Sometimes newcomers to Silicon Valley strongly prefer older homes, such as Victorians, Craftsman, or other distinctive architectural styles, preferably surrounded by homes of the same vintage. Most of the valley is filled with ranch style housing, but there are quite a few neighborhoods which enjoy historic home which exude tons of charm. Where to find them?
San Jose’s historic homes
San Jose is a large city (10th largest in the United States, almost 1 million residents) and very spread out with a wide diversity of neighborhoods. Here are a few to consider for classic, older properties:
In central San Jose there are quite a few areas to check out:
(1) Downtown San Jose generally, but within that area
(2) the Shasta-Hanchett neighborhood
(3) the Rosegarden area (close to Shasta Hanchett, both in “central San Jose”)
(4) Alum Rock in east San Jose – up into the foothills there are lovely, older Spanish style homes
(5) Willow Glen – close to downtown SJ, features all sorts of architectural styes, from mid-century modern to Spanish, Victorian, Tudor – you name it. Within Willow Glen, The Palm Haven neighborhood has the added charm of so many palm trees (very visible when flying into the San Jose airport)
There are many more scattered throughout San Jose and nearby suburbs, even in places like Cambrian Park or Almaden (away from the old mercury mining area), where it seems all the houses were built from the 1950s to the 1980s. When we see a hundred year old house in this area, it’s very likely that it used to be the house on a large ranch, orchard or farm.
The town of Los Gatos is far smaller than neighboring San Jose, but has a great assortment of historic districts that are beautifully maintained and tastefully updated, most of them right in downtown. I’ve written about these on my Live in Los Gatos blog, so here are a few links to those neighborhood posts:
Broadway – first subdivision in Los Gatos
Palo Alto enjoys some of the most beautiful, gracious older houses in Silicon Valley, particularly the Professorville and Old Palo Alto areas, but others too. Drive the neighborhoods between Stanford University (El Camino Real) and 101 and you’ll find lots of historic homes to love! The challenge is affordability, as these are the most expensive historic homes in the region.
There are many more lovely older homes throughout Santa Clara and San Mateo Counties and nearby. If you enjoy these classic beauties, watch for a series of spring home tours which become available beginning in around March each year. Most of them will cost a few dollars, with proceeds going to a worthy local charity. If you’re interested in purchasing an historic property, visit my “search by map” page and enter a “built before” year and then scroll around the valley to see what is available.
A couple of days ago I made a quick trip to Spokane, Washington, on some family business. As I’m writing this in mid-December, just short of the winter solstice (shortest day of the year), I was struck by how early the sun set and then, the following morning, how late it rose again. It seemed like I’d “lost” an hour of daylight.
Upon returning home to the San Jose and Los Gatos area (Silicon Valley), I found an awesome site that charts sunrise and sunset (dawn and dusk) times for all of the world. The link below will take you to the page for San Jose, California, which is a good representation of Santa Clara County and the general Silicon Valley area.
I played with this site awhile, checking the hours of daylight for today going north and south of this area. It will be the same amount of daylight hours (or very close) during the shortest daylight day of the year, December 21st. So for people moving around on the west coast, here’s a comparative glimpse on the number of daylight hours during these shortest days of the year:
In summer, of course, it’s the opposite. The further north you go, the longer the days, while the closer to the equator, the shorter the days (and the smaller the swing between summer and winter).
During these “shortest days of the year“, a later sunrise and earlier sunset are really noticed. In Spokane (about the same as Seattle) the sun is coming up at 7:33 and setting at 3:59pm vs the San Jose area’s 7:16 sunrise and 4:52 sunset (8:26 hours of sun up north vs 9:36 in the south Bay Area – 1 hour, 10 minutes more sun here).
How does this compare to other major cities around the US? How many hours of sun are they all getting during these darkest days?
New York City 9:13
San Jose 9:36
Los Angeles 9:53
San Diego 10
Seeing the wide differences in sunlight hours alone, I can see why “snowbirds” would migrate south in winter!
Another factor to consider is how much sun you actually see during those hours of daylight! The San Jose area gets only about 20″ of rain during most years. Most of our rain comes between November and March or April, but even so, it’s unusual to get rain day after day for more than 3-5 days. Normally there are sunny and dry days inbetween patches of overcast, drizzle or rain. The weather will be drier in south county or in the east valley and wetter closer to the coastal foothills (Almaden Valley, Los Gatos, Los Altos). The Santa Cruz Mountains usually hold back the summer fog, leaving the inland areas sunnier and drier than the coast.
Sometimes the winter fog is “ground fog”, or fog from the Pacific which snakes its way inland through the Golden Gate and inches down the bay southward. When that happens, you can sometimes go to the top of the Santa Cruz Mountains and enjoy the sunshine while hiking the trails off Skyline Boulevard.
