A resource for folks living in or moving to Los Gatos, by Mary Pope-Handy

Mary Pope-Handy

Willow Street Pizza in downtown Los Gatos

 Willow Street Pizza in downtown Los Gatos One of my favorite go-to eateries for lunch or dinner in Los Gatos is Willow Street Pizza. This casual, kid-friendly restaurant offers both indoor and patio dining, has a nicely varied menu, delicious food, good service, and decent prices for the heart of Los Gatos. It also enjoys an ideal location directly across the street from the Town Plaza Park.

Indoors

The dining area is large and provides large windows, comfortable booths as well as tables and chairs. Kids may find the TV a helpful distraction, and there is a children’s menu (though I’m not seeing it online). The room has good acoustics, so most of the time, even if the restaurant is full, the sound level is not bad. Restrooms are shared with other tenants at Lyndon Plaza, and you must go outside to access them (small warning: they can be cold in winter).

Outdoor seating

Patio dining is fun even if nothing else is going on. Should the weather get a little nippy, there are heat lamps.

In summer, many sponsors host Jazz on the Plazz on Wednesday evenings in the Town Plaza Park across the street. Smart diners arrive early enough to snag an outside table and enjoy their meal with live music.

On Sundays a year round farmer’s market takes places on the interior streets that line the park, Montebello Road and Broadway. It’s a great time to people watch, and the vantage from the patio dining area is hard to beat.

Willow Street Pizza menu

At Willow Street, pizza is king and there are many different types of pizza available. The menu is much broader, though, with some more typical dinner entrees (salmon and chicken), salads, pasta dishes, sandwiches, appetizers, and desserts. There’s also a coffee and tea service, soft drinks, craft beers, and a full bar.

While it’s most famous for its pizza, which is delicious, my favorite food there tends to be the salads, especially the warm Brussels Sprouts salad and some of the seasonal salads (in summer I’ve sometimes had steak salad with peaches or other fruits). They do mix it up a bit throughout the year.

I should mention that they also do take out, but I cannot comment on that as I haven’t tried it.

You can browse the Willow Street Pizza menu online here.

Where is Willow Street Pizza in Los Gatos?

Willow Street Pizza can be found in Lyndon Plaza, once the site of the Lyndon Hotel. It’s at the southeast corner of West Main Street and South Santa Cruz Avenue, directly across from the Town Park Plaza.  The address is 20 South Santa Cruz Avenue, Los Gatos.

Parking is sometimes challenging in downtown Los Gatos, but there is valet parking on site and a public parking lot just across the street on West Main (behind Mountain Charlie’s). Additionally, there’s the Montebello parking lot which can be accessed from Montebello Road at Broadway (look for a driveway next to the post office).

Willow Street Pizza website (for this location and the original in Willow Glen, San Jose)

Sacred Heart Jesuit Center Grotto

The Sacred Heart Jesuit Center in Los Gatos is a place I visit frequently, as I have an elderly uncle, a retired Jesuit priest, in the infirmary there. (Another uncle, also a member of the Society of Jesus, passed away there in late 2017.) I try to go about once a week, but if he’s ill, I’ll pop in more frequently. We visit, attend Mass, and have lunch together.

This is private property, just past the Testarossa Winery, so I’m not encouraging people to wander up there. But it is very serene and beautiful, and often I’m taken with the peace and beauty of the place. Most Los Gatans will never visit in person, so I like to share some of my favorite photos of Sacred Heart Jesuit Center here from time to time. The link in the first sentence will bring you to another article about what used to be “The Novitiate” with a slideshow at the bottom.

At the end of the driveway is a lookout point, but before that is a Grotto honoring Our Lady of Lourdes and showing a statue of St. Bernadette in prayer.

Taken this week, below please find a closeup of the statue of St. Bernadette in prayer, gazing upward toward the apparition of Our Lady, surrounded by beautiful calla lilies.

Sacred Heart Jesuit Center - Bernadette of Lourdes statue

Sacred Heart Jesuit Center – Bernadette of Lourdes statue

 

Next, a photo of the Grotto taken in summer 2016 (during the drought), and found in the slideshow at my earlier post about SHJC. (If you Google Lourdes Grotto and see the photos, you’ll recognize the layout.) On crowded days, this area fills up with cars, unfortunately, as there are not a lot of parking areas. In recent years, two Jesuit provinces have merged and now all of the west coast Jesuits in a retirement home, assisted living, or infirmary living situation are here.  More care takers and other employees are here as well, hence the parking overflow.

