Downtown San Jose
San Jose’s Japantown is not just a neighborhood, but a community with a strong history. Only three Japantowns still exist in the US, and San Jose’s Japantown is the only one that remains in its original location. Issei (first generation immigrants) were drawn to the Santa Clara Valley in the late 1800s for agriculture, and somewhere between 1890 and 1900 they founded Japantown, also called Nihonmachi, next to the site of San Jose’s second Chinatown, known as Heinlenville, which no longer stands. It became a cultural center, safe from the hostile anti-immigrant attitudes of the time. Stores sold familiar products, there were restaurants, boarding houses, social clubs and sports, a bath house, and work and recreation for the Japanese pioneers. As with other groups, the first immigrants from Japan were mostly male, so this “bachelor society” also entertained in gambling houses and brothels.
Yesterday on my way home from a final walk through on a property in Blossom Valley, I stopped by some open houses – following signs, just like a lot of consumers do. At one of the homes I spoke with a Realtor who’s starting to see a slowing in the real estate market. That hasn’t been my own experience, so I asked him about his take on things and he mentioned the rising inventory in areas where he’s active in Silicon Valley.
There are many ways to get a pulse on the market, but perhaps one of the easiest ways to check it is to see the sale price to list price ratio and the days on market. MLSListings, my local multiple listing service (of which I am a member), does some wonderful things with interactive graphs and charts, so I made use of that tool to see how San Jose is faring as a whole and also in some of the zip codes where I sometimes sell homes. The charts below are for single family homes (not condos, townhomes, duplexes, etc.) and are by zip code for all price ranges. Remember, stats are easily skewed one way or the other, and we might have seen different results if we teased it out by home size, lot size, school district, price point, presence of an in-ground pool, or any other factors. This is the “big picture”. First, then, San Jose as a whole.
What we see here is that homes are selling faster (shorter and shorter DOM or Days on Market) and a rising sales price to list price ratio. Both of these indicate a strong seller’s market for the city of San Jose as a whole. Next, we’ll list a sampling of zip codes in San Jose, primarily along the west side (where I tend to be more active in my sales) but not exclusively so. I’m putting these in numerical order.
In San Jose’s 95112 zip code, which is Downtown San Jose, it’s a mixed bag. The sale price to list price ratio is rising (seller’s market) but the days on market are also rising (softening market). This area would require more information – it could be that a few homes have been on the market for a very long time and skewing the stats, or homes in certain price points are just not selling. From this vantage, though, it looks like 95112 is mixed.
Next: 95117, 95118, 95120, 95123, 95125, 95126, 15129, 95136, 95148
Many newcomers to the San Jose & Silicon Valley areas want to buy new homes (or newer ones). Santa Clara County, though, had a big “building boom” after World War II ranging from the 1940s through the 70s. At the end of the building frenzy, most of the land was taken. More importantly, most of the really good land was built up.
How old is the “average” San Jose home for sale? Probably about 45 – 50 years old, on average. Depending on where you’re looking, precisely, the homes could be younger or older on average.
There are some nice communities of new and younger homes in Silicon Valley, but there aren’t a lot of them. Most of the new home communities have houses on small lots. Some are near high voltage power lines (homes on Taft in San Jose’s Cambrian Park area) or next to freeways (Summerhill development off Samaritan Drive in San Jose).
Update from my original post:
Recently I heard from Joshua DeVincenzi Melander, the Director of Membership for the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce, regarding work on Little Italy. He wrote:
“I know a few years ago you wrote a piece about Little Italy on your site. I thought I would reconnect with you and fill you in on our progess. We purchased several homes that are being renovated as we speak and some for our Italian Cultural center/Museum, opened a new Italian Coffee shop, and have our 31 foot “Little Italy” arch close to starting construction.”
Sounds good! Let’s go support it!
ORIGINAL ARTICLE Nov 23, 2011 ~
The Little Italy San Jose Foundation is in the process of rebuilding the original Italian settlement neighborhood in San Jose, which dated back to about the 1870s, with a cultural center, authentic Italian shops and restaurants, and restored buildings. The cultural center offers Italian language classes for adults and children both. Eventually there will be an Italian-American Historical Museum too.
