Live in Los Gatos

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

Highest & Best Use

March 29, 2007

Have you ever noticed the Verizon Building on Los Gatos Boulevard? It has an architectural style that screams “1960’s” with apparently no windows facing the front but a strange sort of grille decorating the facade instead.  It backs into one edge of Blossom Manor (a neighborhood in Los Gatos – well, mostly in the county but with a Los Gatos mailing address – that was once apricot orchards).  Verizon, with its huge network (I’m assuming you’ve seen the ads), needed more space and wanted to do an expansion on the current site. The neighbors didn’t agree that this was a good plan. The result: the Town of Los Gatos is going to buy the property from Verizon, for $3.2 million,  and it may well become the new police headquarters. I’ll keep you posted!

No Prohibition in Los Gatos: Bars in Los Gatos

March 28, 2007

Carrie Nation is probably turning over in her grave.

A strong advocate for the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement, Carrie Nation was opposed to alcohol in a very big way. History has it that she attacked dozens of bars together with a band of praying & singing women and eventually wielded a a hatchet to make her point. In fact, in later years this seems to have become her “niche market” as her newletter was called “The Hatchet”. Though jailed some 30 times, she paid her fines with lecture fees and  (believe it or not) the sales of small souvenier hatchets. 

I suppose it is true that “actions speak louder than words”.  But it’s also true that irony is one of the funniest forms of humor.

And so it is quite humorous indeed to most folks in Los Gatos that the town’s most popular bar (and there’s no shortage of them)  is named none other than “Carrie Nation’s”.  In case you don’t know this colorful bit of history, the beveled glass in the main door portrays an ax.  (If nothing else, it’s a conversation starter!)   Located at 8 North Santa Cruz Avenue (close to Main Street), Carrie Nation’s is a fun place to stop in for a drink if you have a sense of humor and enjoy the old “fern bar” atmosphere.

Of course, I’m not saying that the folks who run the bar have a sense of humor themselves. Once, when my kids were small, we’d seen the Holiday Parade on a cold December morning and one of small our kids desperately needed to use a restroom. My office was too far down the street for practical purposes (that is, when the child says “I need to go” he or she usually means NOW). We went in the back door of Carrie Nation’s, and zoomed down the stairs like folks on an urgent mission to the restrooms. There was no walking through the bar area or anything like that. When we emerged, two minutes later, there was a scowling employee waiting for us and quite ready to escort us out.  You’d have thought we had pick pocketed our way down the stairs.

All I could think of was that the dour disposition of the gal for whom the bar was named had somehow been imparted on a unsympathetic employee.  (That was a lot of years ago, and I imagine that person has since had children of his own and perhaps has learned to think about the urgency of a young person’s need for a restroom.)

I have never been back since! But even so, I love that front door. It tickles me every time I see it.

There are many fine bars in Los Gatos. I was intent upon writing about them here until I found an excellent article in the San Jose Mercury News which did a beautiful job reviewing them. Depending on your mood and the circumstances, you may prefer Viva (at Los Gatos Blvd and Blossom Hill), Mountain Charlie’s, The Black Watch, or Johnny’s, or Double D’s or any of the great sites in town from Steamer’s or The Wine Cellar or who knows what. Read the article.  If you have kids in tow, I do suggest Double D’s  (at Highway 9 and North Santa Cruz Avenue) or Johnny’s Northside Grill (532 N Santa Cruz Ave)Both are most welcoming!

But whether you frequent bars or not, next time you are in downtown Los Gatos, take a gander at 8 North Santa Cruz and enjoy a chuckle at the image of the hatchet on the door there.  Imagine what Carrie would have to say!

Blog entry by Mary Pope-Handy,
Los Gatos Enthusiast,

Do not use without permission, please.

The Haunted Opera House of Los Gatos

March 25, 2007

Mary Pope-Handy's Los Gatos, CA, Ghost Tour

More Haunted Places in Los Gatos

When people first hear that there are ghosts in Los Gatos, they want to know – right away – where they are!  The old cemetery location doesn’t surprise them, at least not once they hear that there’s a former graveyard that now has shops residing there.

But aside from a final resting place, where else are there ghostly sightings and activities?

One of them is the popular Los Gatos party destination, The Opera House. Apparently it’s just too much fun to leave!  Seriously, the ghost there is said to be a woman – she has been seen and heard so many times, by so many people, that it is one of the few spots absolutely not in doubt to be inhabited by a spirit of a former human being. One of the most remarkable things is not just that she has been seen and heard, but that she has even been photographed.