 

The Grotto at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center - the Jesuit Novitiate in Los Gatos - 2016

Photo of The Grotto at Sacred Heart Jesuit Center taken in June 2016

I’m fortunate to be able to visit family here at Sacred Heart. An added bonus for me is seeing some of my former college professors and classmates there as well. It feels like an extension of home since I have been there countless times. And yet I often see something new, or see something in a new light.

There are moments where both the natural beauty and the religious meaning of artwork truly strike me. St. Bernadette’s feast day is April 16th, yesterday, the day I took the photo of her statue among the lilies. Getting in my car, parked right next to it, I was inspired by the way the light hit the statue and the flowers. I had not realized that it was her feast day when I felt pulled to photograph it. Isn’t life just like that sometimes?

 

You can read more about the Society of Jesus, also known as The Jesuits, here:

http://Jesuits.org/ (site for the order, which is the largest religious order of Catholic men in the world)

https://JesuitsWest.org/ the site for this province, which includes California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Montana, Alaska, and Hawaii

You can read about St. Bernadette on the Franciscan Media website.

Community Emergency Response Team – CERT

Los Gatos and Monte Sereno provide opportunities to volunteer in case of disaster through a program overseen by the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department. It’s called CERT, or Community Emergency Response Team.

The Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) is one of the most visible Town emergency preparedness programs, sponsored by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This 20-hour course offers training in disaster preparation response and recovery skills. (From the CERT page on the town’s website.)

A new series of training events begins on April 30th, 2019, so if you are interested in getting involved, this is the perfect time to check it out. The cost is $35.

Volunteer with CERT in Los Gatos Monte Sereno

There are a number of topics covered, such as disaster preparedness, light search and rescue, damage assessment, and much more. You can see the details on the town’s page for the CERT Training.

CERT Neighborhoods

The police department has grouped neighborhoods into 13 sets (part of the map is below – click on it to go to the page, or click this link to go to the LGMS Cert Map):

  • Almond Grove / Downtown
  • Belwood
  • Blossom Hill / Shannon
  • Civic Center
  • Kennedy East
  • Kennedy North
  • Los Gatos-Almaden
  • Monte Sereno West
  • N Santa Cruz
  • Rinconada
  • Santa Rosa Hicks
  • Vasona
  • Vista del Monte

The white or gray areas are either county pockets not served by the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department or are nearby cities: San Jose, Campbell, or Saratoga.

I’m hoping that the effort is not overly rigid in these boundaries as some of them don’t really make sense to my way of thinking. Part of the Santa Rosa Hicks area can only be driven to from Belwood, for instance. And there are some areas that are San Jose parcels with a Los Gatos mailing address that can only be accessed from Los Gatos – hopefully they would be included even if they aren’t technically in town.

CERT Map for Los Gatos Monte Sereno

 

 

 

Comparing the Los Gatos real estate market to others

Market comparison_ Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino, and Los AltosSilicon Valley real estate market comparison: Los Gatos, Saratoga, Cupertino and Los Altos on the Valley of Heart’s Delight blog, SanJoseRealEstateLosGatosHomes.com

Today we’re looking at the real estate market for houses in some of the “west valley” communities along the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains – areas where schools are good, crime is low, residents enjoy scenic views of the hills (or of the valley from the hills, depending on the location) and overall, a highly educated population not too far from Highway 85.

Please hop on over to my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog to check out how the Los Gatos market is doing as compared to Saratoga, Cupertino, and Los Altos.

https://sanjoserealestatelosgatoshomes.com/market-comparison-los-gatos-saratoga-cupertino-and-los-altos/

Arroyo Rinconada

Map of Arroyo Rinconada and Rinconada HillsIn the far northwest corner of the town of Los Gatos sits a small, picturesque community, Arroyo Rinconada (Cats Creek Corner), consisting of three streets and 41 homes: Casa Grande (Big House), Rio Visa (River View), and Sierra Linda (Beautiful Mountain Range).

What are homes like in Arroyo Rinconada?

The neighborhood features Spanish style architecture and red tiled roofs and gently curving roads with loads of nearby trees, making the area scenic and charming.

In Arroyo Rinconada there are 40 townhouses and one large house, built in 1935 (and later expanded). The townhouses are held in condominium ownership (not PUD).

The two story townhomes were all built in 1984, with square footage at 1280 SF (2 bed, 2 bath model), 2152 SF (3 bed 3 bath model), and 2319 SF (3 bed 3 bath model). Average square footage is 2131 SF. These homes all enjoy attached 2 car garages.  Lots range 1372 SF to 2427 SF, with the average land area being 2152 square feet.

