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

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Tree pruning, tree removal in Los Gatos

A canopy of trees

A canopy of trees

Most Los Gatans know that you cannot just remove any tree you like in town – some older and larger trees are protected, and some are deemed so important as to be known as heritage trees.

Did you know that the protections extend to pruning certain trees, and not just removing them?

Not all trees are protected, and not all pruning is prohibited.

  • At what point is it required to get permits to prune or remove a tree in Los Gatos?
  • How old and how large do they have to be to need a permit for pruning (let alone removing) them?

I was surprised at the answers, so thought I’d share some of the highlights of them here. If you’d like to just jump to the town’s document, here it  is: Town of Los Gatos Parks and Public Works Tree Removal and Pruning Permit

The town’s info all uses the diameter of the tree’s trunk at 4.5′ above grade, but I think it’s easier to measure the circumference. Jim, my better half and a guy who thinks math problems are recreation, reminded me that you can learn the circumference of a circle simply by multiplying the diameter by pi, or 3.12 (appx!).

The town has three categories, protected, large protected, and heritage.

What is a protected tree in Los Gatos?

Protected trees are classified as such by meeting any of a variety of criteria: diameter of trunk at 4.5′ above natural grade, type of tree, or some combination of the two of them together with the type of location in town.

In addition to the criteria, there are a few exceptions, such as fruit or nut trees up to 18″ in diameter, or a short list of others up to 24″ in diameter, including most palm trees.

A protected tree may be as small as 4″ diameter (appx 9″ circumference)  on vacant or non-residential property.

For residential lots which are developed (a home exists on the property), all trees which have a 12″ or greater diameter (less exceptions). For the developed hillside areas (see the map for the designated Town of Los Gatos residential hillside areas), it’s just an 8″ diameter (about 24-25″).

There are additional criteria, and specific trees named in the town’s document, including some oaks, buckeye, and madrone. And, as you’d expect, if there’s a development review or related requirement from the town, there are other requirements, too.

Protected trees need permits to be removed OR to be pruned by more than 25% over 3 years

What is a large protected tree?

A large protected tree has a diameter of 48 inches or more, or could also be an Oak, California Buckeye, or Pacific Madrone with a diameter of 24 inches or more.

What is a heritage tree?

A heritage tree is “specifically designated by action of the Town Council which possesses exceptional aesthetic, biological, cultural, or historic value to the community”(quote from the link above).

Permits are needed to remove or cut any branch or root greater than 4 inches in diameter of any Large Protected Tree or Heritage Tree

These are just the highlights – if you are thinking of doing major pruning or removal of a tree in Los Gatos, please read this document thoroughly, and if in down, check with the town:
Town of Los Gatos Parks and Public Works Tree Removal and Pruning Permit

 

Related reading:

TOWN CODE Chapter 29 – ZONING REGULATIONS ARTICLE I. – IN GENERAL  DIVISION 2. TREE PROTECTION

Los Gatos: private trees

Los Gatos: street trees

Trees, Branches, and Property Lines in Silicon Valley (older post on my Valley of Heart’s Delight blog)

 

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

Hooker Gulch in the Los Gatos Mountains

Hooker Gulch, Los Gatos - satellite viewMaps can be so intriguing, and they can be a dangerous rabbit hole into which my time somehow disappears if I’m not careful. Today I was viewing a topographical map of Los Gatos when I stumbled upon a place in the Santa Cruz Mountains near Los Gatos (aka the Los Gatos Mountains) with the curious name of Hooker Gulch.  That same site is an interactive map with many place names that I never heard of in the coastal range, all of them begging for research. (Click at your own risk.)

Here are a few of odd and fascinating place names in the hills:

  • Hooker Gulch (also Hooker Gulch Creek, which feeds into the Los Gatos Creek)
  • Nibbs Knob
  • Rattlesnake Gulch
  • Buzzard Lagoon
  • Beehive
  • Priest Rock
  • Bull Run
  • Badger Spring
  • And many other “gulch” names: Moody Gulch, Austrian Gulch, Jacques Gulch, etc.

Where is Hooker Gulch?

The steep valley is located near the end of Aldercroft Heights Road (public section of the road), close to Aldercroft Heights, Lexington Hills, and Holy City in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It is just south of Old Gold Mine Road. Continue reading

Silicon Valley Jewish Music Festival

The Jewish Community Center in Los Gatos will be hosting the Silicon Valley Jewish Music Festival on June 10th, 2018, from 2:00 pm to 7:00 pm.  This year is a beach theme, so bring along a beach blanket or lawn chair (the Eventbrite ticket site also encourages people to come in beach wear). In addition to a great musical lineup, there will also be food & activities for all.