But not to worry, whatever her name is (there is some dispute about that), she is known to be benevolent. I spoke to several employees there myself a few years ago. Those who’d had an experience of her (not all had, but many did) all claimed that she was kindly, protective. One told me that this gal has a conscience. The worker wanted to sneak out early but amazingly, the door was unable to be opened until her shift was over. Scary? The woman I spoke with said no. “She was not about to let me leave early – this is a ghost who’s ethical”, she confided.

Great Places to Kiss in Los Gatos

March 18, 2007

Clair and Brian, Mary Pope-Handy's kids, May 1996 Los Gatos is a wonderfully diverse place to bring or enjoy a date, or just spend time with your loved ones, whether you’re 15 or 105.  If you’re looking for a romantic place in Silicon Valley, you’ve got it in Los Gatos!

For the young, and the young at heart, a great creative outlet in Los Gatos is Petroglyph, where you can try your hand at pottery designs.  We have several momentos from there around our home. It’s nice to have useable art too – our daughter made a teapot eons ago that she continues using to this day. This is a fun spot ,and for dates, it can really break the ice to have something to do beyond talking. I recommend it highly as a starting point, especially if this is relatively early on in the relationship.

Parks can be naturally romantic (if there are not a lot of screaming kids, anyway).  Los Gatos boasts many, many excellent parksOak Meadow Park is usually called “The Airplane Park” by local children as it features an old WWII plane – one of very few left in parks around the nation (it is a decommissioned USAF T-33 Jet). It also offers a neat hand-painted carousell and a small guage railroad, the Billy Joans Wildcat Railroad, which runs from Oak Meadow Park (owned by the town of Los Gatos) into adjoining Vasona Lake County Park.  Vasona is really a resevoir but it’s sooo pretty and you can rent either sailboats or paddleboats and enjoy the many, many scenic (and romantic) views. So bring your honey to the parks. Walk through Oak Meadow and get nostalgic.  Indulge in a ride on the merry-go-round and another on the train.  Feel playful. Then go out on the lake – where it’s quiet and peaceful and the views are lovely.   My first nomination for “Great Places to Kiss” in Los Gatos, then, is out on Vasona Lake, taking in a view of the hills (El Sombroso on the left and El Sereno on the right as you look toward the coastal hills and downtown Los Gatos).  By the way, the Parks and Rec department offers sailing lessons in the summers and they are open to kids too. A couple of years ago, Jim and I had Clair and Brian do this class and as their grand finale, they sailed us around the lake.  That was a trip.  But I digress. Back to romance in the park. Something else about the Vasona – Oak Meadow setting is that there are free concerts in the summer! The series is called Vasona Vibrations and it’s every Saturday from 5 – 7pm.  So the parks are a fun and scenic date place, but they are also very kid-friendly too. Allow a couple of hours.

My next nomination is really more of an adult venue. Another beautifully romantic spot worthy of kissing is Testarossa Vineyards.  Located at the historic Jesuit Novitiate (built in 1888), it is essentially a downtown Los Gatos spot but with some elevation.  The building is old, the wine is great and the valley views are timeless!  We enjoy bringing visitors there for tasting.  The patio with the view is very inviting and feels like something out of a & (Los Gatos has no & Bs, but that’s another post).  A little wine, a view, and thou: what more could you want?

Many parts of downtown Los Gatos beckon for dates.  The town is overflowing with bars, restaurants, and desert shops, among others.  You could hardly go wrong to just stroll down Main Street or North Santa Cruz Avenue and see what you find, maybe ending up at Dolce Spazio for some yummy gelato. But I particularly like Old Town on University Avenue.  It’s a bit bustling, but I’d start at Steamer’s for a drink…Then stroll across the street to the older part of Old Town, and just browse (and probably buy) awhile. Both the California Cafe and The Wine Cellar have outdoor seating, if the weather is right and you want to people-watch.  Both are great restaurants. The California Cafe has tables near the windows which enjoy a view of the hills – great ambiance.  And the Wine Cellar has booths for cozying up ( they aren’t nearly as dark as they were 30 years ago, but are still dating material).  Personally, I think fondue makes for a romantic meal – and if you think so too, do make it to the Wine Cellar, as their fondue is fantastic.  But either way, you really can’t go wrong. 

After the meal, perhaps a stroll through Border’s Books is in order.  Or not – your choice!  If it’s not too cool, walk to the back of Old Town. There’s a small amphitheater there.  Concerts and plays used to happen in that spot, and sometimes now you catch a person just playing a musical instrument there.    A pedestrian bridge beyond the amphitheater will take you over the freeway (highway 17) to Forbes Mill (now a Los Gatos history museum).  There’s something nice about just making that little walk, and for some reason it has always struck me as romantic too.  So my third nomination for most kissable spots in Los Gatos has to be somewhere on or near this pedestrian bridge linking Old Town and Forbes Mill.  One time it might be by the old museum itself, another time at the amphitheater, and maybe another time – I know, a shock – right on the bridge with the whole world seemingly passing underneath.

