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 of higher density and mixed use. These are areas where homes and shops are close together, sometimes even stacked, and land tends to be scarce and in high demand. In these areas residents often are not so dependent upon cars, and some sites may refer to them as “walkable” or “walk to town” neighborhoods, although that phrase is less inclusive and is being phased out.
Urban Living Neighborhoods in Silicon Valley
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 luxurious, upscale, and elegant. There are many active shopping and dining scenes in the vairous downtown neighborhoods, as well as plenty of entertainment and community events. Just about every public transit system can, or soon will be, accessed through downtown from CalTrain at Diridon Station to the upcoming Bart stations and VTA’s many busses and lightrails.
Additionally, there are some neighborhood in or near downtown with older and historic single family houses full of character and architectural charm. Once such neighborhood is Japantown, where many of the homes are Spanish or Mediterranean style from around the 1920s, and there’s a happening little “downtown” area (apart from the more congested, sky scraper area) with wonderful shops, restaurants, and community events. San Jose’s Japantown, by the way, is one of only 3 remaining in the country – all of which are in California. The other 2 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. The charming, active 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 downtown strip is always buzzing with activity, and there’s a highly-engaged community, but it has a more charming town-like feel compared to downtown San Jose just a few miles north east.
Find my Willow Glen Real Estate Market Update through the link.
The city of Campbell is southwest of San Jose along the borders of Los Gatos and Saratoga. It enjoys a lovely and vital downtown strip along Campbell Avenue, with a VTA lightrail stop, close to the Los Gatos Creek trail, parks, and also the popular Pruneyard Shopping Center, and even more shopping and dining along Winchester Ave.
This part of the valley has both older homes (again dating back to the Victorian home era) as well as newer. Possibly one of the most active downtown strips in the South Bay, you’ll find regular multi-block festivities, from the weekly farmers market to annual Halloween party, Octoberfest, jazz festivals and more! Campbell is a thriving community that’s hooked-into the greater Silicon Valley with ease of access via public transit and commuter bike trails.
Find my Campbell Real Estate Market Update through the link.
(4) Los Gatos
Closer to the hills from Campbell is the town of Los Gatos, snuggling up to the base of the scenic 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, location matters a great deal and prices tend to go down the further the trek from the downtown scene!
For “urban living” this community enjoys a more remote, small-town feel, especially in some of the hillier neighborhoods where you might find pockets of woodland as well as large open-space preserves. That said, the Town is host to some big events from the weekly farmers market to annual parades and summer concert series. The popular Los Gatos Creek bike trail runs through the heart of Town, but there’s very little public transit available and traffic can sometimes be a challenge in the historic downtown neighborhoods.
Find my Los Gatos Real Estate Market Update and the Market Trends by Price Point and High School District through the links.
A little northwest of Los Gatos, Saratoga is also built against the coastal range foothills and is extremely scenic. Saratoga is smaller and quieter, and many would also say more upscale. The schools in Saratoga are fantastic so most people moving there today do so for the schools, although the same could be said for Los Gatos. 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 go wine tasting or enjoy some of the annual community celebrations, though you won’t find the big street-closing events here like you will in Los Gatos or Campbell!
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 CalTrain route, too, so is a fabulous commute location for anyone going up the peninsula or to San Francisco or the East Bay.
Find my Mountain View Real Estate Market Update through the link.
(7) Palo Alto
North of Mountain View is the very impressive, and immensely expensive, city of Palo Alto. Neighbor to Stanford University and some of the best schools in the nation, the downtown area also boasts wonderful eateries, shops, a classic movie theater, a CalTrain station, thriving farmers market, annual arts festival, and much more. Everyone loves Palo Alto – the only trick is affording it!
There hasn’t been a demand for regular market updates for Palo Alto on my blog, but occasionally I will run side-by-side comparissons of it to other South Bay markets. See What does it cost to buy a 4 bedroom, 2 bath home in the West Valley areas of Silicon Valley?
(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 in San Jose
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. It was built as San Jose’s answer to Rodeo Drive, where you could shop in-store for Gucci, Coach, and other luxury retailers. Today you can find everything from a Tesla storefront to the Container Store or just people-watch with a pastry by the streetside cafe.
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 lifestyle-community is expensive! 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. The grocery store is a mere block away and a movie theater rounds-off the attractions here, so this self-contained neighborhood truly seems to have it all.
If you need to travel the VTA runs a number of bus lines nearby and there’s easy access to car commuter routes, although traffic can get congested during big shopping seasons with so much in the neighborhood.
Find my San Jose Real Estate Market Update through the link.
For decades there has been a housing crisis in California, but when land is scarce in the most populus regions of the state, builders try to make every square foot count. Lately there has been a greater interest and need in communities like Santana Row, which provide space for people to live, work, and play, and more communities like it are now in the works.
In Los Gatos, the North 40 development has plans for mixed-use shopping and dining with more affordable (at least for Los Gatos) housing above. In San Jose, Cambrian Park Plaza is set for a similar large-scale development called Cambrian Village with a variety of residential plans from apartments and senior living to townhome and single family homes, as well as bike paths and a community park and a large, upscale shopping plaza.