We have 300 sunny days per year in our mild, subtropical climate. Not bad! Even our winters are not so tough. As one of my Finnish clients said to me recently, “Mary, you don’t really have winter in San Jose!”
If you are relocating to Silicon Valley and wish to choose an upscale or luxury neighborhood, where should you begin looking? Where are the very best areas in or near San Jose?
Here are some quick lists of areas in Silicon Valley areas which enjoy beautiful estate properties:
Luxury Home Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley’s west side
Most of the more expensive parts of Silicon Valley are along the “west valley” areas, and these all enjoy excellent public schools. If you were to look at a topographical map, they would be the cities, towns and neighborhoods close to the coastal foothills (also known as the Santa Cruz Mountains). Or if you looked at a road map, most of them would be on the west side of Highway 85. Unless otherwise noted, the districts, cities or towns are all in Santa Clara County.
These “west valley communities” are listed from southernmost to northernmost, extending from southwestern San Jose up into the San Francisco Peninsula.
Almaden Valley (part of San Jose)
Cupertino (foothills area in particular)
Los Altos Hills
Portola Valley (San Mateo County)
Woodside (San Mateo County)
Hillsborough (San Mateo County)
These are not the only places to find high end real estate in the South Bay area, though – it’s just that most of them are located along the west valley corridor.
More Luxury Home Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley
More communities which are “exclusive” can be found:
The Silver Creek area of San Jose (eastside, within the Evergreen district)
Part of the Alum Rock neighborhood near the old San Jose Country Club (also on the east side).
The Rosegarden area of central San Jose
The Naglee Park neighborhood near downtown San Jose
Willow Glen enjoys some beautiful old mansions (between downtown SJ and the west side)
Part of the Mission District of Fremont (Alameda County)
Eagle’s Ridge community in Gilroy (south part of Santa Clara County)
Something to be aware of is that many of these areas are served by more than one school district. In some cases, the different school districts can be very different in terms of school performance scores. In Saratoga, for instance, there are 3 different districts. Two have excellent scores and the third has good scores – but very different numbers! This can be a surprise to people who relocate to Silicon Valley: so be aware of this quirk if you move here! (Even if you are not interested in utilizing the schools, know that they are a prime driver in home values and pricing.)
Would you like to learn more about luxury real estate & homes in Silicon Valley? I have some other blogs with posts that you might find helpful
Related posts on the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog:
The Silicon Valley Luxury Home Market (browse listings over $2 million in a few areas)
Related posts on the Live in Los Gatos blog:
Many relocating families search specifically for neighborhoods with the very best schools. There are many sites which will give you this information in immense detail, but if you want a “quick answer” on excellent schools in Silicon Valley and San Jose, I can give that to you quickly here.
The finest public schools and districts (with excellent scores at all levels of schooling) tend to be found in the most expensive parts of Santa Clara County, and most of them are along the “west valley” areas, including Almaden Valley (an area of San Jose), Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Cupertino, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Palo Alto. Most of these communities are found along the base of the coastal foothills, aka the Santa Cruz Mountains, are are located not too far from Highway 85. The Silver Creek area (of the Evergreen District of San Jose) on the east side also has some fine schools. There are pockets with great elementary schools scattered throughout the valley too.
What do these homes cost? In the best areas, it is not uncommon to spend a million dollars or more for a “turnkey” home of 1800 square feet with no issues (no high voltage lines, no busy road, etc.). In some areas, like Saratoga, that might be closer to $2 million.
In many parts of Santa Clara County the elementary schools are excellent, middle schools are “very good” and the high schools are good. This is true for parts of west San Jose (bordering Cupertino and Saratoga) and Cambrian Park. These areas tend to be much more affordable than those with excellent schools in all levels. For home buyers not so worried about high schools as cost, these can be a great option for getting more home (and school) for your money.
While many home buyers are reluctant to consider private schools, sometimes it is much less expensive in the long run to purchase a comfortable home in an area you like but which doesn’t have fantastic schools and then send your kids to private or parochial schools. In Los Gatos, where the schools run from very good to exceptional, about one-third of students are not in public schools.
If you are planning a relocation to Silicon Valley and want to know more about local schools (public or private) please email me at mary (at) popehandy.com and I’ll be happy to chat with you about them more in person. I can also help you to find areas which are more affordable and offer strong schools.
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)
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:
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.
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.
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. Many sites refer to them as “walk to town”, though that phrase is being discouraged now so as not to offend anyone who is non-ambulatory.
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.
(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.
The city of Campbell is south of San Jose and borders it. It enjoys a lovely and popular “downtown” area along Campbell Avenue, close 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 now.
(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 “walk to town” areas, it’s much less expensive the further out you get.
View a slideshow of downtown Los Gatos (and links to more slideshows from there) courtesy of Mary Pope-Handy.
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 fanstastic 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)
(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.
(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!
(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.
(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”.
Slideshow of Santana Row (will open in a new window) by Mary Pope-Handy.