Gilroy, the Garlic Capital of the World

Gilroy Garlic Festival

Garlic Festival – much missed!

Gilroy is a scenic area well known for wineries, farmland and fruit stands.  More than anything,  it’s most iconic produce is garlic, which used to be celebrated late each July with the annual Garlic Festival, which, sadly, has been discontinued.

In summer days, 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.

If you’re exploring this city, be sure to also check out Morgan Hill and San Martin, the other South County communities, too!

Gilroy: shopping, dining, wine tasting, parks, golf, and more

A nice easy, and fairly fast trip by car will bring you to South County and to this city nestled at the base of the coastal range.  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.  We have shopped there many times and often found some especially good pricing on clothes.

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

This area is also home to a charming family amusement park (aimed at younger kids), Gilroy Gardens.  Adults and children alike will appreciate the astounding topiary and twisted special trees which are unlike those you’d find anywhere else.  Even if you don’t have small kids, it’s worthwhile to visit this park just to see the amazing trees at least once.

Gilroy, Morgan Hill, Coyote Valley and nearby areas make up the “south county,” which has a little slower pace of living and quite a bit more affordability in housing. The commute is long.  The summers are hotter. So there are some trade-offs.

Love golf? There are several courses here: Eagle Ridge, Gilroy Golf Course, and Gavilan Golf Course are all in town.

Eagle Ridge Golf Course and neighborhood, Gilroy

 

Gilroy neighborhoods

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South County

South County refers to the southern part of Santa Clara County, namely Morgan Hill, San Martin, Gilroy, and further out to the county lines.

There’s a tremendous amount of variety within this area in terms of neighborhood, terrain, home types, urban vs rural, etc. On our local multiple listing service, this vast region is all “Area 1”.

 

Morgan Hill Jackson Oaks view of South County

South County living

People living in South County may be in a fairly urban area of Gilroy or Morgan Hill, with restaurants, shops, and a train station within a few blocks. It could be more suburban or centered on or near a golf course, parkland, or other open space.

The could just as easily be in farmland or ranchland, with vineyards, fruit and nut orchards, or other produce growing (particularly garlic and mushrooms). There are even some flower farms and grass farms in this part of Santa Clara County! Possibly instead your neighbors could be goats, horses, donkeys, cows, or sheep, depending on how far out you’re looking.

These communities are populated mostly close to Highway 101, and are otherwise fairly rural.

Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy info

 

Please check out the individual posts for these South County areas and learn more about each of them:

Related reading on another of our sites

Morgan Hill (on popehandy.com)

San Martin real estate (on popehandy.com

Gilroy (on popehandy.com

Gilroy and the South County’s Fruit Stands and Farmland

Fruit stands are ubiquitous in rural Santa Clara County, particularly in the South County communities of Morgan Hill, San Martin, and Gilroy. If you’re driving to Los Angeles, you may not be able to miss the largest of them all, Casa de Fruta, which is just barely inside of Santa Clara County.

Fruit stands and where to find them

Along 152

f you’re driving to Los Angeles from Santa Clara County using Highway 5, you will turn off of Highway 101 and take Hwy 152 in Gilroy to cut across the Pacheco Pass to get to 5. Almost immediately on 152 you’ll encounter produce stands selling fruit, nuts, artichokes, and all sorts of vegetables, and, of course, garlic!

One of these fruit stands along Highway 152 near Gilroy is the Merry Cherry Fruit Stand.  There we have purchased some cherries (naturally!) and pistachios at various times. Here are a couple of photos from there,  taken in a May evening, 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.

Please note: some of the produce stands may take cash only, though I suspect it’s changed as technology has improved.

 

Merry Cherry fruit stand near Gilroy CA along Highway 152 - of of many produce and fruit stands in the South County area of Santa Clara County

 

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.

 

farm field near Gilroy CA along highway 152 (photo taken at Merry Cherry fruit stand)

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Gilroy Garlic Festival

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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The Silicon Valley Luxury Home Market

El Sombroso peaking over a bridge at Vasona County Park in Los GatosWhat makes an expensive house in the San Jose area more than just a pricey bit of real estate, but instead a Silicon Valley 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 $1,200,000 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 $1,200,000 will procure an entry to mid-level single family home in many parts of Santa Clara County. It won’t necessarily be a Silicon Valley luxury home.

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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Kids in Silicon Valley: Fun Places to Go!

Fun Places for Kids In and Near San Jose - Winchester Mystery HouseWhat’s Are The Fun Places for Kids In and Near San Jose?

There 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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What is the Williamson Act? Will it be eliminated?

White Horse FenceThe 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’s the Ratio of Distressed Sales – Short Sales or Foreclosures – to “Regular Sales” in Santa Clara County?

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 Alto2%
Saratoga4%
Los Gatos (town of, zips 95030 & 95032)12%