Gilroy

GGF_2015_Flameup_3Greet the morning with the sweet smell of fresh Garlic in the air – the Gilroy Garlic Festival is back!

If you’ve ever caught the vivid aroma of the stinking rose early in the day it’s likely a breeze coming over the southern Santa Clara County city of Gilroy, the Garlic capital of the world. Whether you love or hate the pungent allium, this herb is a favorite for many foodies in Silicon Valley and around the world.

Gilroy celebrates their favorite bulb one weekend of the year during the Gilroy Garlic Festival, the last weekend in July. This year it’s back for the 38th annual event held on July 29, 30, and 31, 2016. So what to should you expect from “summer’s ultimate food fair?” Food, food, food, fun, shopping, music, and more!

Gourmet Alley is “all about the food” – classics like garlic bread, garlic fries, calamari, scampi, and sausage are available at the booths, and at the end aisle, watch the Pyro-Chefs stoke up five foot tall blazes from their frying pans. Weird food lovers will enjoy a plenitude of flavors from other booths around the festival, including free samples of garlic ice-cream, alligator and buffalo meat, or ice cream in a half cantaloupe. There’s also the range of standard festival food stalls, beer, wine, coolers, and non-alcoholic chilled drinks.

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Gilroy Garlic FestivalGilroy is a scenic area well known for wineries, farmland and fruit stands.  More than anything,  it’s most iconic produce is garlic, which is celebrated late each July with the annual Garlic Festival, which began yesterday and continues through the weekend.  If you’ve never been, I highly recommend it!  Go early and bring your appetite!  There’s more than just eating to be enjoyed, but eating is surely high up on the list of priorities!  Click on the link above to see what’s on the schedule this weekend.  (Be sure to wear sunscreen and a hat. It is very hot…so drink a lot of water…)

In the days and weeks leading up to this fun food festival, the scent of garlic fills the early morning air and blows north along the coastal foothills so that those of us in Silicon Valley get a healthy nose full when grabbing our morning paper off the driveway. This has been my experience since I was a small child and I’m happy that all the progress of the last 40 or 50 years hasn’t changed the smell of garlic heralding mid-summer.

Garlic is king in Gilroy, but it’s not all that’s happening there

A nice easy, and fairly fast trip by car will bring you to South County and to Gilroy.  It’s a wonderful day trip to explore the backyard of Silicon Valley, or better, take a whole weekend to get to know the area.  There’s a nice downtown area where you can do some shopping and dining.  Go out a bit and there are a number of fabulous wineries to check out.  And lest we forget, Gilroy is a local epicenter of bargain shopping.

At the intersection of highways 101 and 152, the Gilroy Premium Outlet Mall is found.  Go with the intention of spending money, because resistance is futile once you park your car.  This afternoon I spent a few hours there with my daughter and we found some especially good pricing on clothes – perhaps because of the Garlic Festival and the anticipated crowds.

Many will attest that cars are found for a better price there, too.

But wait, there’s more!  Gilroy is also home to a charming family amusement park (aimed at younger kids), Gilroy Gardens.   Continue reading

What’s Are The Fun Places for Kids In and Near San Jose?

leaded window glass at the Winchester Mystery house - the window's panes create the shape of a spider webThere are oodles of fun things for kids and the young-at-heart to do in San Jose and the greater Silicon Valley area. Here are a few of the more dramatic highlights!

In San Jose, Santa Clara and nearby

Happy Hollow Zoo and Park This is a great place for younger kids. It features a petting zoo, non-scary rides, and places to run off steam. Happy Hollow is undergoing a giant renovation and will be closed for part or all of the summer of 2008. Please double check the website or phone the park prior to visiting to make sure it’s open! Tel 408 277-3000.

In Los Gatos: Oak Meadow Park (12 acres) and Vasona Lake County Park (150 acres – these are adjacent, interconnected parks).  Oak Meadow is a town of Los Gatos park, Vasona is a county park, but they are connected!  Of special note at Oak Meadow are the real Air Force jet that kids can climb on (local kids often refer to it as “the airplane park”), the hand painted carousel and Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad train which begins in Oak Meadow but mostly rides through Vasona, and the paddle boats on Vasona Lake. (Post on Live In Los Gatos about these 2 parks.)  There is a fee to park at Vasona.  Los Gatos town residents can park for free at Oak Meadow – but places fill up fast!

