Los Gatos is a pricey town. The average single family home sells for about $1,200,000 (starters upwards of $800,000 and it seems there is no upper limit on pricing for large homes on large parcels). So folks struggling to pay the rent, whether employed or retired, might not consider looking in Los Gatos for a below-market rate place to live. But the town has got some affordable housing, and the details are on the town website. Visit it and learn about both rentals and purchase programs.
Also, thinking of purchases, there are some great loan programs out there that can help too: Bank of America has an “Acorn program” with great terms (underwritten by a charity), and also there’s a CAL-FHA loan with even more generous guidelines, and then there are also programs for folks buying into zip codes where prices are depressed. Interest rates have gone down in the last week or two (which is not atypical for December: remember, it’s supply and demand) and this is a great time to buy at a reduced cost. I can put you in touch with a lender if you want to investigate any of these options.
Renting or buying, Los Gatos is a wonderful place to live.
The Kotani-En Japanese Garden is a well kept secret, because this national landmark is on private land – it is not open to the public. I’m a native and only learned of its existence recently! Even the plaque is on private land and sites that discuss this fascinating place admonish us to not trespass or disturb the owners.
The Saratoga Historical Foundation lists three local Japanese gardens: the well known Hakone Gardens of Saratoga and the lesser known Nippon Mura, which is halfway between Saratoga and Los Gatos and is now the site of the La Hacienda, and also Kotani-En, which is located at 15891 Ravine Rd (again, private road, do not disturb occupants or trespass).
“NO. 903 KOTANI-EN – Kotani-En is a classical Japanese residence in the formal style of a 13th-century estate with tile roofed walls surrounding a tea house, shrine, gardens, and ponds. Constructed for Max M. Cohen in 1918-1924 of mahogany, cedar, bamboo, and ceramic tile by master artisan Takashima and eleven craftsmen from Japan, Kotani-En represents a harmonious union of art and nature in a two-acre rustic environment. Kotani-En is a prominent example of Japanese landscape architecture in America. “
Any time of year, a favorite place of mine to hang out is Old Town Los Gatos. A few years ago it was revamped, and in all honesty, I think it lost a lot of its charm then, but much of it does still remain and despite changes, it’s a great place to be and relax. There is a little bit of large topiary that remains – once there was a huge selection of it – and the outdoor theater still invites people to sit around and visit, if not see a show or hear music these days. It’s my hope that some of the “old” benefits of lingering at Old Town will one day return.
Some things don’t change. The Wine Celler is my favorite restaurant, not just in town, but anywhere. It offers a wonderful menu , including fun things like fondu and cheese boards, a nice variety of wines, and even live music. Additionally there’s patio seating upstairs in nice weather, but always a wonderful interior ambiance in the cellar itself. The people who run The Wine Cellar, the Hauck family, are as nice as the food is good.
I began visiting The Wine Cellar as a teenager and pretty much dragged all my friends there, especially on a weekend night if Gritty and Gravel were playing. (Does anyone know whatever happened to those guys?) I was a “regular” and I often asked them to play Desperado. They humored me. And I kept returning with new people week after week. As it turns out, my better half (Jim, now my husband of 21 years) was there many of those nights too. We would not meet until many years later, but now the restaurant is one our kids like too. I guess it was meant to be!
Another wonderful place in Old Town is directly upstairs, and that’s the local Border’s Books. My family and I are there a lot. I have been joking about buying stock in the place, actually. (I was there yesterday – bought Moving The Chains, a book about my famous cousin that happens to mention both my sister and my brother – and then indulged myself by having a latte in the cafe while skimming through the book for awhile.)
And a nice place to take a friend for a drink after work is Steamer’s. This place has a fantastic wine buyer and I’m only sorry that I don’t remember his name to give him credit – but he’s extremely good at matching the right wine to the right food, he’s friendly, and he’s fun to talk with. Steamer’s has some cool food and a nice atmosphere too.
I miss the outdoor shows in the open air theater. I miss the theater where Borders now stands too. I miss all the topiary that used to grace Old Town. But so much of the old charm remains, and so many wonderful people work the restaurants and shops, that even “progress” did not ruin what may be the very best part of our wonderful town. If you haven’t spent time there, please do. Neat shops, neat people, neat place.
In the spirit of holiday cheer, I’m going to share with you one of my holiday secrets.
Immediately adjacent to Los Gatos is a very small city named Monte Sereno. (“El Sereno” is the name of the large mountain to the right of the pass to Santa Cruz. “El Sombroso” is the name of the large one to the left.) The Monte Sereno Post Office, located on Hightway 9 (aka Los Gatos-Saratoga Road) and Rose Avenue, is usually the best place around during the holiday season when you need to mail a package. This year they have cut back on their hours and it is only open from 9am – 1pm, Monday through Friday. The lines are typically far shorter than at other nearby post office locations, but it is a small office and they don’t take credit cards or do express mail. So go armed with your simple mail and checkbook, and be delighted that the line is half as long as at other PO stations.
Los Gatos is home to many great things, many great ideas too, but also home to many fascinating people who are successful in their own fields. The list includes CEOs, sports celebrities, and other famous people. Wikipedia lists several of our Los Gatos contemporaries who are very well known, and if you live here, you do bump into them at Whole Foods, a restaurant, or maybe your child’s school. They’re just normal people, trying to lead normal lives. I, for one, won’t bug them if I see them in public or at some function where we happen to be together. I once spent a year in a body cast and it made me appreciate, deeply, how important it is just to be treated like a “normal person” – no matter what the circumstances are.
But Los Gatos has often been a popular place among those who could choose to live or visit anywhere they wanted – this is not a new experience for our pretty town. John Steinbeck lived here and wrote “Of Mice and Men” in those days. Charlie Chaplin came to visit and was seen a few times at the old Lyndon Hotel in the days when he was filming at Niles Canyon (a district of Fremont). The famous violinist Yehudi Menuhin lived in Los Gatos, up near the Holy Names Sisters convent and the Jesuit Novitiate, for a bit of time in his childhood. It was a treasured time for him.
Want to read up on well-known visitors? Take a look:
In addition to all the famous (and those of us who are not-so-famous) people who have enjoyed making Los Gatos home, there was a time in which ordinary, but very ill, people would pilgrimmage here too. The climate was so favorable it was prescribed. Did you ever wonder about the fact that Los Gatos was so small, but for many years had two mortuaries? Many of these sickly folk did improve here, but many others did not. Read John Baggerly’s surprising bit of history as Los Gatos, the health refuge: http://www.losgatos.com/history/climate.html .
Finally, some residents just won’t leave, even when their earthly life is over. If you are interested in our (mostly) unseen residents, please visit a page on one of my websites dedicated to Haunted Real Estate. Los Gatos is a featured location and I discuss there the old cemetary (which has shops over it now) and other places where the townsfolk remain in spirit.