Cambrian Park: Good Schools, Low Crime, Close to Los Gatos and Campbell

Cambrian Park, or more broadly, Cambrian, is a west San Jose neighborhood or district and is one of the high-value areas in Silicon Valley. The schools are good, the crime is low, and the commute is not too bad.

Cambrian Park Plaza signFor people relocating to Santa Clara County, this is a place to know about since quality education and affordability are often high priorities! Most Silicon Valley home buyers would say that Cambrian Park real estate offers a very good value.

What’s the compromise for the more reasonable prices of homes for sale? Well, Cambrian doesn’t have an interesting, upscale downtown area like Campbell, Los Gatos, Saratoga, or Willow Glen. (It may, when the Cambrian Park Plaza redevelopment takes place.)

But it does have tons of shopping & restaurants and even a Farmer’s Market. It also enjoys a top notch hospital (Good Samaritan) and plenty of parks as well as a fantastic rec center with a large park adjacent to it, the Camden Community Center, which has loads of programs (including an after school program for youth), classes, and a fabulous pool.

Altogether, there are about 75,000 to 80,000 residents in Cambrian, spread throughout part of two zip codes, part of 95124 and some of 95118.

If there is a “central Cambrian Park”, it would have to be near the original Cambrian Park Shopping Center, which was the first actual mall in San Jose! That area is sometimes known as Cambrian Village.  People sometimes use the three names interchangeably: Cambrian, Cambrian Park, Cambrian Village.

 

Where is Cambrian Park? Map of approximate Cambrian Boundaries:

 


View Cambrian Area of San Jose in a larger map

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How to Choose Where to Live in Silicon Valley or Santa Clara County

How do you choose where you’d like to live in Silicon Valley?  Especially if you’re relocating here from out of the area, this can be a huge question (for more relocation-specific posts, check out my blog Move2SiliconValley.com).  Most Santa Clara County home buyers have strong preferences for low crime, good schools, and pleasant looking, quiet neighborhoods.

My clients often ask me to compare for them areas which are somewhat similar, such as Los Gatos & Los Altos. Off the top of my head, I can give general answers, such as this: Compared to Los Gatos, Los Altos is a  more expensive (perhaps 20 or 25% more?), has a very slightly smaller population, is a little more spread out,  has slightly milder weather and is overall “quieter” in terms of the downtown night life.  Los Altos is more convenient if you want to go to Palo Alto or San Francisco.  Los Gatos is more convenient if you like to visit Santa Cruz, Monterey and the coast.  Los Gatos is more mixed in terms of housing types (it still has many beautiful historic districts with nicely renovated Victorian homes, but also newer construction). Both are “nice looking” but Los Gatos has more varied terrain as it is nestled into the Santa Cruz Mountains. Both enjoy pleasant neighborhoods, good schools, lower than normal crime and community involvement.

That’s the kind of “ballpark” info I can tell people about various areas of the Santa Clara Valley, whether it’s comparing one part of San Jose to another (Cambrian Park vs Almaden Valley vs Willow Glen) or one city to another (Cupertino vs Saratoga).  I can give general info on schools.

What I can’t do (and most agents can’t) is recite from memory school API scores, median household income, housing density, crime statistics, etc.  For that we have the web!  Here are some very helpful links which can assist you in your search to find the part of Santa Clara County that’s the best fit for you, your wants, needs, and budget:

Want to compare areas in and near San Jose?  A great tool for some basic and broad information by zip code is Zip Lookup.  Input a zip code and get an easy to read map of population information like density, age, and income. For more official documentation, census data is easily searchable online through Fact Finder – just search by county, city, town, or zipcode. A good overall source for research is Melissa Data.
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Which areas in Silicon Valley are the most European feeling?

Beckwith Building in Downtown Los Gatos, CA

The beautiful Beckwith Building in downtown Los Gatos, California

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:

http://www.move2siliconvalley.com/which-silicon-valley-areas-are-the-most-european-feeling/

Housing affordability is the #1 challenge for people relocating to Silicon Valley

Finding Affordable HousingMoving across the state, country, or globe always presents opportunities – but also challenges.  What are the biggest hurdles for people moving to Silicon Valley?

The cost of housing is the # 1 challenge for newcomers to Silicon Valley

For most people, the hardest issue is the cost of housing in the San Francisco Bay Area.  Whether buying or renting, it’s extremely costly here.  Depending on where you’re coming from, it could be man, many times more expensive. Finding affordable housing is the # 1 challenge for people relocating to Silicon Valley.

How does it compare to other places?  It is close to on par with New York  City, about 50% more expensive than Austin, TX, and about 1/3 more than Chicago, IL.  Check Sperling’s Cost of Living comparison to get a good sense of how it relates to your current home town.

Continue reading on Move2SiliconValley.com – The biggest challenges in moving to Silicon Valley

Relocating to Silicon Valley? A Few Tips!