The Children’s Discovery Museum in downtown San Jose can’t be beat, especially on a too warm, too cold, or too rainy day! It is a hands on, fun place for kids. One of the most popular items is a stagecoach which kids can climb into. Warning to parents: the acoustics could be better and sometimes it’s overly loud in there.

The Tech Museum of Innovation Recommended for kids ages 7 and up, but especially for kids 10 and up. There’s an IMAX theater as well – fantastic shows! Great downtown San Jose location.

California’s Great America in Santa Clara. Suitable for all ages but teens will like this best! This park does offer some water play areas and some little kid areas (but it’s expensive for that). Shows in air conditioned theaters will be welcome on warm days. Check out the Wow Card (or VIP Pass if you want to park close) if you’ll be back again in the same season.

The Winchester Mystery House:  This is a beyond-unique 160+ year old Victorian Mansion build by Sara Winchester with the thought that if she never stopped building, she would never die. Interesting but odd architectural accents throughtout the home!This historic landmark sits near the lovely Santana Row shopping center, just off 280 and near Stevens Creek Blvd. (It is a “half exit” from 280 – you can exit 280 southbound to get to Winchester and you can enter 280 northbound from Winchester, but not vice versa.)

List of Attractions Throughout Santa Clara County and Beyond
Gilroy (south of San Jose)
Gilroy Gardens (formerly Bonfante Gardens)Want to make a bigger trip of it to The Garlic Capital of the World? Gilroy offers great shopping to dress up those kids (or yourself)! . And maybe when that’s all done, do some wine tasting. If you can take a tour, the kids may not even get bored. List of wineries (and breweries) in and near Gilroy. And lastly, don’t forget the Garlic Festival! It happens in late July every year. Yes, it’s hot. Yes, they do really serve Garlic Ice Cream. You need to try it at least once! The Gilroy Garlic Festival – information, recipes, calendar, fun stuff for kids.

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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.

Santa Clara Coutny Cities median SP year over year 2011 to 2010In the image to the left, I’ve put into bold the cities where the median sales price of houses which sold and closed escrow in 2011 were ahead of 2010’s pricing.

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

The Williamson Act, also known as the California Land Conservation Act, was passed by our California Legislature in 1965 in order to encourage rural & agricultural lands to remain undeveloped longer. When land owners enter into a contract under the act, they benefit from lower property taxes, which are based on the property’s current use, rather than paying market value based tax rates.  In exchange, the property is to remain undeveloped and continue to function the same way for the duration of that contract.  The contracts run for 10 years and are automatically renewed unless the farmer or rancher cancels it.

Why does the Williamson Act matter?

According to the Committee for Green Foothills, there are 362,000 acres of land in Santa Clara County under the Williamson Act (that article appears to have been written in 2003, so the numbers may have changed a little since then).  Much of it is in the east foothills of east San Jose and the south county areas near Morgan Hill and Gilroy, but there are patches of it in Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, Almaden Valley, Blossom Valley and throughout Silicon Valley. The tax breaks make it possible for many farmers and ranchers to stay in business and not feel forced to sell their land for development.  If they were paying “market rate” taxes, it would not be long before most or all of our rural and agricultural uses gave way to housing and other development.

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What makes a Silicon Valley house a luxury home? How is high end real estate different from the rest of the market? When is a property not just a home with land, but an estate? 

In other parts of the U.S., spending $700,000 may fetch a 4000 square foot home, new construction, in an upscale gated community with country club amenities such as a golf course, tennis courts, and more. Here, that same $700,000 will procure an entry to mid-level single family home in many parts of Santa Clara County. 

Luxury connotes a combination of qualities, features, and amenities. And it includes pricing (relative to the nearby market), condition, land, design. 

Pricing Luxury Homes in Silicon Valley: What Do They Cost? 

