San Jose neighborhoods are spread throughout many districts and even more miles, so it’s no surprise that we see a tremendous amount of variety in landscape, commute length, school quality, and home prices.
San Jose neighborhoods: let’s start with the broad areas and districts
The major areas in San Jose generally fall into these areas – feel free to plunk any of them into the search bar to learn more, or use the navigation links in the menu for each. These are neighborhoods on a larger scale.
- Almaden Valley / Almaden – see a list of Almaden Valley neighborhoods with links
- Alum Rock (together with Evergreen is East Valley, East San Jose, or Eastside)
- Berryessa / North San Jose / North Valley (North San Jose also includes Alviso)
- Blossom Valley
- Cambrian / Cambrian Park – we have many articles on Cambrian Park neighborhoods – check out the list and links
- Downtown / Central San Jose
- East Valley (see Alum Rock and Evergreen)
- Santa Teresa
- West San Jose (not actually a large area, mostly sandwiched between Campbell and Cupertino, but quite a few zip codes)
- Willow Glen
Or generally by direction:
- North: Alviso, Berryessa are “North San Jose”
- East: Alum Rock and Evergreen are “East San Jose” (Berryessa is northeast)
- South: South San Jose, Coyote (part SJ, part Morgan Hill, part unincorporated), Santa Teresa, Blossom Valley, Almaden (Almaden is southwest)
- West: Almaden (southwest), Cambrian, West San Jose
- Downtown and Central
San Jose zip codes
What about zip codes for these San Jose neighborhoods or districts? Almaden has 95120 as its only zip code. Most have at least two (Cambrian is 95124 and 95118 – but not all of those zip codes!). Evergreen has four. Willow Glen is mostly 95125, but has a sliver of 95124. So it’s messy and defies easy answers except for Almaden Valley.
Each of these larger areas consists of groups of San Jose neighborhoods within them. In Almaden, there are homes near the golf course – the Country Club neighborhood, or others in New Almaden, the oldest part of that section.
How to decide which of the San Jose neighborhoods you should consider?
Given that San Jose includes about half of the population of Santa Clara County, meaning it’s a huge area, how does someone narrow the areas to consider?
For most home buyers, it’s a matter of one or two (sometimes three) “anchor points“. These are the must have priorities.
Often those priorities include something about commutes (length, the ability to use light rail, corporate busses, CalTrain, a certain amount of commute time by car, etc.). We often hear “I want my commute to be 30 minutes or less” or “I want to be in walking distance to the Apple (or Google) bus stop”.
In many cases, schools are an important consideration, usually for members of the family, but sometimes on principle for resale value.
Another priority we frequently see relates to the home itself – the type (house, townhouse, condos, or other), the condition and size of the home, the condition and size of the yard, the number of beds and baths, etc.
Once in a while there will be one other requirement, such as distance to a place frequented often, such as a particular gym, place of worship, daycare, family member, etc.
And, of course, another major factor is the budget.
Oftentimes there are 3 priorities within a set budget and we find that the buyer(s) can get 2 out of 3, but not all, for that price. Then what? Then it’s essential that the priorities are ranked. Sometimes, the problem is simply that what people want is not going to be in budget.
Recent example: A week or two ago someone told me what he wanted to buy (general location, commute length, type of high scoring schools, and that it should be a house with x amount of square footage, 3 or more bedrooms and 2 or more baths ). He said that he wanted to buy it for a budget of around $1.7 million. I let him know that in those areas, and for that size, a townhouse would be possible, but not a house. I let him know that what he wants would be a minimum of $2 million. I ran the numbers for him (and shared them, of course) and the budget I told him was confirmed.
Bottom line: start with the budget and what is doable. If your maximum purchase amount (as established by you when you are preapproved with a lender) is a certain amount, then you’ll want to work to see what is possible. Perhaps it will be a townhouse instead of a house if you absolutely must have the #1 top rated schools. For many, the tradeoff may be a longer commute or a smaller house that can be added onto or improved over time.
What IS doable? Use our Real Estate Report, updated monthly, to spot check the home prices. Here’s the link for the RE Report for Cambrian houses. From there you can change it to condos, or to another part of San Jose, or to other cities in the county.
What San Jose neighborhoods are most affordable?
Every few months, we update an article on our relocation website, San Jose Districts and their Values. These are ranked from most to least expensive.
San Jose neighborhoods that are most affordable usually include South San Jose, Alum Rock, Alviso (part of North San Jose), and parts of Downtown San Jose. (Some downtown SJ areas are more pricey, such as Naglee Park.) Even the more reasonably priced areas of this city are not inexpensive, though. It’s challenging to find a house with 3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms that is in decent shape for under $1 million.
Highly regarded schools in San Jose neighborhoods
If buyers are driven primarily by public school scores, a few communities will stand out as particularly strong. Naturally there are many school districts serving San Jose and the largest is the San Jose Unified School District. In some areas, most schools rank well – but not all. These are general comments only, and hopefully will be a good starting point. These are NOT in any order:
- Cupertino schools may be the most highly prized within the city. Part of West San Jose 95129 is within the Cupertino schools area. This area is super convenient for people in tech who work in Cupertino, Sunnyvale, Mountain View, Santa Clara, and nearby, so that’s a double draw: schools and a shorter commute. This is a highly competitive area.
- Almaden Valley schools are sought after, and school ranking sites range them from good to excellent.
- Cambrian or Cambrian Park is served by 3 elementary school districts (Union, Cambrian, and San Jose Unified). Union is especially preferred, but many are thrilled to get into Cambrian schools, too. These are mostly in 95124, but part of the Union School District goes into the 95118 zip code.