Silicon Valley Jewish Music Festival graphic

Buy your tickets early – they are more affordable if purchased in advance prior to 5 pm June 8th. They’ll be more expensive at the door.  Early tickets are $5 to $15, and kids under 12 are admitted at no cost.

Please get all of the details on the bands and performers on the JCC website:
Silicon Valley Jewish Music Festival 2018

and buy tickets for the event here:
Eventbrite tickets for the Silicon Valley Jewish Musical Festival 2018

Addison-Penzak Jewish Community Center Silicon Valley
14855 Oka Rd, Los Gatos, CA 95032

Take a Trip Back in Time Aboard the Trains of Los Gatos

Title 300x300 - Take a Trip Back in Time Aboard the Trains of Los Gatos

I purchased Derek’s books after the lecture, but you can also buy them online through Amazon (linked at the bottom of this post).

Grab your ticket and hop on board. Tonight, January 11th from 6:30 – 7:30PM, drop by NUMU Los Gatos for a lecture by local historian Derek R Whaley on the railroads of Los Gatos.

Derek, author of the book, “Santa Cruz Trains: Railroads of the Monterey Bay,” and a website by the same name, has tracked the history of railroads in the Santa Cruz mountains. Learn little remembered stories of the growth of Los Gatos as a travel destination, local train trivia, the disappearance of the rail lines, and how it exists today.

With trains coming back in vogue, RSVPs for this event have been fully booked and closed, but if you haven’t made reservations available seats will be given out on a first-come-first-served basis. This event is free to NUMU Members and $10 General Admission to the museum for non-members. See you there tonight!

Read more on NUMU’s event page: http://www.numulosgatos.org/events/2018/1/11/all-aboard-the-history-of-the-railroad-in-los-gatos

NUMU’s website: http://www.numulosgatos.org/

For more on Derek Whaley and local train history, visit his website: http://www.santacruztrains.com/

Follow the latest updates on Derek’s blog: http://santacruztrains.blogspot.com/

Books may be available tonight at the museum, but they are also purchasable online through Amazon at this link.

Is Radon a worry in Los Gatos?

California EPA Map of RadonThe Environmental Protection Agency has dubbed January “National Radon Protection Month“.  Radon is usually off the radar in Silicon Valley, but should it be?  As it turns out, Santa Clara County is a an area with moderate radon levels.

The only real way to know if radon is a problem for your indoor air quality is to test it.  The County of Santa Clara has a page on its site regarding radon, the state’s health and safety code regarding radon, a list of service providers and qualified labs, and more.   Click here to go to the Indoor Air Quality page for the county.

Recently in an “advertorial” piece in the San Jose Mercury News, I saw that there are home testing kits for radon available online.   The county doesn’t mention these so not sure if it’s omission because the kits are new or an exclusion because it’s a job better left to testers.  I’ll let my readers do more research, but wanted to mention it in passing as another option to investigate.

Where and how can seniors transfer their property tax basis within California?

Proposition 13 keeps residential real estate taxes from skyrocketing when you’ve lived in the home a long time and haven’t done major additions or huge remodeling all at once (those would cause a re-appraisal). For people who’ve owned their home for 30 years or more, the property taxes might be a tenth as much as what new buyers on the same street pay (for the same sized home and lot). Those lower than market rate property tax bills are part of the reason why many seniors are disinterested in selling and moving. Under Prop 60 and Prop 90, though, there’s a one-time possibility of moving and taking that low property tax basis along. Today we’ll look at that.

Proposition 60 and Proposition 90 are similar. There’s a great deal of Prop 60 / 90 information on the website of the California State Board of Equalization. Prop 60 allows the over 55 home owner to transfer the property tax basis (with some caveats) within that same county. Prop 90 allows the same transfer from one county to the next – but few are now participating and it seems to be an ever-shrinking list (so best to triple check before selling the home and counting on the transfer to still be allowed).

In addition to the age requirement of 55+, the replacement property must be of equal or lesser value and must be purchased within 2 years of the sale of the first property.

Per the Santa Clara County Tax Assessor’s office, “Proposition 90 allows homeowners 55 years of age or older to transfer the base year value of their principal residence in one county to a newly purchased or constructed replacement residence in another county. Only a limited number of counties participate in Proposition 90.”