The house is on Casa Grande (“Big House”). It was built in 1935 with about 2600 SF but has been expanded  to 3090 SF.  Sitting on top of a knoll with a 55,000 SF lot, it sold a couple of years ago for more than $2 million.

Where is Arroyo Rinconada?

Arroyo Rinconada is set next to the corner of Quito and Pollard Roads in the northeast end of the town of Los Gatos, which are the borders for Saratoga (Quito) and Campbell (Pollard).

The San Tomas Aquino Creek separates it from the larger Rinconada Hills community to the east. You can see a map of this area, and nearby subdivisions, on my Google MyMaps page for west Los Gatos.

Arroyo Rinconada Amenities

The community enjoys a pool with spa plus a clubhouse and tennis courts. There is a gate at the entrance along Pollard Road, but it does not appear to be in use anymore.

HOA fees vary depending on the home size, but are generally around $750 to $800 per month. The monthly cost covers the private roads as well as the amenities listed above, and more.

The home owners association has a website which includes a slideshow of the homes and grounds:  http://arroyorinconada.org

Arroyo Rinconada homes for sale or sold recently

Below please find a a list with photos and descriptions of Arroyo Rinconada homes for sale, pending, or sold in the last 24 months.

  • List View
  • Map View
  • Grid View

See all Arroyo Rinconada in Los Gatos, California Real Estate.
(all data current as of 4/19/2019)

Listing information deemed reliable but not guaranteed. Read full disclaimer.

 
 

Rinconada Hills

Rinconada Hills, which sits on the northwest side of Los Gatos, adjacent to Saratoga and Cambpell, is a resort-like community with many luxurious amenities. It is one of the few gated communities anywhere in Silicon Valley, and one of the largest in the greater San Jose area.

Built in stages between 1968 and 1981, the homes here were built by Brown & Kaufmann in 5 different sections. The campus is quite large, 107 acres (almost as big as Vasona Lake County Park) and includes 394 townhomes (see floorplans here) and 40 houses, or single family homes. Approximately 1,000 people live here (in a town of about 30,000). Most everyone in LG knows someone who lives at Rinconada Hills!

Rinconada Hills homes

 

The campus includes a remodeled clubhouse (Great Room, library alcove, commercial kitchen, lockers, showers), 10 pools (1 at the clubhouse), spa, and 3 tennis courts. The residents may utilize an extra parking lot for cars or the RV lot for boats/ trailers etc. – though there is a waiting list for that. Additonally, there are 3 ponds plus a lake,  and great views to be enjoyed while walking up the hill in the private grounds.

What are homes like at Rinconada Hills?

All of the homes, whether townhouses or single family homes, have stucco exteriors and tiled roofs, although there’s quite a bit of diversity within the areas and styles. Home sizes range from small 2 bedroom townhouses to large 3000 + SF homes on big lots with views. There’s a little bit of everything, but a typical residence might be an 1800 SF 2 story townhouse with 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths, an attached 2 car garage. There are a few single story townhomes as well as single story houses, though.

Continue reading

Determining Probable Market Value of a Property

What's My Home WorthThinking of selling your home? One of the first questions a potential home seller has is this: “what’s my home worth?

Real estate professionals will establish the probable buyer value (do a market analysis) by comparing your home to others like it which have sold recently and perhaps also those which are currently under contract (sale pending). These similar homes are called comps (for comparable listing, pending, or sale). They factor in market conditions as well (buyers market, sellers market, inventory shortage or excess).

What is an ideal “comp”? It is a sold home that is:

  • recent (within at least 6 months, but preferably 3, similar market conditions)
  • nearby (same zip code/town, within a mile is best, same schools, within same complex or subdivision is ideal)
  • similar type of location (interior lots vs one backing to a freeway, school, high voltage lines)
  • like condition (similar amount of updating/remodeling)
  • if the subject property has an added family room, the best comp would also have an added family room (original square footage usually sells for more on a price per SF basis than added living space, and additions made without permits and finals are worth less than square footage with permits / finals)

In a tract subdivision or condo complex with many recent sales, this can be easy. If the subject property is very similar to several recently closed sales except for either the level of improvements or the lack of them, an adjustment would be made only for the condition. In my experience, the same tract house may have a range of 10% – 15% of value between completely original and not well maintained to thoroughly remodeled with high quality appliances and upgrades. (Most homes are somewhat updated. Few are either entirely or original, or even more rare, completely run down.)

