Community Information for Silicon Valley
Silicon Valley is a broad area which is mostly, but not exclusively, contained by the boundaries of Santa Clara County. It also includes a little of Santa Cruz County (Scotts Valley in particular), Alameda County (Fremont), and some of San Mateo County as well (Menlo Park, Redwood Shores, and other areas on the San Francisco Peninsula it is slowly creeping into San Francisco itself).
Within Santa Clara County, which has a population of about 1.8 million people, the largest city is San Jose, where just under 1 million people live. San Jose is a sprawling city that includes many districts, each with their own history, personality, charm, and amenities. Additionally, there are many other cities and one town – Los Gatos – that occupy Santa Clara County.
Some of the Districts in San Jose
The Rosegarden and Shasta-Hanchett neightborhoods in San Jose’s 95126 zip code lie between the city of Santa Clara and downtown San Jose. The streets, large trees, and lovely architecture from the 1920s and later, generally, though there are also some Victorian homes in the Shasta-Hanchett area. From these neighborhoods, it’s about 2 miles to downtown San Jose in one direction, and Santa Clara University in the other. Love beautiful, classic architectural diversity? This may be your spot, as you’ll find almost every style of historic housing here: Victorian, Mediterranean, Tudor, Craftsman, Ranch, Cape Cod, and many more.
Downtown San Jose includes many districts, such as Japantown (one of only 3 Japanese districts in the US – all of which are in California), Naglee Park, and the Vendome District. Each of these three downtown communities enjoys a close-knit community spirit, nicely maintained and updated historic homes, and a distrinctive sense of place in history. If you treasure historic homes, be sure to check out these areas. Naglee Park is just a couple of blocks from San Jose State University, so it is very convenient for folks who work or attend classes there.
The Berryessa district was once well known for farms and ranches along the scenic east foothills of San Jose. Today it’s largely ranch style homes, but many are nestled into the hills or close to lovely Penitencia Creek or Park.
Alum Rock is an area of “old San Jose” where the monied folks would set up homes along a lovely golf course and near the once exceedingly popular hot springs. At one time, a trolly line ran from San Jose’s downtown to Alum Rock Park so that people could picnic and enjoy the hot springs for the day. The area remains a destination even now, with the expansive park drawing hikers and picnicing groups as always – but no trolly line in our day! The areas into the foothills, and near the San Jose Country Club, are older and include many historic homes as well as views.
The Cambrian Park area sits between Willow Glen, Campbell, Almaden Valley, and Los Gatos. In the orchard heyday, it was filled with groves of citrus, prunes, walnuts, cherrys and many more fruits. Additionally, there was a vineyard and a quarry at Lone Mountain (along Harwood Road near Los Gatos Almaden Road). It is a low crime, good school district area that attracts people who would like the benefits of living in Los Gatos or Almaden but don’t have the budget or want a longer commute. Schools in Cambrian’s Union School District have been steadily rising in recent years, and this is bringing in more and more highly educated home buyers as long time residents of the community retire, sell their homes and downsize.
Almaden Valley made a name for itself as a mine for quicksilver or Mercury. At one time it was the largest quicksilver mine in the world. Mercury was an important element in getting gold out of the rock that contained it, so the mine bustled in the gold rush era. Today, visitors can see the historic district along Almaden Road, visit the mining museum and get a sense of going back in time as they meander down the brick sidewalk. Almaden Valley grew out of that original mining camp and now is a high-end suburb with safe neighborhoods and great schools. The area is served by more than one school district, so home buyers need to be aware of that when house hunting as it impacts value – regardless of whether you intend to make use of the public schools there.
Willow Glen stretches from downtown San Jose to Cambrian Park and Campbell. The downtown area, Lincoln Avenue, has many unique shops and restaurants and is a popular place for people to mill about and window shop on weekends. Willow Glen was once a distinct town, separate from San Jose, but in the early part of the last century voted for incorporation due to the cost of getting hooked up to the sewer system. Willow Glen residents will most likely identify themselves as being from Willow Glen rather than from San Jose. There is a lot of neighborhood pride! In Willow Glen you can find bocce ball courts and clubs, as you can in Los Gatos. The Christmas season draws many people to Willow Glen as the residents tend to go all-out in lighted decorations for December. The Willow Glen district is one of the most beautiful in San Jose.
There are many more districts in San Jose – West San Jose, South San Jose, Blossom Valley, Evergreen, North San Jose, Robertsville, Santa Teresa – to name a few! Please see the “links” below for a complete description for each area.
Other Cities and Towns in Silicon Valley
Los Gatos is the gateway to Silicon Valley from the coastal cities of Santa Cruz and Scotts Valley. It began as a mill (though the mill was never a financial success) and was later known for healthful weather, vineyards and wineries, a great summer vacationing spot, a place for making movies (Charlie Chaplain!), a writer’s reatreat (John Steinbeck!) and much more. Some now consider it a suburb of San Jose, but Los Gatos prides itself on being a self-contained town (not a city) with low crime, great schools, loads of great parks, views, architecturally interesting neighborhoods and fabulous community events and participation. Free music concerts run a couple of dozen times each summer. Shakespeare is performed in Oak Meadow Park during the summer too. Winter includes a holiday parade which is highly attended, plus a horsedrawn carriage ride in December too. If you are a fan of bocce ball, you can play it either at the restaurant Campo de Bocce or at Oak Meadow Park in Los Gatos. Please see the link below to the Live In Los Gatos blog.
Saratoga was once a lumbermill town, but today is best known for schools with exceptionally high performance and low crime. It has a classy towntown area with fine dining and interesting shops, and a distinct personality. Saratoga is also home to the Mountain Winery and Villa Montalvo, so if you are a Silicon Valley concert lover, you will eventually find your way to these two venues!
Campbell, like many parts of Silicon Valley, was once a farming community full of fruit orchards. Today The Pruneyard Shopping Center’s name harkens to that time, but open space has long since disappeared. Campbell has an interesting and fun downtown area that is older and nicely updated, so it attracts a lot of traffic on foot and bike as well as by car.
Other west valley cities include Monte Sereno (tiny – about 4000 people, no businesses), Cupertino (very highly regarded schools), Sunnyvale (one of the lowest crime rates in the nation), Mountain View (you cannot find more restaurants per square inch in any other downtown walking district, I’m sure!), scenic Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Palo Alto, home to Stanford University, is on the northwest edge of Santa Clara County. Great schools, fabulous downtown, and lovely old neighborhoods make Palo Alto perhaps the most desired (and most expensive) part of the county.
Along the northeast part of Santa Clara County, Milpitas rests between North San Jose and Fremont. Many consider it an ideal commute location.
The middle of the county is held by Santa Clara, which is home to the beautiful Mission Santa Clara and Santa Clara University. The city prides itself on running its own utiliites and keeping the cost low to residents.
“The South County” areas include Gilroy (best known for garlic and The Garlic Festival each July) and Morgan Hill, once very popular for ranches and horse country, but now largely suburban.
My area of specialization is “the west valley” areas, pretty much following the highway 85 corridor: Los Gatos, Almaden, Cambrian Park, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and Campbell, but also Willow Glen, Blossom Valley, Sunnyvale, and other nearby areas. I have sold all over San Jose and Santa Clara County, from Morgan Hill to the south to Milpitas in the north east and Los Altos to the northwest and everything inbetween (Santa Clara, Japantown, the Rosegarden, Campbell, Evergreen, Cupertino, east San Jose – you name it!)
Please see the link below for more information on all the cities in Silicon Valley and all the districts within San Jose to help you find your ideal neighborhood.