Alta Vista is a scenic neighborhood which includes homes in both the Cambrian Park neighborhood and the Town of Los Gatos. For many reasons, this area is highly valued and sought after. For this article, we’ll focus on the neighborhood immediately adjacent to the school, not the entire “area of school attendance.”
What makes Alta Vista so attractive? First, it’s convenient. The high performing schools are easy to walk or bike to without crossing any major roads. Almost as close is a good-sized Safeway, a coffee shop, and other stores and eateries at the nearby Downing Center. It’s easy to get to Highway 85 from Union Avenue, too. As a bonus, the location is popular because of it’s vicinity to Los Gatos with the lower price point of San Jose (for most of the neighborhood).
Second, it’s scenic. Alta Vista has its fair share of visual appeal as well, with many streets lined with beautiful and mature trees, Ross Creek running along one border, and views of the nearby Blossom Hill and coastal range behind it. South of Blossom Hill on the Los Gatos side, it’s not far to the foothills with their trails and parks. Yards and homes are well kept and tidy, as are the streets. Parking near the schools only becomes a problem during school functions a few times a year (and of course at drop off and pickup times).
Simply put, Alta Vista is a scenic neighborhood with great schools and a convenient location. That’s a winning combination.
Above and below: a couple of homes along Blossom Valley Drive.
To see some images of the neighborhood, feel free to check out the video slideshow just below – please note that this was made in 2009 for the first Alta Vista post on my other blog and that, while the neighborhood as a whole has not changed, things may look a little different. For instance, the new home construction shown in the slide looks much more attractive and lived in now that it has been a few years, and the shopping center has undergone some significant remodeling.
Please continue reading for a map of the Alta Vista neighborhood, major landmarks, info on the Alta Vista real estate market, homes for sale in Alta Vista, and more.
Where is the Alta Vista neighborhood? What are the landmarks?
Alta Vista is shaped a little like Washington state. To the North it is bound by Los Gatos-Almaden Road, to the South by Blossom Hill Road, to the East by Union Avenue, and loosely bound to the west by Ross Creek to Lu Ray Drive. The map below should give a good approximate visual of these borders.
A quick look at the map will reveal that there are several landmarks in the neighborhood, large plots of land that do not appear to be housing. These include:
- Alta Vista Elementary School
- Union Middle School
- The Downing Shopping Center (at the corner of Union & LG ALmaden, with a Safeway and many other shops)
- Blossom Hill and the coastal foothills (just South of the neighborhood)
- The high voltage power lines (runs behind Blossom Valley Drive and Coronet, demarked by the blue line)
- Ross Creek (behind Westchester)
- Three major roads: Blossom Hill Road, Union Avenue, and Los Gatos-Almaden Road
While most of the homes are on a level terrain, a few homes close to Blossom Hill are raised on a slope and have views.
Which part is Los Gatos, and which part Cambrian / San Jose?
San Jose and Los Gatos have a very strange boundary line in this area, and it is very confusing to folks who visit for the first time. If you were to begin at Alta Vista Elementary and drive along Blossom Valley Drive, for instance, at the intersection with Westchester you’d be in Los Gatos, then heading south east you’d be in San Jose, and by the time you get to Danville you’re back in Los Gatos again. (To mess with your mind, the San Jose stretch has 4 digit house numbers, and the Los Gatos sections have just 3, so it can really throw people who don’t understand that the boundaries are there.) The neighborhood has something like a peninsula of San Jose poking into a sea of Los Gatos – perhaps because the builder could put more homes on San Jose lots, which could be smaller? That would be my guess. In the map below, taken from the Los Gatos town zoning map, the gray areas are San Jose and the colored sections are all part of Los Gatos.
What kind of homes are found in the Alta Vista Neighborhood? What does it cost to live there?
While most of Alta Vista is made up of Single Family Homes, there are a few multi-family units along Pinehurst by Los Gatos-Almaden. Homes are mostly ranch style, ranging in size from about 1100-2500 SF with most under 2000 SF, but there are a few larger homes on very large parcels along Nimrick Lane. Lot size ranges between 6000 SF and 8000 SF on average, with a few larger lots near Blossom Hill Road, Lu Ray Drive, Camino del Cerro, Nimrick Lane, and generally in the areas closer to the Los Gatos borders.
Alta Vista consists of two distinct tracts plus some other areas which aren’t as definable (see the first map).
To the South, where many of the homes and streets are named “Blossom + something else” as mentioned earlier, are Garcia-built tract homes. These are solidly built homes, developed by a prominent builder whose homes can be found throughout San Jose, with examples such as the “King” street tract near Good Samaratin Hospital. The tract was built mostly in the San Jose 95124 area code, and while the neighborhood is generally considered to be in San Jose, some of the tract was built in the Town of Los Gatos, within the 95032 area code. The Los Gatos parts of the tract are found along the Southern part of Pinehurst, Danville, Blossom Villa, Sycamore Court, and parts of Blossom Valley.
