Live in Los Gatos

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

Do you have a high water table?

How high is the water table at your property? (Why would you care?) In Los Gatos, like Almaden, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, and many other parts of Santa Clara County, there are pockets in which the water table, meaning groundwater, is quite high. This can come with some risks.

What are some of the potential issues with high ground water?

In some cases, that groundwater is at such a shallow level that there’s an actual spring with water bubbling up at times. This can happen particularly in times of heavy rainfall. Should it occur directly under your house and into your crawlspace, that would not be good. Water can cause havoc with foundations, so the standard advice from home inspectors and structural engineers is to divert water away from the house. In most cases, that means correct any faulty grading (the soil around the house should case any rainfall to be directed away from the house), to extend downspouts away from the home, etc. If you have a spring bring water up from underground, that is a whole different approach to the challenge.

Another concern with higher water tables is the possibility of environmental problems spreading from the site of a leaking underground storage tank to nearby neighbors (who would get stuck paying the cleanup). Underground plumes of water can carry chemicals from a spill site to some distance away. That’s why home buyers receive a natural and environmental report which includes contamination sites within one mile of the property they’re interested in purchasing.

How can you learn about your neighborhood’s water table?

It seems like experts have mapped just about everything, and one of those things does include the depth at which first groundwater can be found. Today I was curious about this question and was delighted to find a Valley Water map which lays out the various depths of the water table throughout much (but not all) of the Santa Clara Valley.

How shallow is the water in Los Gatos? Per this map, it appears that:

  • At the intersection of N Santa Cruz and Los Gatos-Saratoga Road, it’s 0 – 10 feet on the northwest corner and 10 – 20 feet on the southeast and southwest corner
  • Much of the Almond Grove area appears to have 0 – 10 ft depth for water
  • Old Town seems to have 10 – 20 feet
  • Los Gatos High and the Civic Center look to have 20 – 30 feet (interesting as there was a cleanup  at the Hotel Los Gatos and the high school from a leak at the Dry Cleaner next to the hotel a few years back)
  • The Town Park Plaza is in the 10 – 20 foot area

Click on the link to the Valley Water Open Data site and scroll around to see your part of town! (Unfortunately there are some big pockets missing.)

 

Image of the Valley Water open data map, including Los Gatos and Saratoga - click on image to visit the Valley Water website

Image of the Valley Water open data map, including Los Gatos and Saratoga – click on image to visit the Valley Water website

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)

 

Los Gatos welcomes new residents

Recently while looking for something on the town’s website, I stumbled upon something new to me – a way in which the town of Los Gatos welcomes new residents. This comes from the FAQ page. Similar info can be found on resident services / welcoming new residents page.

Residents receive packets of useful community information, including letters from the Town Manager and Chief of Police, an overview of Town services, emergency preparedness and home safety information and gift certificates from local businesses. Children receive Town pins, stickers, and police badges.

Read all of the info on the link provided above, or contact the Personnel and Community Services Divison at (408) 354-6842.

ALSO, Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, and Saratoga offers a Newcomers Club. You can check out the membership and activities at http://www.NewComersOfLosGatos.com/

Los Gatos Cat Word Cloud - designed by Mary Pope-Handy

Flapjacks & Railroad Tracks

BJWRR-Flapjacks-Breakfast_W300H237-cOn Saturday, June 8, 2019,  the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad (which runs from Oak Meadow Park through part of Vasona Lake County Park in Los Gatos) is hosting a fun, affordable pancake breakfast from 8:00 a.m. to 10:15 a.m.

The website states:

There are two options for breakfast: Regular Breakfast is $8.00 and includes 3 large pancakes & 2 sausage links. Small Breakfast includes 1 large pancake & 2 sausage links. A la cart items will also be available.

Tickets for the train are at the regular pricing. It’s a great fundraiser to support the small gauge railroad, and kick off the summer schedule for both the train and carousel.

In addition, the train and carousel will be open bright and early. Rides will begin at 8:00am and run until 4:30pm. Standard ticket pricing applies.

