Which cities are a a part of Silicon Valley? When people are considering a move to the San Francisco Bay Area, that’s one of the first questions asked.
Silicon Valley is not really a valley, though it did originally harken back to the Santa Clara Valley’s geography. The towns and cities which are included in Silicon Valley are primarily in Santa Clara County (by far the largest Silicon Valley city is San Jose), with San Mateo County also having a number of areas, with little snippets of Santa Cruz County and Alameda County.
While San Jose is the largest city in Silicon Valley, the epicenter of the region is probably Palo Alto – Mountain View – Sunnyvale.
This is an amorphous area. If you asked 10 different real estate agents, you might get 5 or 6 different answers, but I believe the list below would be agreed upon by most.
It is important to note that San Francisco is NOT in Silicon Valley. Many reporters get this wrong and report on Silicon Valley with stories out of SF. The regions are certainly related, and there are high tech companies in The City but they are distinct.
A list of which cities are part of Silicon Valley
In Santa Clara County (most of the county) – also known as the South Bay
Gilroy – possibly
Los Altos Hills
Los Gatos Mountains (not incorporated) – possibly
In San Mateo County (bayside areas) – on The Peninsula
East Palo Alto
In Alameda County – in the East Bay
Possibly Newark, Hayward
In Santa Cruz County – not part of the San Francisco Bay Area (9 counties), but part of the Monterey Bay Area and the Central Coast
This video is pretty good overall, though it misses some areas which are part of Silicon Valley, mispronounces the names of many areas, and refers to Gordon Moore as George Moore. Despite some errors, it’s entertaining and brief, and I think newcomers will find it helpful as an intro to the San Francisco Bay Area and Silicon Valley regions of California.
If you are searching for Silicon Valley real estate, or Silicon Valley homes for sale, you may discover that you get overwhelmed with choices and housing results.
The biggest problem is that the area is simply enormous. Most agree that Silicon Valley is an area covering Santa Clara County, San Mateo County, part of Santa Cruz County (Scotts Valley) and part of Alameda County (Fremont – and some also add Union City and Newark). It’s a lot of territory – 1,854 square miles. As of last year, this much territory was home to between just over 3 million people.
So if you are in house hunting mode, the very first thing you need to do is to understand your anchor point. The anchor point is the thing which you want to be near. For most people, that’s a work location (and in many cases, it may be 2 work locations). Sometimes it’s proximity to family members, a place of worship, a particular school or any number of things. Most of the time, the main anchor point is the place of employment and desired commute time, tempered by things like good schools, shopping, parks, things to do, and quality of life.
Narrowing the home search geographically
Moving here to work in Scotts Valley? Much of Santa Cruz County may work – but so could living in Los Gatos, Campbell or nearby, where you’d have a reverse commute.
Relocating for a job in Mountain View? Most likely, you’ll eliminate Santa Cruz County due to distance and commute challenges with Highway 17 going over the Santa Cruz Mountains.
If good public schools matter, that will help to refine your search, as not all parts of the southern San Francisco Bay Area have equally good education.
Below I’ll post sample listings from communities noted for better public schools in Santa Clara County up to 1.2 million, which seems to be a very hot price point that many relocating home buyers can afford. I do also serve San Mateo and Santa Cruz Counties, but most of my clients are looking at Santa Clara Co., so limiting this search here. Unfortunately, Alameda County (Fremont, Union City, and Newark are there) has a totally different MLS so usually I don’t work there – but am happy to introduce you to a great Realtor who does (please just email me and I will connect you).
Current Santa Clara County homes for sale in areas with good schools
It’s so easy to get lost when you’re new to an area and don’t know what’s where! Luckily, the San Francisco Bay Area is rich in large landmarks such as the Bay, the coastal range and the east foothills. At first, the mountains might seem like they all look the same. But if you know what to look for, you’ll soon get your bearings – assuming that it’s daytime and the weather is cooperative!
Here are my Silicon Valley landmarks and mental tricks or visioning – the ones I use to know where I am or where I am going. First, imagine that the Santa Clara Valley is a bit like a funnel with mountains that narrow at the bottom on two sides and the San Francisco Bay on top. OK, it’s not quite straight, but it’s not a bad analogy otherwise. Next, consider how to tell the two sets of hills apart. The ones closest to the ocean, the Santa Cruz Mountains (aka the coastal range) are full of redwood trees and another conifers and they stay green year round. These hills are nearly always a deep, dark green or blue-green. The eastern foothills, on the other hand, are mostly grassy but dotted with oak tree clusters in the nooks and crannies of the hills where the rain catches. Those hills are a bright, lighter green in winter (when it rains!) but for much of summer and fall they are blanketed with a yellow-gold grass.
Now that you have the basic East – West (or actually South to Soutwest, depending) direction sorted out, it’s time to learn what to look for in each of the mountains to get your location sorted out a little better. Fortunately, each of them has a large structure perched on a high peak, so as long as the weather is clear and it’s daytime, they tend to stand out from almost anywhere in Santa Clara County.
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