Palm TreeFor people relocating to Silicon Valley, there can be some significant surprises (beyond the “sticker shock'” of our home prices in the San Jose area). Here are a few pointers to help you in your transition:

  • The school district boundaries do not follow the boundaries for the city or town
    • For instance, in the Town of Los Gatos there are 3 school districts
    • Saratoga has seven school districts (four elementary and three high school districts). Being in Saratoga could mean having Cupertino Schools or Moreland Schools or Saratoga Schools or, if you’re in the mountains over the village, even Los Gatos Schools. Part of San Jose has San Jose Unified Schools, but in some areas its Union Schools, Alum Rock or other districts. The Cambrian Park area of San Jose, for instance, has 3 elementary school districts: Cambrian, Union and San Jose Unified.
    • The reason for this confusing situation is that the school district boundaries were drawn before all the cities and towns in Santa Clara County were clearly defined (or the boundaries expanded)
    • School performance scores are probably the # 1 driver behind the value of any given location. Many parents choose the home only after deciding upon either a school district or even a particular elementary, middle, or high school. (Read more about understanding school scores on my Silicon Valley relocation blog.)
  • The mailing address city or town may not be the “actual location” of the property
    • This is a rare situation, but sometimes the mailing address will say ˜Los Gatos” when in fact the home is part of San Jose or Campbell or is an unincorporated area of the county. This has to do mostly with postal routes or with unincorporated areas using a mailing address for a long time and then being incorporated.
  • We have “expansive clay soil” here and water is a big issue. (Please see related post on buying hillside homes in Silicon Valley.)
  • Most of our housing is ranch style tract homes. Were sorry about that and apologize in advance for the visual assault that this creates. Developers went nuts in the post WWII boom and created massive urban sprawl, one of the only things that isn’t so delightful in the Valley of Hearts Delight.

A few non-real estate Silicon Valley surprises too:
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Finding and creating storage

Pull out wine rack for under staircase

Seen on Realtors board tour: Pull out wine rack for under the staircase

Many of our houses in Santa Clara County are ranch style, tract homes which were built from the 1950s to the 1970s (or ’80s). Often they include one coat closet, normally near the entry area of the home, and one linen closet, usually found close to the hall bathroom.  To the surprise of folks relocating to Silicon Valley from colder climates, we don’t have basements in the majority of houses here.

Where does all of our “stuff” go? That’s what these home buyers are wondering. It is really a critical question in smaller homes with fewer, and tinier, closets.

It is not uncommon to see garages in the San Jose area acting as a catch-all for seasonal decorations, old financial documents that can’t yet be shredded, business files, boxes from the last move which haven’t been opened yet, keepsakes and things that the residents haven’t had time to handle yet…for years at a time.  Guilty here also!  We will not be featured on an episode of “Hoarders”, but our garage also needs thinning out.  In this case, I have real estate files going back until 1993.  Rather, I did.  I have been scanning them, saving to both an external hard drive and to CDs, and shredding them.  So far about 10 boxes are gone.  Only a few more to go (I wish!).

Clutter increases stress for most of us.  Home buyers love built ins and see a future with less clutter when viewing cabinetry in home offices, family rooms, hallways, etc.  It’s a great surprise that assures them of better organization and less clutter in that home.

Most houses, townhouses and condos have places where a little more storage can be squeaked out, or even where wasted space was planned in!  This is especially true for structures with attics (sorry, Eichler and mid-century modern home owners). Here are some possibilities to consider in your own home:

  • A furnace in a closet inside the home may be able to be relocated to the attic, providing another inside closet
  • Water heaters hogging interior closet space could be moved to the garage or a different type of water heater could be installed in the attic. (more…)

Relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area: Understanding the Local Regions

Often I get emails from people relocating to the San Francisco Bay Area and sometimes folks are confused about what’s in or near Silicon Valley. That makes sense because some of the “regions” we discuss don’t have completely hard and fast boundaries.

The SF Bay Area includes nine counties that touch the bay or are nearby, but additionally some areas that aren’t so neatly defined, such as “Silicon Valley” or “The Delta”. So to help out people who are relocating, I sketched out on Google Maps the larger regions of the San Francisco Bay Area, which include (with map colors below):

    • San Francisco – light blue
    • the Peninsula – dark blue
    • the South Bay (Santa Clara County) – in orange
    • the East Bay – pink
    • the North Bay – yellow
    • the Delta – green
    • the Monterey Bay – light blue

Click on the different colored areas for more information on each one. (Defined areas are only approximate.)

 


View San Francisco Bay Area Region in a larger map

 

The Delta is a set of waterways that empties into the SF Bay at a northeast point and crawls through part of the San Joaquin Valley and Stockton areas – it’s part East Bay but part central valley. The Monterey Bay is not really part of the San Francisco Bay Area but is so close that it’s worth including too.