For more information and details, please have a look at the Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad website.

If you’re on Facebook, find and “like” the Facebook page for the BJWRR.

 

Average & median sale prices in Los Gatos

My RE Report stats come out between the 5th and the 10th of each month, but I like to get a sneak peak, so crunch my own numbers some of the time. Today I wanted a window into Los Gatos real estate pricing. First, here are the average and median sale prices for the Los Gatos market in the two “in town” zip codes of 95030 and 95032 (for single family homes):

2019-5-2 Los Gatos 95030, 95032 average and median sale prices

Next, the Los Gatos Mountains (MLS area 23, zip code 95033):

2019-5-2 Los Gatos 95033 average and median sale prices

Additional market info to follow in just a few days!

Los Gatos homes: class and land use

When scouring the MLS for properties to view,  Los Gatos home buyers would be wise to pay attention to the property class and land use data. A few years back, I discussed a little on this topic with this article: Is that Los Gatos house or townhouse actually a condo? Today I want to focus on the MLS information that Los Gatos home buyers are viewing online, and what to look for to understand these issues better. I’ve taken screen shots from the MLS, so what you see will appear differently on other portals, but the info should be present somewhere on the page if it shows up in our local MLS.

Getting the best data means getting it from a local MLS

First, our MLS, MLSListings.com, cooperates with other MLS organizations around the state. Often, though, when info comes into our system from an outside one, some info is dropped. That can be very frustrating. The most obvious one is the days on market or DOM – it is blank when it’s an out of area MLS entry. Today I was looking for examples of property class, meaning what kind of structure is it, and the land use to share here when I found this one, below:

Class and land use - Land use blank with TH - not MLS Listings

Normally you will find info on the “class” which means the building type, such as a single family  home (if detached, a house, if attached, a duet home), a townhouse, a condominium, a duplex / triplex / fourplex, etc.  Also there should be land use – is it a condo, a PUD, or a single family home? (With condos and townhomes, there’s also a line for “ownership type.)

In the photo above, “Land use” is blank. Not helpful for a home buyer! This one was from a non-MLSListings.com entry. When that happens, you may want to make note of the info you could not find so you remember to chase it down later.

Most, however, will include the land use information, such as the next one:

Land use - townhouse in condo ownership

Many of the townhouses in Los Gatos and nearby are held in condo ownership. That means you do not own the land under the unit, even though it is a townhouse. The owner of this kind of property owns the interior space between the walls and the floor and the ceiling.   The Home Owner’s Association (HOA) has responsibility for the exterior of the structure, the roof, etc. The attic may or may not be community property. In some cases, there is a shared, open attic over all the units. In those cases, only one unit will have an opening to get into the attic.

Continue reading

Los Gatos Spring Wine Walk

Los Gatos spring wine walk May 4 2019The Los Gatos Spring Wine Walk will take place on Saturday, May 4 2019 from 1:00 to 5:00pm. Stroll through downtown Los Gatos and enjoy wine tasting, free music, shopping, and the ambiance of our Gem City. Sponsored by the Los Gatos Chamber of Commerce, this popular event is $45 in advance (available to the first 300 ticket purchases) and $50 general admission online, plus processing fee. If there are tickets remaining they will go up for sale on the day of the event for $55 at the door IF it’s not sold out, so get your tickets today!

For more details and info on how to register, please see the Los Gatos Chamber’s website. Cheers!

Live Oak Manor Park & west Carlton area

There is a small pocket of Los Gatos with Los Gatos High School (Los Gatos schools) close to Ace Hardware and Live Oak Manor Park just off of Los Gatos-Almaden Road and Los Gatos Boulevard. It’s sometimes called the Live Oak Manor neighborhood. Some may call it the Carlton area, after the major street that runs through it. I have heard Realtors refer to it as “the Garcia tract” after the main builder in that neighborhood. For our purposes, I’ll call it the Live Oak Manor Park & west Carlton area to distinguish other parts of Carlton which have a different school district (Union School District) or are in the Cambrian area of San Jose.

