Cambrian, Almaden, and Los GatosIf a strong public high school is at the top of your priority list, you may find yourself looking at Los Gatos, Cambrian (area of San Jose), and Almaden (also in San Jose) – scenic areas along the southwest side of Silicon Valley, all of them featuring good to excellent high schools.   I would caution against only judging an area, or a school, by its scores, though – often the culture at the campus, the offerings, and many other things can vary from one school to the next.  Nothing beats visiting in person and talking with students, parents, faculty and staff.

2013 Growth API Scores

Disclaimers aside, scores do matter as an important part of the overall package.  How do the high schools in these areas stack up?  API scores are no longer used, so the numbers below are from the 2013 Growth API scores, the most current year available.

Ranked in order of API score:

Leland High – 889 (Almaden, southern area)

Los Gatos High – 883 (Los Gatos, central + small area in Almaden)

Leigh High – 833 (Los Gatos, east & Cambrian plus little of Almaden)

Pioneer High – 822 (Almaden, northern area & Cambrian)

Branham High – 810 (Cambrian & Blossom Valley)

Westmont High – 796 (Los Gatos, western area plus parts of Campbell and Saratoga)

What is the cost of homes in these areas?

To narrow it, let’s consider the same set of criteria: houses sold in the last 180 days within 1 mile of each high school named, with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and 1500 – 2000 SF. (I’m leaving lot sizes out because it’s already a very small pool of homes.) To make it super simple, I’ll just include the price per SF and the average sale price of these houses.

Ranked in order of affordability – average sale price:

Pioneer High – 822 API – average price per sf  $549.17  average sale price  $919,057  (9 houses)

Branham High – 810 API – average price per sf   $588.92 average sale price $969,295   (17 houses)

Leland High – 889 API – average price per sf   $616.04  average sale price  $1,071,250  (4 houses)

Leigh High – 833 API – average price per sf     $686.00  average sale price $1,144,100  (20 houses)

Westmont High – 796 API – average price per sf   $844.00  average sale price  $1,329,500 (8 houses)

Los Gatos High – 883 API – average price per sf   $917.95  average sale price $1,593,556 (9 houses)

Clearly, the market dictates that there are more than high school scores impacting home values (but you already knew that!).

Homes in the Leland High School area are a very good value, if you can find one (there were only 4, so too easy to have an impossibly small pool of choices).

Market drivers – beyond school scores

San Benito Way home in Los GatosDowntown Los Gatos is charming and historic (with loads of beautiful older homes and buildings), it enjoys a vibrant night life and restaurant scene. It’s interesting! It’s “walkable”!  People want to live in a part of Silicon Valley that isn’t just suburban sprawl – hence downtown LG has the biggest draw of all these areas.  It’s not too far from Highway 85 (think Apple) but it’s not boring, like most of San Jose can be.   Many are willing to pay much more to be part of Los Gatos and Los Gatos High School.  A nice townhouse in LG, or a house in Cambrian?  That may be the choice.

Commute times to places like Apple matter a lot, so homes on the west end of Los Gatos, in Campbell and parts of Saratoga in the Westmont HS area see a very high average sale price, even though the API score was less than 800.  Schools matter but they aren’t the only thing that matter. Many home owners believe that the most important part of the education is the parents’ involvement (at home and at school).  Many also have their kids at a private high school.

Next in line is Leigh High, which is in Cambrian along the Los Gatos border in an area where school scores and home prices have been rising quite a lot. It’s not as convenient as central or west Los Gatos, but it’s a little more affordable, too.  From either east Los Gatos or Cambrian, it’s pretty easy to hop onto Highway 85 at Union Avenue.  If a commuter is really lucky, maybe there’s a Google or Apple bus to be caught at Camden & 85 or Union & 85.

Leland has scores better than Los Gatos High but it’s one of the more affordable areas – IF you can find a smaller home that perhaps needs work.  These numbers seem a little low compared to my personal experience in that area.   Be that as it may, southern Almaden is a very good “value” area for the schools.  The tradeoff is a longer commute.  Going to Sunnyvale? It will likely take an hour to get home in the evening commute.  If your work brings you to downtown San Jose, it’s not so bad.

Branham and Pioneer come next.  These areas serve Cambrian and Almaden Valley both, and their scores are fairly close.  They are much more affordable than Leigh or Leland – you can probably sneak in for under $ 1 million, which around here is a very good deal indeed.

Beyond Silicon Valley school scores and commute times

The two biggest factors may well be the schools and the commute times, but naturally there’s more to deciding where to call home than these two criteria. What else is there?

Each individual, couple, and family has different needs.  For some, a huge priority might be placed on how much home is needed – that same dollar might buy you a townhome in one area, but can get you a house elsewhere.  Or a small house in downtown Los Gatos or a bigger home with Westmont or Ligh High.

For some, it’s all about the area – the scenic beauty, parks, proximity of hospitals, nearness of bus lines, things which are “walkable”, distance from high voltage lines, access to trails for biking, or any number of things.  Almaden is one of the most beautiful areas in Santa Clara County – the proximity of the hills, the availability of hiking, plus the clean neighborhoods and strong schools scores attract many home owners who want to put down roots.  There is likely a longer commute, but the quality of life is quite high overall, so for many it’s a worthwhile tradeoff.

In the west valley, we are very fortunate that there are 2 hospitals near by (Good Samaritan and ElCamino Hospital of Los Gatos), both fairly close to Highway 85.  There’s a network of trails.

Balancing out budget, schools, and needs, any of these areas may be the best bet for a given home buyer.  Which one is best for you?

For expert help in buying or selling real estate in the west valley areas, please contact Mary Pope-Handy at 408 204-7673 or email mary (at) popehandy (dot) com

Check out what’s on the market in each of these areas below.

Almaden Valley:



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Cambrian Park:



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Los Gatos:



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(all data current as of 5/20/2024)

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