- Evergreen has some good schools, particularly elementary and middle schools
Areas of SJ where it’s easier to commute by rail
For Cal Train, there are points in South San Jose / Santa Teresa, Willow Glen, Downtown, and then into Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, etc.
Light rail serves many parts of the city (and beyond), including Santa Teresa, South San Jose, Blossom Valley, Downtown, Willow Glen, Central San Jose (near City College), Alum Rock, and Berryessa. It does NOT go to Cambrian or West San Jose.
BART is relatively new to this county, but can now be found in Berryessa and eventually will be at the Diridon Station in Downtown.
Urban, walkable areas
If the priorities list includes being in an urban or walkable area with shops and eateries nearby, there are pockets throughout the county (including downtown Campbell, Los Altos, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and Palo Alto, among others). In SJ, there are little urban communities all over, but here are those which I find to be particularly noteworthy:
- Downtown San Jose neighborhoods that are especially walkable include Japantown (if you love historic, Spanish style homes, you’ll feel right at home and the J-town restaurants are wonderful), the tiny Vendome pocket, Naglee Park, and many others.
- West San Jose’s Santana Row and nearby areas should be on a short list for anyone who wants fine dining and shopping nearby. Negatives: the Safeway there is closing soon (to be made into a parking lot, sadly), and traffic in that area can be thick. For those working from home and biking or walking to Santana Row and nearby, it’s a joy. The Cory neighborhood, just north of Valley Fair, is also quite walkable!
- Central San Jose’s Burbank and Buena Vista areas are close to West San Carolos, which is full of shops, and they aren’t terribly far from Valley Medical Center, a large employer. Also somewhat walkable are the Shasta-Hanchett Park neighborhood (off Park, Race, and The Alameda) and the Rose Garden neighborhood (Naglee Avenue, Bascom, and Park all have something worth strolling to).
- Cambrian Park has a few areas where you don’t much need a motorized vehicle to get around, particularly near Camden and Union Avenues, where there’s an abundance of shops plus the Camden Community Center. Cambrian’s original shopping center, Cambrian Park Plaza, is about to be redeveloped and when finished will a gem for shoppers and diners.
- Also Cambrian near Branham and Meridian features a Lunardi’s grocery store and several shops and restaurants on two of the three corners. These would be a great boon to anyone living in the Scottsdale 2 and Coronado neighborhood.
- Willow Glen has a charming downtown and has the big added bonus of many historic and architecturally interesting homes nearby.
- Alum Rock has a lovely main drag with an irresistible bakery – Peter’s Bakery.
- Evergreen is mostly pretty spread out, however the Evergreen Village Square is not to be missed and includes a public library.
- Blossom Valley includes Oakridge Mall, and a light rail station next to it. These make it pretty accessible for those not using an automobile. There are tons of restaurants and stores along this part of Blossom Hill Road, too.
Historic homes (and non-ranch style housing)
Much of the valley was built out in the period after World War II, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, so the vast amount of housing here is ranch style single family homes. If you love Victorian, Craftsman, Spanish, and other types of non-ranch architecture, you are in luck – you just need to know where to look to find good sized groupings of them. There are some scattered throughout, even in relatively young Almaden Valley.
The largest concentration of historic homes will be found in downtown and central San Jose neighborhoods. There are loads of Victorians in downtown, zip codes 95110 and 95112 (95112 tends to be a little more expensive than 95110).
You’ll also find them throughout central San Jose in Buena Vista, Burbank, Rose Garden, and Shasta-Hanchett Park, but also homes near there in St. Leo’s.
San Jose neighborhoods with parks and trails
If parks and trails are an important factor in choosing where to live, you’ll find that some parts of this city have more parks and trails than others.
During the post WWII housing boom, subdivisions flew up without enough consideration for open spaces, trails, and parkland. A look at any map will show this to be the case. The oldest and youngest areas, though, tend to have more parks and open space than most of the subdivisions from the 1960s and 1970s.
Also, larger parks can be found near the hills and creeks, such as:
Alum Rock Park – a wonderful, large open space with loads of hiking trails.
Penitencia Creek Park – follows this Berryessa waterway
Happy Hollow Zoo & Park and Kelly Park sit along Coyote Creek in the downtown / East SJ area.
There are MANY “creek trails” and parks along waterways and at the bay – I won’t list them all here, but it’s a starting point for your explorations.
In terms of districts with the most parks, Almaden Valley is a relatively younger area and it’s packed with parks. Some are around water, others under power lines, others still near the old mercury mines. I marked up a map to point out many of the parks and trails (see green markers).
San Jose has made an effort to add playgrounds, tot lots, and parks. Check out this city map!
Weather and micro-climates
We have written about the Silicon Valley microclimates here. The valley floor does not have a ton of variation, but the weather nuances will depend on a few things.
Most mid to late afternoons, we get some breezes or wind coming off of the bay (following the east foothills, aiming for Morgan Hill and Gilroy). It may be more noticeable on the east side than in the west valley.
Areas with more elevation, such as Communication Hill in Blossom Valley, will get more wind, too.
Closer to Los Gatos or Gilroy, where there are passes to the Monterey Bay there can be more wind and weather generally as the fog gets pushed through in summer.
Almaden may be the hottest area in summer and Alviso may be the coolest.
San Jose neighborhoods are diverse, with wide pricing differences between them, big variety in what draws people to live here or there. There are many distinct features in each and features that draw people in.
If you are trying to sort out where you’d like to live, get your preapproval letter so that you know what you can afford first (that way you won’t get your heart set on a San Jose neighborhood that you cannot afford), then rank your priorities, check the cost of housing in your best options, and take it from there.
You can also reach out to us, if you are looking to hire a Realtor, and we’re happy to consult with you for an hour or so, no obligation.