Neighborhood map for Live Oak Manor and west Carlton area

Live Oak Manor Park & west Carlton area: location, location, location

This area is super convenient for commuters. It’s only about a half mile to the on ramp to Highway 17, and about 1 mile to Highway 85. If the freeway is backed up, it’s easy enough to get to alternate routes, such as Highway 9 or San Tomas Expressway. For those who work at Good Samaritan Hospital or one of the nearby medical offices, work is a short walk or bike ride away.

It’s not so close to downtown Los Gatos that it gets socked in with beach traffic on summer weekends. It’s easy to get to restaurants and shops along Los Gatos Boulevard, a short jaunt to the Los Gatos Creek Trail, and a quick trip to get to the JCC on Oka Road. Need groceries? Nob Hill is only a half mile away, as is the Los Gatos Cafe Uptown, Una Mas, and several other tempting destinations.

A huge plus, of course, are the highly regarded Los Gatos schools. This area is a little less expensive than nearby neighborhoods such as Blossom Manor to the south.

For many, being close to a neighborhood park is another important perk – a place to run the dogs, for kids to play, or just to get out of the house without needing a car.

Something else that should be noted is that this is a scenic pocket and most of the streets are tree lined, making it a pleasant place to be even if none of the neighborhood amenities are enjoyed.

Street view along Carlester Drive, Los Gatos, near Live Oak Manor Park

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Los Gatos crime score

AreaVibes.com has livability scores that include crime, cost of housing, employment, education, and other factors. Los Gatos scores well in all but housing. How does Los Gatos compare to the rest of California and the rest of the nation in terms of crime?  The AreaVibes.com site gives Los Gatos an A+ for crime:

 

Area Vibes Crime info on Los Gatos

Area Vibes Crime info on Los Gatos

There are links for comparing two cities, too. I had a look at Los Gatos versus Saratoga and it compared favorably, though worst for the cost of housing.  Here’s the AreaVibes livability scoring page for Saratoga CA.

These types of sites can be especially helpful for folks wanting to downsize and who are actively comparing one area to the next.

Water heater bracing requirements in Los Gatos

Water Heater straps too close to the controls

The lower strap is required to be at least 4 inches away from the controls. This is an example of one that is improperly done as the controls are closer than 4″.

The state of California has water heater bracing requirements for both gas and electric water heaters, but so do individual cities and towns. Some of those municipalities have rules that go beyond what is required by the state.  (Permits and finals are required everywhere, by the way.)

Recently I found the requirements for the town of Los Gatos, and a couple of them surprised me, so I’m sharing the link here in case I’m not the only one caught a little off guard by it:

TOWN OF LOS GATOS WATER HEATER BRACING REQUIREMENTS (link to the town’s page)

San Jose’s requirements can be found here (for comparison and because they are pretty thorough by comparison to ours):

City of San Jose requirements for water heater installation (strapping, bracing, anchoring, blocking, etc.)

One concept that seems to differ between Los Gatos and San Jose has to do with the pressure release valve.

Los Gatos requirements for the pressure release valve state:

“Pressure relieve valve shall terminate to the exterior, 6 in. to 24 in. above grade with a nothread fitting pointing downward. Minimum ¼ in. per foot downward slope shall be maintained at pressure relief drain line.”

San Jose requirements for the pressure release valve:

There is a full page, and 12 numbered requirements, for the temperature & pressure relief value (T & P). Item 6 conveys that if the water heater is in a garage, the T & P does not have to drain to the exterior: “When a water heater is located in a garage, the T&P drainpipe may terminate in the garage. The piping must extend from the valve to within 12 inches but not less than 6
inches above the floor and point downward.”

Los Gatos has no such exemption for water heaters located in the garage!

BOTTOM LINE:  if you are replacing your Los Gatos water heater, you might want to double check the town’s requirements to be sure that yours will be in line with the requirements of the town. There are a lot of odd water heater strapping cases around Santa Clara County, don’t let your home be one of them!

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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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and the San Jose areas of
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