Where is Little Italy San Jose?
I had mistakenly thought that Little Italy San Jose would be in Willow Glen, but that’s not the case. This little neighborhood is close to the San Jose arena in downtown and includes Henry’s Hi-Life, which was the former Torino Hotel. You can see a map of the exact area on the LittleItalySJ site. (In the video mentioned below, we learn that originally there were 3 Italian settlements, but this one was the first. The others are Willow Glen and Goosetown.) Continue reading
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.
Please read the rest of this article on the Move2SiliconValley.com website:
There’s a lot to love about central San Jose, especially near Santa Clara University (that’s my bias: I grew up near there) There are lovely neighborhoods with classic architecture such as The Rose Garden and Shasta-Hanchett. There’s a lot of good eating and entertainment in that part of the valley so close to downtown San Jose too, including Greenlee’s amazing cinnamon bread (you must try their highly prized cinnamon bread), fun & upscale Santana Row.
It might be too easy to miss a local, but low key landmark where you can find hand made chocolates: Schurra’s in San Jose – right on the Alameda, perhaps 2 miles from SCU and one or two from downtown San Jose proper. Schurra’s has been a part of central San Jose for 100 years – it was founded in 1912 and managed to survive the Great Depression and now appears to be thriving through our Great Recession.
Step into Schurra’s and breathe deeply. The smell of the rich chocolates is almost intoxicating! There’s a huge variety so there should be no trouble finding something for everyone in your party! There are chews, truffles, creams and nuts. Dark chocolate and milk chocolate. Dried fruits. Gift boxes galore. Holiday specials. You name it, they seem to have it.
There’s even a little cooler full of ice cream, too.
So hop on your bike, walk or drive your car and visit this very cool old icon of San Jose. It’s goodness that harkens to a bygone era when this valley was known for it’s produce and not its high tech, when it was called The Valley of Heart’s Delight. Take a nibble…or two…. Enjoy a taste of living history! (While you’re in the neighborhood you ought to go to Greenlee’s too and get some of that cinnamon bread for later! It’s practically across the street and is another historic business in Santa Clara County.)
Schurra’s 840 The Alameda San Jose, CA 95126 (408) 289-1562
The annual market report is out at popehandy.REReport.com and we can now learn how 2011 compared to 2010. The median sales price for houses in Santa Clara County was off 5.3% overall. But from one part of the valley to the next it varied wildly with 6 cities or areas finding themselves in positive territory while others were off by double digits.
What is it that makes Gilroy, Los Altos Hills, Los Gatos, Mountain View and Palo Alto “in the black”?
Most of these cities/towns are upscale, west valley communities. But so are Saratoga, Cupertino, and Monte Sereno.
Gilroy was especially hard-hit with the housing downturn so perhaps in that case, it’s just coming back into more of a balance. (Then again, so was Morgan Hill and it’s still off by 12%.)
The LinkedIn IPO and others in the Palo Alto area drove prices up for some parts of the housing market nearby and it’s likely that this explains the positive growth for Palo Alto, Mountain View, and Los Altos Hills. That said, it would seem that Los Altos, and perhaps even Sunnyvale would have seen stronger numbers on the same account. Perhaps school scores are the key driver here.
Los Gatos, Saratoga and Monte Sereno often behave somewhat similarly as they are adjacent to one another and often attract similar home buyers who want good schools, a nice downtown area nearby and scenic beauty with the hills. The annual numbers show Monte Sereno down 6.7%, Saratoga down 2% but Los Gatos up 6.4%. With Monte Sereno, there are very few sales each month and each year (only about 4,000 residents), so there can be a wider swing without it necessarily being accurate. Saratoga and Los Gatos each have about 30,000 people who call these areas home, though, so the data is much more helpful. Saratoga and Los Gatos both have multiple school districts, views, homes with better proximity to “downtown” and more variables – I think we’d have to dig a lot deeper to learn why these two neighboring markets are so diverse. We might also have to look at multiple years of data to see if Saratoga spiked while LG slumped to explain the difference. Continue reading