Saratoga Highlands, Rio Rinconada, Granada Way and La Rinconada Park neighborhood are situated in west Los Gatos near the Campbell and Saratoga borders. As they are close to the large Safeway and surrounding shops along Pollard Road, this is a very convenient community.In this area you’ll find a beautiful park and tidy neighborhood with homes of varying sizes and price tags. From looking at the plat maps, I believe that originally this entire area was part of the Rinconada Hills tract of land, but today just part of the area, the gated community, bears that name. (Video below of a sampling of the area that I took from 2014!)
Please continue reading for much more information on the neighborhood!
In 1940 construction began to widen, straighten, and modernize Highway 9. This was eagerly welcomed by locals who hoped to ease beach traffic and to eliminate the infamous ‘Death Curve’ at Austin Corners. The project was a success and the once bustling, popular, and even notorious, Austin Corners has since become a nearly forgotten by way.
The Austin Corners Namesake
The name Austin comes from Captain Daniel “Dan” Buckley Austin, who purchased 60 acres of land 1.25 mi from Los Gatos around 1882. By 1888 he sold all but the 2.25 acres of his parcel surrounding his home, though the area would keep his name for centuries to come.
Mr. Austin was one of the original stockholders and directors of the Los Gatos and Saratoga Wine and Fruit Company, and his property became the location for the Plant from 1885-1919. The Wine and Fruit Plant was a community effort, “built by local growers… to facilitate the processing of grapes” (LG History Research Collection) and its managers were respected members of the community, such as orchard owner Alfred Malpas and Antone Anderson. Mr. Austin did not live to see the Plant’s destruction due to prohibition in 1919.
Mr. Austin was heavily influential in the creation of a school house and a school district in this part of the county. The original Austin School District’s single room schoolhouse was built on his property in 1884, and was used until a new schoolhouse was built on the same location in 1913 at what is today 19010 Austin Way. This school district was incorporated into the Saratoga School District in the 1920s, and when the highway was straightened the old schoolhouse was raised and replaced with an Arts and Crafts style building that would be used as a nursery school for years (Saratoga History Newsletter March 2009).
Spring has stretched into summer and while closure protocols remain in place, the Town of Los Gatos has been progressively re-opening.
Safe Summer Reading
Socially distant opportunities are ever-expanding. The Town Library is working hard to circulate your summer-reads safely. Residents can now check-out material online with safe patio pick-up for books, CDs, and DVDs. Virtual services include online classes and remote storytimes in addition to the virtual library services already in place.
Unfortunately, increasing virus spread has led to a rollback on opening many indoor services. Outdoors, however, there’s plenty to do!
Back in May the Town Council began work and the April-approved reallocation of $1.9M in surplus to bolster local COVID-19 economic recovery. Some of this has been used to help create the outdoor expansions into temporary parklets.
If you haven’t been downtown recently, it’s all hustle and bustle with the new setup. Patio dining is now available at many of your favorite restaurants. Personal services including hair salons, cosmetologists, nail salons, and barbershops are now also open for business – outdoors and by reservation only. The weekly farmers market is still open for business every Sunday.
While indoor malls remain closed you can still enter shops in outdoor malls or at standalone stores, so window-shoppers, follow the posted rules and enjoy stalking the shelves!
Re-Opening the Outdoors
Trails and parks remain open with social distancing requirements. Boating on Vasona Lake is open with plenty of safety protocols in place. County parks have yet to reopen playgrounds, water fountains, and group picnic sites, according to their website, so keep that in mind when you plan a Vasona visit. Town parks have reopened some sports equipment (such as tennis courts), and playgrounds, picnic tables, and BBQ areas are all open for use. The Town of Los Gatos is accepting picnic site reservations online again.
Bella Vista Village is an upscale, fairly young townhome community off of Alberto Way in Los Gatos. These 47 townhouses are close to downtown Los Gatos and offers easy access to Highway 17, Highway 9 (Los Gatos-Saratoga Road), and Los Gatos Blvd (once called Los Gatos-San Jose Road). Alberto Way is a cul-de-sac, so a plus is that there’s no through traffic here.
This whole area is at the doorstep to downtown Los Gatos and there are many things for which residents here may elect to walk or ride a bike rather than take a car. It’s an enormous benefit.
Built in 1997, the first section is Tract 8820 and consists of 34 townhouses on Cuesta de Los Gatos except for 5 on Treseder Ct . This is the area closest to Alberto Way. The second phase, completed in 1998, is Tract 8976 with just 13 homes, all of which are on Maggi Court. In the map at the right, you can see that there are two sections of Bella Vista Village.
What are the homes like at Bella Vista Village?
Because these homes are so young, they are delightfully light, bright and open. They feature double pane windows and are quiet inside, too. Outside, the looks is contemporary Craftsman style. The grounds and exteriors are well maintained and attractive. The private driveways are kept up.
Homes range from 943 SF to 1735 SF, offering 2-4 bedrooms (most are 3) with 2-3 bathrooms. All appear to be 2 story homes, though one was listed as a 3 story in the MLS.