There are many other nooks and crannies around town which may inspire a romantic moment.   The many trees and hills and views, together with some beautiful old architecture and fun shops, can certainly make romance feel imperative in Los Gatos.  It’s spring.  And I think I must be overdue on a “date night”.  Don’t tell my kids! (It’s my kids pictured above, in May 1996 just before my sister’s wedding in Boston, MA.)

St Patrick's Day in Los Gatos

March 13, 2007

liveinlosgatos shamrock@20jpg - St Patrick's Day in Los Gatos

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Most joyfully, the feast of St. Patrick falls on a Saturday this year.  That means that things will be hopping in dozens of pubs around the bay!  Are you ready to have a great time? There are tons of opportunities, including right here in Los Gatos!

But first, do you know who St. Patrick was?  And do you know why the date is celebrated? Briefly, St. Patrick was not Irish himself, but was a missionary (and a priest who’d become a bishop) in the land where he was once held a slave after being abducted by pirates.  St. Patrick died on March 17th, in possibly 461 or 493 – as with many saints, we’re not entirely sure. (Catholics celebrate as a feast day not one’s birthday, but one’s death day – as it is considered birth into heaven.)  And yes, how typical for the Irish to celebrate a death with drinking!  I’m sure you’ve heard of Irish wakes. To “wake” the dead is really to lay the person out for a period of grieving (and remembering, and celebrating) before the funeral.  An added advantage is to allow enough time to see if he or she isn’t simply comatose instead of dead. You wouldn’t want to be buried alive!  Enough on drinking and dead people….

So where are the local parties?

Each year, the biggest blowout in Los Gatos for St. Paddy’s Day happens at
C Hannigan’s, located just off N. Santa Cruz Avenue (close to Highway 9) at 208 Bachman Avenue. It’s an all-day Festival with live music and rowdy good times. Tel 395-1223 Hannigan’s actually has events every single day this week leading up to Saturday’s bash. St. Patrick’s Day tickets are $50, must be bought in person at the bar.

Another spot that’s bound to be filled on Saturday is #1 Broadway, located not on Broadway, but near it at 102 S. Santa Cruz Avenue.  The band Sage will be performing at 9:30pm – $10 cover charge. Tel 408.354.4303

There are many more pubs around Silicon Valley with St. Patrick’s Day events too.

And apart from the pubs?

Wonderful performances are always found at nearby Montalvo! The Black Brothers (an Irish family) Concert is on St. Patrick’s Day at 8pm and it sounds great.

And in Sunnyvale, The Golden Bough is being performed at the Sunnyvale Community Theater (550 E. Remington).

For more events in the greater San Jose area this Saturday, click here.

And something fun I stumbled onto is a site which is a bit about the Irish language, with brief audio clips of words & phrases in Irish. It is all on the All About Irish site.

So Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Remember to wear your green!!

Haunted Los Gatos: The Old Cemetery

March 10, 2007

Mary Pope-Handy's Los Gatos, CA, Ghost Tour

One of Los Gatos’s More Haunted Haunts

Yesterday, an article I wrote about Haunted Real Estate was published on Real Town. I have received a ton of emails about ghosts and people’s experiences with them in the last 24 hours!  I have never had so much fun reading email.

So I thought you folks might like to know about some of our haunted spots, right here in beautiful, charming, upscale Los Gatos.  There are so many stories that it’s hard to know where to begin!!  Today I will address just one of these interesting locations. More to follow in later entries, I promise!  This will be “Mary Pope-Handy’s Los Gatos Ghost Tour”. 

Cemeteries tend to give people the creeps, so let’s start there. If you are local to Los Gatos, you probably know that the Los Gatos Memorial Park is actually in San Jose, with a Cambrian Park zip code, out on Los Gatos-Almaden Road.   How did that happen?  Well, usually you want the burial grounds to be a little bit out of town, right?  The Los Gatos Memorial Park began in 1888 (first burials in 1890) and was initially called the Los Gatos Cemetary.  By the late 1800’s, Los Gatos had expanded such that the in-town graveyard was just too close, so it was decided to move folks from their final resting place to a “more final resting place” out in the country. (It has no website, amazingly, but you can see great photos of this park by visiting an “unofficial” site at www.LGMP.com.) 

Where was this old cemetery?  It was located at the corner of Highway 9 and North Santa Cruz Avenue and bordered roughly by Village Lane and the old train tracks.  (The land for the train is now the long parking lot parallel to University Avenue and North S. Cruz Avenue.  As an aside, North Santa Cruz Avenue was called Cemetery Lane easy of Hwy 9 then!)   