Expensive Silicon Valley homes are not necessarily luxury homes. Depending on the city or town, the price tag could be higher or lower. For instance, a fabulous house on a large lot in Gilroy’s Eagle Ridge might sell for 1/3 as much as the identical type of home, land and neighborhood found in Saratoga, Monte Sereno, or Los Gatos, or Los Altos, if a similar home happened to be available. Generally, though, luxury homes could cost as little as $1,000,000 or so in some parts of Silicon Valley or in neighboring counties, but in most parts of Silicon Valley, a true estate type property will be valued at $2,000,000 or $3,000,000 or more.  In some areas, such as Palo Alto, that $2 million doesn’t go too far and the home you can purchase at that price tag may need major updating – or it could be “land value”.  For our purposes today, we’ll use $2 million as the bottom number for estate properties, but it may or may not be the case in some areas. 

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Right now there are about 4664 active residential real estate listings (homes listed for sale on our local MLS) which are houses, duet homes, townhouses or condominiums in Santa Clara County.  Of those, there are 1255 short sales (27% of the inventory) and 463 bank owned properties, or REOs (9%),  on the market.  So the “distressed properties” segment equals 37% of the Silicon Valley real estate market (or Santa Clara County real estate market).

Some areas are flooded with short sales & bank owned homes. Others are going through this meltdown nearly unscathed. Below please find a sampling of areas in and around San Jose with the percentage of distressed homes for sale (including both short sales and REOs or bank owned properties).  In most areas, there are usually about 3 times as many short sales as bank owned homes, but sometimes it’s a lower percentage, closer to 2.5%.   I pulled the numbers from our MLS tonight – info is deemed correct but of course not guaranteed. 

 
Percent of Distressed Home Listings in Parts of Santa Clara County
Figures represent houses, duet homes, townhouses & condos for sale
South County (Morgan Hill, Gilroy, “area 1” 43%
Santa Teresa (area of San Jose, “area 3”) 44%
Central San Jose (downtown & nearby, “area 9”) 51%
Palo Alto 2%
Saratoga 4%
Los Gatos (town of, zips 95030 & 95032) 12%

On Friday I drove from Silicon Valley to Los Angeles to get my son (and his stuff) from college at LMU at the end of the school year.  On Saturday, we drove back.  It was a quick trip but we did have some fun and see some sights, lingering a few hours at the exquisite Getty Museum especially. 

The last little stop we made was in the south county at one of the many, many fruit stands along Highway 152 near Gilroy, the Merry Cherry Fruit Stand.  There we purchased some cherries (naturally!) and pistachios.  Since some of my blog’s readers are actually not in Silicon Valley, and may not be familiar with this area, I thought it would be good to share a couple of pics.  These were taken in the late afternoon, around 6:15 or 6:30, so there are long shadows – but it was fabulous spring weather and very pleasant out. It’s a pretty typical roadside stand and there are many of them in this region. (Note to visitors: most of these places are cash only.)

This next photo was taken from the parking area of the Merry Cherry stand. I loved how the shadows looked in the groves of the ploughed field, waiting for the next planting, or perhaps for sprouts to soon appear.

For people who’ve never been to Santa Clara County (where most of Silicon Valley can be found), or new to our part of Northern California, it’s a suprise that we still have farmland and fruit stands. We also have vineyards and wineries in various parts of the county, especially the Santa Cruz Mountains and “south county”. These agricultural regions are a reminder us that our whole area was once largly farm based and was then called “the Valley of Heart’s Delight”. 

If you’ve never been to Morgan Hill or Gilroy, don’t wait for the Garlic Festival or a need to hit the outlet malls to drive down and investgate the area.  It’s really quite beautiful and there are many interesting nooks and crannies waiting to be discovered.

Translation

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Mary Pope-Handy
Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
License# 01153805


Selling homes in
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Mary Pope-Handy's Live in Los Gatos blog won the 2007 Project Blogger contest, sponsored by Inman News and Active Rain

2007: Mary Pope-Handy and Frances Flynn Thorsen win the Project Blogger Contest for Mary's Live in Los Gatos blog. The contest was sponsored by
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