Saturday September 21st and Sunday September 22nd mark the return of the Fiesta de Artes Los Gatos, Art & Wine Festival, the only Art & Wine Festival in town all year! It will be located at the Civic Center lawn, and the hours are 10 am to 6 pm both days. (This year it was moved from August to September – hopefully there will be far less “beach traffic” with this timing, which seems like a great idea to me.)
What happens at the Fiesta de Artes?
Think food & drink, art & shopping, dancing & socializing! Once again, there will be more than 150 vendors with a huge variety of artists and vendors displaying and selling their artwork, plus booths with food and wine and of course loads of music throughout both days. Please check out the musical lineup here: Fiesta de Artes music lineup
Where is the Fiesta de Artes held?
Fiesta de Artes will be at the Civic Center lawn across the street from Los Gatos High School.
In Los Gatos, it may be possible to dine out of doors year round, but it is always a particularly popular option between March and October in the scenic town once referred to as “the gem city of the foothills.” And this year, it might be your only option for a while!
I originally wrote this post back in April of 2019, but barely a year later and it’s more relevant than ever. Restaurants who have had their doors closed since mid-March are finally opening – to the outdoors. Today I want to highlight these establishments for diners and give a nod to a number of the Los Gatos restaurants which offer dining al fresco; we are lucky to have so many choices!
Changes are happening quickly, so this is not a 100% comprehensive directory of Los Gatos eateries that are open with patio dining. Many restaurants not formerly offering patio dining have begun to offer outdoor seating to accommodate guests during the pandemic. Similarly, some establishments that regularly offer patio seating have decided not to offer it at this time. The charts below are mostly thanks to the excellent list provided by the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce, in addition to a few Google searches, to update my previous list of restaurants.
Some of the restaurants that were on my 2019 list include Forbes Mill Steakhouse and Lexington House. These are all still open offering either pickup, delivery, or both at this time, and they may open for patio dining in the future. Unfortunately, a few restaurants have shuttered their doors for good. Both I Gatti and Chicago Steak & Fish are permanently closed.
Accommodations vary from permanent to temporary outdoor dining and space may be limited. I am not able to confirm all of the locations on these lists, and many have not updated their information online. Last Sunday I drove through Downtown and saw everything from spacious concrete patios dining with colorful shade installations to folding chairs under pop-up canopies. The Chamber of Commerce announced on their Facebook page that the k-rails and parklets are temporary installations to provide outdoor seating and will be replaced with more appealing planter barricades soon.
Remember that California currently requires face masks in all public places, and establishments may have their own rules for diners, so check ahead of time and come prepared.
Finally, I should mention that these restaurants with outdoor seating offer varied selection and pricing, from super casual (Happy Hound, Classic Burgers and Los Gatos Meats are all low key) to much more costly and formal. (And if you want a unique experience, one is at the local nudist resort – Lupin Lodge!) Not every one of these businesses is in downtown Los Gatos either. Links are provided where available so you can check them out yourself.
Did I miss one that should be mentioned? Feel free to email me any updates!
The Los Gatos Commons is a popular senior condominium community off of Alberto Way in Los Gatos, very close to the downtown shopping and dining district (see map, below). This complex was developed in 1978, so is 42 years old as of this writing in 2020. There are 110 condo units, ranging from 1 to 3 bedrooms. Most units have carports, but there are a few with 1 car garages available. A plus for many residents is that it is gated – a rarely found amenity in Silicon Valley.
Like other senior communities, of which there are very few in Santa Clara County, properties are more affordable here than what you might find in non age-restricted condominiums nearby.
Homes share a clubhouse, pool, spa, and fitness room, as well as beautifully maintained landscaping. Units have covered parking.
Nearby amenities include easy access to highways 9 and 17, a close proximity to downtown shopping, dining, and entertainment, such as the public library and parks. The location is hard to beat!
What do HOA Dues cost at The Commons?
The Los Gatos Commons home owner association dues start at about $450 and are more for larger units. Two recent 2 bed sales have had $507 monthly fees, and one had a $520 monthly fee. The fee covers things like common area maintenance, cable/dish services, and water.
What senior services are included?
This is an independent living community, not assisted living, which means that there are no additional senior services, such as shuttle, cleaning, or meal plans, available to residents outside of the normal HOA features such as landscaping and exterior maintenance. That being said, the HOA does organize outings and events for those in the community who wish to participate.
Positives and Negatives
Well known positives for The Los Gatos Commons are the wonderful location, beautifully kept grounds, security features, easy lifestyle and low maintenance, the use of the pool and spa, tennis court, workout room, clubhouse, and the senior community. While not inexpensive, the cost of buying a condo at the Commons is less than it might be for a comparable condominium that would not be in a seniors community – and that is a significant plus, too.
Potential negatives may be the relatively expensive HOA cost, road noise & other issues from Highway 17, not having an attached garage (for the majority of units), having 40 + year old construction, and and upcoming construction at Alberto Way and Los Gatos-Saratoga Road. And “beach traffic” in summer, too.