Let’s do an example of a tract home in which there are several sales nearby of the same floor plan in recent months. And let’s say that a typical home there, somewhat updated, sells for $1,000,000 just to use a round number. The numbers could break down along these lines:

  • typical sale, moderately updated $1,000,000
  • same floor plan, mostly original condition $900,000 – $950,000 “depending” (very original to run down could go lower, depending on market conditions)
  • same floor plan, remodeled, turnkey $1,050,000 – $1,100,000 “depending” (“stunning remodel” could go higher depending on market conditions)

The range of values is often 10% on the same street, but it could be as much as 15% or 20% or more if you have a difference of more than just condition (lot size, precise location, view, a change in market conditions between one sale and the other). As an example, if all the comparable properties were “all original” and your home is “somewhat updated”, it’s likely that your home will sell for 5% more than the others did because of your updates. The range between “all original” and “stunning remodel” is not usually more than 20%.

It is much, much more difficult to establish market value for a home when there are no good comps. Sometimes the property being evaluated is extremely different from those sold recently & nearby.To establish a probable market value, it again will be a matter of adjustments, but when there are no good comps, a lot of adjustments must be made. Real estate professionals will adjust up and down for condition, location, the market’s behavior etc. Continue reading

Collord’s Peak

Although locals refer to the Santa Cruz Mountains as “the hill”, the coastal ranges have seemingly countless hills, peaks, valleys, and gluches winding between the Santa Clara Valley and the beach. Several of the hills and peaks have names (if they all do, I’m not aware of it), one of them being Collord’s Peak, which you can read about at the corner of East Main Street and High School Court.  In the image below, there’s a very tall peak, El Sombroso, with a nearer and lower peak in the foreground – that one is Collord’s peak.

 

Collord's Peak - plaque and hilltop

Plaque at the edge of Los Gatos High School which honors Victor R. Collord and names a peak in the Los Gatos Mountains after him.

It was not possible for me to show both the hills in the distance and the plaque equally well lit, so here’s a closeup of the plaque honoring Victor R. Collord.

Collord Peak Plaque closeup - Victor R Collord

Colord Peak Plaque closeup – Victor R Collord

And one more closeup of his good deeds named: Continue reading

What is an Easement and Why Should You Care?

What is an easement?What is an easement? In a nutshell, it is the right to use someone else’s property for a particular purpose.

Common types of easements

The most common types of easements in Silicon Valley are ones we can’t easily escape: they are for power, water, perhaps phone lines. The utility companies have a right to go onto your land to get to the power or telephone lines in your backyard. They have a right to go there and do not need your permission, generally speaking, if the need arises.  Pacific Gas & Electric can trim the trees under the power lines with or without your permission, but they will notify you that they are doing it.

Unless it’s an emergency, the utility companies don’t go on your property without advance notice.

For the owners of townhouses held in PUD ownership (not condo), the land on which the townhouse sits is owned and not just the airspace inside the unit. If there are private driveways to get to the home, normally that access is via an easement that the townhome owner has over the other parcel (the private driveway).

Less common easements

Easements can be given by the landowner to the person or organization that wants to use it too. This can be done for charitable reasons (such as access to a park being donated) or for a private road or driveway to a parcel that needs to be able to come and go over that road (often for payment of cash).  F

For instance, the right to use a driveway or private road from one parcel to access another might be a great convenience to the person who wants the easement (it might be a much shorter route home than another alternative, or it may be the only possible access to that land).  The Santa Cruz Mountains and the hilly areas of Los Gatos and Monte Sereno have many areas where this type of easement is in use. With shared driveways or private roads, there is normally a private road agreement in place to spell out how repairs are paid for and by what percentage. Some communities collect money annually to fund these driveways or roads, and others do not.

As a charitable example, an easement might be granted by a property owner to the general public to have a shortcut to a park or trail. In this case, the landowner might close the access off once a year and also post a “right to pass by permission” type of notice so that this easement is as a temporary gift and not a permanent loss of rights of the landowner. (An interruption in the use of the easement to make sure it’s still voluntarily given and not taken as a permanent right.)

In my career, I’ve seen odd easements. The strangest one was allowing a neighbor to place an above ground pool on the next door neighbor’s property.

How to learn about recorded easements

When buying or selling a home, easements will be listed on the preliminary title report. Normally these are simply the utility easements. Not every easement is recorded, though, so do not rely on the preliminary title report for assurance that there are no easements. Home or landowners must pay attention to the use of the land and be aware of any risk of the formation of prescriptive easements.  Home buyers should check the land too and see if it appears that the property is being used by others.