To the North is the Westchester Manor subdivision, with semi-custom homes along Baron, Kunkel, and Keene plus part of Coronet and Westchester. These are all in San Jose. Behind the school and closer to downtown Los Gatos, houses and parcels are bigger, the street addresses are in Los Gatos and there seem to be more custom or semi-custom homes. These are, naturally, more costly than the more modest houses with smaller yards and a San Jose mailing address.
Home prices can range from the $900’s to well past $1.8 million, “depending.” Estimating what a home might be worth can be tricky because there are a number of variables, from which city the property is located in (can make a 3-5% difference, sometimes more or less), whether or not there’s a view, the home & lot size, the proximity of the power lines, whether or not the property is on the Shannon Fault, how close it is to the schools, and the improvements made or deferred.
What are the “issues”, if any, in the Alta Vista area?
This low-crime, tidy neighborhood doesn’t have too many concerns, but there are some. Here are the biggest areas of concern for Alta Vista and it’s neighbors:
- Some of the homes in this neighborhood may be sitting on the Shannon Earthquake Fault, which cuts through part of this area. I believe this is considered a “minor” fault, though it would be smart to check with a geologist for the specifics. While earthquakes and fault lines are common throughout the area, buyers generally would prefer not to be directly above one.
- Opinions on high voltage power lines may vary widely, but there’s no doubt they can lessen house values. Power lines cut through the center of the neighborhood, with some homes directly adjacent to the buffer zone. To some this may mean added privacy – the free buffer of open space is often overwhelmingly enjoyed by those who live beside it. Others may worry about the dangers of being so close. Worries about EMF emissions have generally been found to be a non-issue, but concerns that if some disaster caused a line to snap or a tower to fall are reasonable, however low the chances. Still others may be concerned about the nearly inevitable easements – generally the power company holds the right to enter your yard without prior notice to deal with maintenance or repair, such as when there is a power outage. Whatever your interest or concern, homes that are directly impacted by the lines, especially those situated adjacent to the towers, will have a harder time selling and will sell for less than a similar home further from the lines. I recently wrote a little post about these lines: check it out here. (It is unclear where the large water distributory or transmission lines are, but they may follow some of the easements for power lines. At this time the Santa Clara Valley Water District does not disclose the location of these large pipelines.)
- Water is a concern for all areas on or surrounding hills. The concern is that water flows down the hill and towards structures. If it is not diverted away, the water can easily damage concrete, such as driveways and foundations. Unfortunately, the valley’s clay soil absorbs water very slowly, acting as a barrier which can amplify the problem. Before there is an issue, it can be easily and cheaply prevented by installing proper draining and diverting water away from the foundation, such as through the use of downspout extenders. If a home owner neglects this, repair costs for drainage and foundational issues far outweigh any maintenance. The closer you are to the hill, the worse the potential for water damage and the more crucial drainage is. Again, this is the biggest concern faced by hillside homes, among others, but for many – the views are worth it.
How is the Alta Vista real estate market?
As mentioned before, the wide variety of housing and location impacts the market greatly, giving Alta Vista quite the range. To understand the market, Alta Vista is divided between the Cambrian Park real estate market in San Jose and the Los Gatos market in the Union School District, so it’s a good idea to keep an eye on both.
For more market information check out this article I wrote comparing San Jose and Los Gatos markets within the Union School District; it presents some clear differences between similar neighborhoods within this school district. Alternatively, for a more detailed look at the market between different school districts in Los Gatos, I update this post regularly for the latest market information. Also check out this post on a similar area, Cambrian Gardens neighborhood (half goes to Alta Vista, half to Carlton) in San Jose, as one of the more affordable Cambrian neighborhoods. Not sure what you can get for your price?
Homes for sale in the Alta Vista neighborhood of Los Gatos and Cambrian
I have had the pleasure of selling a number of homes in the Alta Vista neighborhood over the years (since 1993), both in this immediate area (3 houses & 4 sales Baron Drive alone, plus Taft, Pinehurst, Blossom Valley, Blossom Dale etc.) as well as on streets that “belong” to Alta Vista Elemtary School area of attendance, such as Heather Drive, Rosswood Drive, Bel Estos, Bel Canto, Kensington, and many more. Whether you are buying or selling a home in or near Alta Vista, please give me a call. I would welcome the chance to talk with you about working together to meet your real estate goals in this beautiful neighborhood.