this article I’ll mention both cities and towns, but also areas or districts of San Jose, which might appeal to our European transplants.   Most of my comments will reference Santa Clara County or “south bay” locations, but I will also mention others on the San Francisco Peninsula and SF Bay Area too.

Architecture, Urban Centers and Charm

It is an unfortunate negative in Silicon Valley that much of our housing consists of ranch style tract homes, and truthfully, they are not exactly a work of art.  New or newer homes tend to be on very tiny parcels of land (or “lots”) and for many people may simply feel too congested or crowded. But there are beautiful residential neighborhoods – you just need to know where to look!  In many ways, the areas with higher charm can make our global home buyers feel more comfortable than if they were faced with only track, ranch neighborhoods.

Do you value unique, older architecture with Victorian, Craftsman, Tudor or other home styles? Then check out these areas:

  • Within San Jose: the Japantown, Vendome, and Naglee Park areas of downtown San Jose. Also in central San Jose are the Rosegarden, Shasta Hanchett and Burbank neighborhoods which all boast some lovely older homes.  Or, if you love classic Spanish Revival style homes with views, consider the old Alum Rock area of San Jose near the country club (golf course).  The Willow Glen area of SJ (zip code 95120) is full of lovely old established neighborhoods with historic homes and tree lined streets.  If your job takes you to downtown San Jose, all of these areas will be fairly close.
  • If you want a rural, eclectic atmosphere, check out the “New Almaden” area of San Jose.  This is actually a county pocket with a San Jose mailing address.
  • Other towns or cities with older, more interesting architecture include the “downtown” ares of Los Altos, Palo Alto, Los Gatos, Campbell, Mountain View, Saratoga and Menlo Park (in San Mateo County, just north of Palo Alto).
  • If work will be on The Peninsula, there are many areas nearby that may work.  San Mateo has some fantastic neighborhoods!  Also San Francisco, which is tiny but full of beautiful areas, may be a strong draw (I do not sell there – it’s too far for me).   Warning: the weather in San Francisco is very often COLD in summer!
  • Across the bay, Berkeley has some great Victorian and other homes and several really interesting pockets, as does parts of Oakland.  (I do not work these areas either as they are too far for me, but I did live in Berkeley in graduate school and can connect you with a great agent there.)
If what you want is a “walk to town“, urban experience, many of the areas above will work for you.  Additionally, there are a couple of more recently built areas that might appeal to you – Santana Row in San Jose (along the Santa Clara border) or the Rivermark area of Santa Clara off of highway 237, close to the bay.

Linguistic Quirks in Silicon Valley

Every area has its linguistic quirks or slang, and the San Jose – Silicon Valley – Santa Clara County region is no exception. Some of it is in the words we use, some of it’s the way we pronounce things, and some of it is just the way we think. If you relocate to the South Bay, you may want to know what some of these mean!

Silicon Valley linguistic quirksPlaces:

The Hill – refers to the Santa Cruz Mountains. Going “over the hill” means going to Scotts Valley, Santa Cruz, or somewhere along the coast.p>

The City – means San Francisco, even though it’s smaller in population than San Jose.

South County – areas such as Gilroy, Morgan Hill, San Martin and Coyote Valley (and outlying areas)

The Bay – is the San Francisco Bay, not the Monterey Bay.

The Airplane Park – this is Oak Meadow Park in the Town of Los Gatos

Read the rest of the post on the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog post,
Silicon Valley Local-Speak: A Guide to Understanding Folks in the South Bay

Swim Teams and Cabana Clubs in Silicon Valley

Got swimmers?  Our sub tropical climate in Silicon Valley makes swimming a popular sport, so if you relocate to the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” you may find an increased desire for jumping into a pool.

Perhaps swimming is already important to you or to your family.Several community centers have excellent swimming facilities, including the Cambrian Park Community Center in San Jose (at Union & Camden Avenues, approximately), the Y and several provate clubs.

If you are looking to live in a neighborhood with a swim club and cabana, you will find many options in the San Jose – Santa Clara County region.

The city of Santa Clara probably has more pools, cabanas and swim teams than any other part of the south bay.  There are plenty in San Jose, too, though, including in Los Gatos, Cambrian Park and Almaden Valley. There are different leagues, not all of them with easily findable websites.

Valley Cabana Swim League is a local association with these member teams

Almaden Country Club (in San Jose’s Almaden Valley)
Belwood Dolphins (Los Gatos – Belwood & Belgatos area)
Los Paseos
Montevideo (in Almaden)
Silver Creek Valley Country Club (in Evergreen area of east San Jose)

Here’s a good list of local and greater Bay Area swim teams:
http://www.swimconnection.com/pc/exec/Teams

Relocation can be challenging but if you know what features you want to find when you get to Silicon Valley, I can help you to locate them, whether it’s a place to swim or virtually anything else.

Rush Hour Traffic in Silicon Valley

Silicon Valley’s rush hour traffic can begin as early as 6:45 or 7 am and last until 9 or 9:30am most workdays.  The evening commute begins to get congested around 3 or 3:30pm with a knot of traffic in place by 5pm and lasting until around 6:30 or 7pm on some roads.

Looking for a reverse commute?  Many commuters do precisely that!

If you work in Scotts Valley (just “over the hill” in Santa Cruz County), living in Los Gatos, Campbell, Cambrian Park or West San Jose will be a reverse commute for you. You’ll be going against the flow of traffic and your commute will be immensely easier.

Ditto that if you work in the south San Jose or Edendale region and begin your commute in Almaden Valley.  Once you get to 85, it will be a breeze!

Work in Gilroy? Living in Blossom Valley or Almaden, you can engineer a reverse commute on the back roads or take Santa Teresa Blvd going south.

Most employees and workers try to carpool, take light rail, or otherwise beat the rush by using tricks of timing or alternate routes to avoid spending twice as much time on the road as necessary.  Many companies have flexible hours – it’s worth investigating to see if you can shorten the length of your time in the car!

Relocation to Silicon Valley can be a bit of a shock to people in terms of the traffic and commute times if they are not accostomed to suburban living (which is most of the valley). Typical commute times are about 30 minutes, though some people have longer or shorter commutes, of course.

Traffic moves toward downtown San Jose primarily along Highways 87, 680 and 280 and toward the Cupertino – Sunnyvale – Mountain View areas along Highway 85 (and 280). Bringing traffic in from the south county is 101.  Other roads getting a lot of use too are 17 and 880 (same road, different stretches), San Tomas Expressway, Montague Expressway, Lawrence Expressway, Santa Teresa Boulevard, Saratoga-Sunnyvale Road, Stevens Creek Blvd. and Almaden Expressway.

Mary Pope-Handy
Realtor,
CIPS, CRS, ABR, SRES
Sereno Group
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd.
Los Gatos CA 95030
[Silicon Valley, California, USA]
1-408-204-7673
mary (at) popehandy.com
CA BRE # 01153805

CIPS - Certified International Property Specialist
CRS - Certified Residential Specialist
ABR - Accredited Buyer Representative
SRES - Seniors Real Estate Specialist

Helping nice folks to buy and sell homes in Silicon Valley since 1993. Mary Pope-Handy, Realtor, Silicon Valley
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