Some title companies will automatically provide a color coded easement map. If you feel you aren’t sure about your home’s easement situation, you can request this. With complicated easements, it can be a big help to get a general sense of where the easements are located. Below is part of a color coded easement map – there would also be a “key” telling you which color is for what type of easement.

 

Color coded easement map

Prescriptive easements

Village Lane Los Gatos: Permission to pass is hereby granted at the option of the property owner

Seen on Village Lane, Los Gatos, an effort to prevent a prescriptive easement from being formed.

A “prescriptive easement” is one that happens by accident as far as the landowner is concerned. In this case, others openly and notoriously used the property owner’s land without interruption (as a shortcut, a driveway, etc.) for a period of years without the owner objecting or preventing that use. Eventually, the right to use the land for those purposes can become permanent. To form a prescriptive easement, the use must be open, notorious, for a period of years, and uninterrupted.

Near Village Lane in Los Gatos, there are some shops that sit along a walkway between Village Lane and the public parking lot (in the old train line area). The owner of the shopping center has placed a plaque in the aggregate walkway to make sure that the visitors know that this access is by permission (intending that it can be revoked at any time).  This is important to keep the future use of that land in the owner’s hands. Imagine if in the years to come these owners wanted to tear down the current buildings and put in one large two or three story building with no walkway between Village Lane and the parking lot. Could the public object to the removed access? Perhaps. Will the notice in the ground prevent that from happening? That is up to the attorneys and judges to decide.

To give another example of trying to prevent a prescriptive easement, there were two homes in Cambrian Park with fences and gates – we’ll call them lots A and B.  The the fence for Lot A extended further toward the street than that of Lot B. And the gate for Lot A opened not onto its own front yard, but onto the front yard of Lot B. (The gate was at a 90 degree angle to where it should have been.)

If the homeowner of Lot B did not object, but allowed the folks in Lot A to go through their gate and onto the land of Lot B for a period of time, it would become a prescriptive easement.

What to do? The only thing to do to prevent the prescriptive easement being formed is to object and to request (insist upon) the gate being removed or rebuilt such that no one had to cross onto Lot B anymore. Hopefully that would not require legal action. But to allow someone to cross your property without objection for a period of years is to invite the formation of a permanent prescriptive easement.

Could anything be worse for a homeowner than a prescriptive easement?

Yes.

Adverse possession.

What is adverse possession?

Adverse possession happens when a prescriptive easement is in place AND the person trying to gain access of the land permanently also pays the property tax for that parcel for a period of years. It is a legal way to take someone else’s property in California.

Café Dio Espresso Bar & Café

Situated along Main Street and adjacent to Los Gatos High School, Café Dio (connected with Dio Deka across the street and within the Hotel Los Gatos) is ideally placed for those wanting to grab a quick coffee, breakfast, or simple lunch. The menu is not extensive, but there’s a little something for just about everyone available. Most of all, Café Dio is a good place to pop in if all you want is something to drink and something modest to nibble on.

Cafe Dio in Los Gatos

Parking can be a major headache in downtown Los Gatos, but on weekdays, I’ve found that parking is not hard unless visiting when school is starting or ending.

Café Dio in Los Gatos

Menu items include a good assortment of beverages (coffee, tea, espresso drinks, water, soft drinks) plus pastries, oatmeal, wraps, Greek salad, one sandwich offering, pizza, and things like chips.

An outdoor area makes this a fun place to people-watch, and a very dog-friendly place, too.

Café Dio wall menu and counter

Dio Deka, the full restaurant within the Hotel Los Gatos, is not open for breakfast or lunch, so having Cafe Dio just across the street makes a lot of sense. It’s low key and easy for guests, but just as easy for Los Gatos High School students.

Got a little time? Swing by Café Dio and enjoy the friendly, casual ambiance and a cup of your favorite beverage.

 

 

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Mary Pope-Handy

Realtor
ABR, CIPS, CRS, SRES
Sereno Group Real Estate
214 Los Gatos-Saratoga Rd
Los Gatos, CA 95030
408 204-7673
Mary (at) PopeHandy.com
License# 01153805

Selling homes in
Silicon Valley, with
special focus on
Los Gatos 

and nearby areas,
including
Monte Sereno,
Saratoga,
Campbell,
and the San Jose areas of
Cambrian and Almaden Valley

Helping Nice Folks to
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since 1993

 

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