Here are the listed counties which participate in Prop 90:

APPROVED COUNTIES EFFECTIVE DATE
Alameda November 9, 1988
El Dorado February 15, 2010
Los Angeles November 9, 1988
Orange November 9, 1988
Riverside September 19, 2013
San Bernardino October 7, 2014
San Diego November 9, 1988
San Mateo November 9, 1988
Santa Clara November 9, 1988
Ventura May 4, 1992

 

If you have owned a home in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno or nearby for decades, are over 55 and haven’t used this one-time transfer opportunity, you might want to consider downsizing in such a way that your lower tax bill can go with you. Moving from a high end area to a lower cost one is a popular option for many Silicon Valley residents who take the cash out of their sale and put the proceeds (or what isn’t taxed for capital gains) into their retirement fund. I’ve seen clients move from the west valley areas to places such as the Santa Cruz Mountains (prop 60), Livermore (in Alameda County, prop 90), or to further destinations.

 

Related Reading:

Is your property tax assessment too high?

What are supplemental taxes?

When a parent, spouse or loved one dies b what do you need to know or do about the house?

Surrey Farm neighborhood

Surrey Farm Neighborhood Los Gatos CA (Silicon Valley)

Where is the Surrey Farm neighborhood?

Surrey Farm is located just off of Kennedy Road on a few streets behind a horse fence and gate: Longmeadow Drive, Blueberry Hill Drive, Clover Way, Olde Drive and Twin Oaks Drive. A number of real estate sites incorrectly include nearby streets, reaching as far as Short Road and including part of Marchmont and the Stoneybrook neighborhood. This is not correct.

Is it Surrey Farm or Surrey Farms?

Locally, people refer to this gated looking community as Surrey Farms. But a look at the county records reveals that local custom has morphed the name. The subdivision was originally dubbed in the singular: Surrey Farm, not Surrey Farms. It seems to have been one ranch or farm to start with – so the singular makes more sense. Either way – same neighborhood.

When were the homes built, how big are they, and how large are the lots in Surrey Farm?

Originally a horse ranch, Surrey Farm was built out with homes between about 1955 and 1960, and most began as ranch style homes between about 2000 and 3000 square feet, on lots of about 1/4 to 1/3 of an acre in most cases, though there are some homes larger than 4000 SF situated on parcels of more than oen acre now. And over the years, many houses have been remodeled, expanded, or fully rebuilt.

What makes the Surrey Farm or Surrey Farms neighborhood so special?

Part of what is unique about Surrey Farm is the more rural feeling that the neighborhood has. Here you don’t find sidewalks or street lamps. But you do find that a number of the yards continue to use the horse fence as at least part of the landscaping. That’s very refreshing in Silicon Valley, where so many of the residential areas just feel like suburban sprawl. You can look around and imagine it being horse country not so long ago.

Also special is the fact that this area is actually close to downtown Los Gatos but only feels farther away. It’s incredibly quiet in most of the neighborhood. One area does back up to Hillbrook School, so of course the sounds of kids at play or school bells ringing will not reinforce the “out in the country” feel. Overall, though, you look around and see open space and the hills nearby – so you do not feel like this is any kind of urban setting.

 

What are some of the things to know if interested in Surrey Farm (or the Kennedy-Marchmont area of Los Gatos)?

Surry Farm Gate - Los Gatos CAIn this area, you are close to a lot of open space and forested land, and that means wildlife is nearby: possums, skunks, racoons, deer, bobcats, and mountain lions all make their home not too far away. And with the forested land there’s also the danger of wildfire, so it’s important to have a plan and be ready — though quite honestly I have never heard of a fire in this “Kennedy Road area.” A bigger issue than fire is water…..

Water issues in and near Los Gatos

Throughout Los Gatos, Almaden, Monte Sereno and Saratoga, anytime you’re near or in a hilly area, water is an issue. Surrey Farm and the Kennedy Road and Marchmont area is no exception. This area is adjacent to larger hills but is a gently sloped area itself. Water flows down off of the hills, but at times it also flows under the hills, following some sort of impervious rock level, and when the ground flattens out, the water may pop up. Sometimes it’s a spring situation. Other times it’s a “high water table” that may come up during heavy rains, such as we have in an El Niño year. In some cases, the water can emerge under a house (like having it come off of downspouts isn’t a big enough challenge).

In winter, it is not at all unusual to find a wet or muddy crawl space if your home is on or near a hill. Less common, but perhaps more worrisome, is finding it in the middle of summer in a drought year.

Water issues can be mitigated with drainage work, so don’t let a little mud put you off – you just need to know about it going into home buying so that you are prepared and budget it in. It is important to not be surprised, and when house hunting, to be on the lookout for drainage work (and appreciate it when you see it) or the need for it if you see a slope.

 

Original article on the “old” Live in Los Gatos blog can be found here:

http://www.realtown.com/LiveInLosGatos/blog/los-gatos-neighborhoods/surrey-farms

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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
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