What about Silicon Valley? It’s primarily in the “south bay” and nearby areas. Silicon Valley is mostly Santa Clara County with a little of Santa Cruz County, Alameda County and a fair amount of San Mateo County.

 


View Silicon Valley in a larger map

 

Disclaimer: maps are approximate only!

 

 

 

Relocating to Silicon Valley? How to Decide Where to Live!

Rocky PathCongratulations, you’re moving to Silicon Valley! You will be pleased to know that we get 300 sunny days and only about 15″ of rain each year (more or less – more if you live in or near the Santa Cruz Mountains, and less if you are closer to Milpitas or east San Jose). Our subtropical climate, diverse population, abundant parks & cultural opportunities, high level of education among the residents and low crime rate all make this a very desirable place to live.

If you are coming from out of the area, or even out of the country, how can you choose where to live?

Some of your parameters will be decided by your budget, and others by your wants and needs.

Want a “close to town” type area where you can find coffee shops, restaurants, stores and a bustling area nearby? Perhaps you should consider Palo Alto, Mountain View, Los Altos, Saratoga, Los Gatos, Campbell, Willow Glen, downtown San Jose, Santana Row or possibly Santa Clara. Many of these “downtown” areas near residential parts of Silicon Valley feel more “European” than the large areas of suburbia.

Do you put a priority on great schools and low crime? Then have a look at Cupertino, Saratoga, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Monte Sereno, Los Gatos, the Los Gatos Mountains, Almaden Valley, and the Silver Creek area of San Jose. Also there are parts of Cambrian Park and the San Jose Mission District of Fremont with very fine public schools. One section of Santa Clara enjoys Cupertino schools, as does part of west San Jose.

If lower cost utilities are important to you, have a look at Santa Clara!

Some folks really want a cabana with a swim team nearby. There are a few in Cambrian Park, Almaden Valley, Los Gatos, Saratoga, and all over the Santa Clara Valley, but the highest concentration of neighborhood pools and swim teams seem to be in Santa Clara.

How about unique, older architecture? Then check out the Japantown, Vendome, and Naglee Park areas of downtown San Jose. Or, if the budget allows, consider the old Alum Rock area of San Jose, or parts of Los Gatos, Campbell, Willow Glen, Mountain View and Saratoga. The charm is enduring!

Relocating is a lot of work. If you would like help finding where you’d be most comfortable once you arrive here, please contact me and I’ll give you a few points to consider, even if you are not ready to buy (or sell) just yet.

 

 

 

Welcome to Silicon Valley

Known for engineers and high tech or bio-tech, Silicon Valley is actually much more than tilt up buildings full of well educated, hard working people. There is a ton of scenic beauty here in this sub-tropical area with 300 sunny days each year. I hope you will enjoy this slide show I put together to help introduce you to “The Valley of Hearts Delight”, now known as Silicon Valley. Below, please find images from San Jose (Almaden Valley, Cambrian Park and Willow Glen, and downtown Vendome areas), Campbell, Saratoga, Santa Clara and Los Gatos. Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Planning a Move? Get Multiple Bids from Reputable Movers!

Moving horror stories abound – damaged and lost furniture, huge delays, and final bills that barely reflect the initial estimates are not all that uncommon.

Some of my clients have been the victims of bad moving companies. One couple I worked with here in Silicon Valley did not get enough bids (only 2) and chose the mover based on the low, low price that was quoted. (By the time it was all over, the bill paid was considerably higher than the quote and the amount of work my clients had to do was far higher too.) I had suggested that they take more bids, including from a reputable company that I know and trust, but in the interests of time, they only spoke with two movers which they’d found on their own.

Some other clients of mine had an unlicensed mover not only hurt their furniture in a move a year or so ago, but damage the deck stairs while handling the move. Surprising? I’ve heard of some companies simply hiring day laborers when they find themselves short of hand.

You don’t want that to happen to you!

The California Moving and Storage Association (CMSA) has a number of informative articles on its website that I want to recommend to those planning a move. One is about the low-bidding but unscrupulous bandit movers, and another is about how to select a mover. They wisely advise to be wary of chosing a mover based on an extremely low price. In my fifteen years of selling homes in Silicon Valley, I have found that when most of the bids fall into a range and one is very, very much lower or very much higher, it’s a red flag that something may not be right.

When planning your move, always get at least 3-4 written quotes from reputable companies who are licensed and preferable referred to you by people who have worked with them (in the local branch) or from Realtors such as myself who have had positive professional experiences with them. I am happy to give you the names of companies and individuals I have found to be fair, honest. and trustworthy.My very favorite is Graebel (call Charles Canfield at 408 572-8999 x2935).

For more information on relocating to or from Silicon Valley, please see Move2SiliconValley.com.