It should be noted, too, that not only were there people laid to rest at this location, but it’s also possible that someone was killed there in 1906 when an interurban trolly car jumped its tracks and crashed at the same location – approximately where Double D’s stands today.

The town’s leaders tried to move all the bodies, really they did. From 1890 through 1924, they did a relocation of the town’s dead to the new country location.  But some family members could not be located to obtain permission to move their deceased loved ones.  After the bodies were moved (or most of them), the land was converted to the Hunt Brothers Cannery and housing for cannery workers for awhile. Today it’s a bustling part of our downtown and houses many shops and some restaurants, the most visible of which is Double Ds.  Is it haunted? You’d be surprised if I said no. Several of the businesses there do, indeed, have paranormal experiences and it appears that some of the folks initially buried there still consider this their home.  Yes, it’s haunted. Very haunted.

Blog entry by Mary Pope-Handy,
Los Gatos Enthusiast,
Los Gatos & Silicon Valley (San Jose area) Residential Real Estate Specialist and
Realtor, CRS, ABR, SRES, ASP, CNHS, RECS, E-Pro,
www.PopeHandy.com
Do not use without permission, please.

Time Vs. Money

March 06, 2007
The statistics from February have been crunched now, and we’re finding that the Silicon Valley real estate market is strengthening. Here are the links, if you’d like to review the data yourself:

The Real Estate Report (web based, interactive, clickable links)

The Real Estate Report (printable PDF file)

Interestingly, San Jose is not doing as well as much of the valley, apparently because the entry level housing is so out of whack with incomes that it is difficult for folks to get a toe in the door.

The California Association of Realtors reports that the most expensive median home sales price in the state for January 2007 is none other than our own Los Gatos, beating out the usual suspects of Santa Barbara, Laguna Nigel, etc. (of course they were also on the list of the 10 most expensive cities for January 2007). What does this tell us? Most of all, that we live in a very highly desireable area – and even when the housing market scares folks a little, they are still willing to risk it in buying here.

I think something else is going on, too. There’s an old adage that really, really applies to successfully selling a home in today’s real estate market: Time vs. Money. I think our sellers in Los Gatos are pretty wise overall. Most of them read up on the market and they understand that buyers now want “turnkey” homes, not fixers. So rather than put a house on the market that needs work, most of them are painting, scrubbing, planting, inspecting, and preparing their homes well in advance of selling them. And it’s working. The nice homes are the ones that the buyers want, and they go fairly fast. The homes that are selling are both priced appropriately and they are put on the market in great shape.

So instead of marketing a half-ready home, and then playing catchup with the condition and the price, sellers in Los Gatos who sell (and not just list) their homes are doing the work upfront. They put in the time and effort, and in return, they get a faster sale at a higher price. They understand that “time vs. money” really applies today more than in any other market we’ve had in recent history.

Los Gatos Real Estate Market

February 20, 2007

 

View From Los Gatos

San Jose from Harwood DriveTo the left is a photo I took a few weeks back from the far edge of Los Gatos – up on Harwood Road (where you aren’t allowed to park your car so this shot was taken from the window of my automobile). That’s downtown San Jose in the distance. Behind me are the Santa Cruz Mountains, aka the Coastal Range. Across from me, beyond downtown San Jose, you see the eastern foothills. Beyond them, at some distance, is the Central Valley.

This valley, the Santa Clara Valley, was once known as “The Valley of the Heart’s Delight”. Los Gatos lies at the base of the Santa Cruz Mountains and is a town you’d need to pass through to get to Santa Cruz and the beach. It s a vibrant part of life in SIlicon Valley, though it has only a little industry (Netflix being the biggest Los Gatos employer and tax generator). Most homes don’t have a great view like this, but many do have views of the hills – and those are lovely too.

How’s the Los Gatos real estate market?

So how’s the market in this very scenic corner of the valley? Well, it depends on your price point. For Los Gatos, the most affordable (i.e., really middle class) housing is going fast. Inventory is low. In fact, in January there were 100 homes for sale (not a lot) and as of this moment, there are just 89. We have 36 homes “pending”. Most of these are not at the high end of the spectrum. Prices in our fair town (not a city, but a town – just to be clear) range from a low of $799,000 to over $15 million for single family homes. By and large, the homes under $1.5 million are flying off the market. But there just aren’t that many buyers for homes over $10 million.

In my own neighborhood, Belwood of Los Gatos, there are about 500 homes and last year about 10 of them sold. This is an exceptionally low-turnover neighborhood. Prices in 2006 averaged about $1,230,000 for a home with about 2400 square feet. Right now there’s exactly one home for sale, it’s not far from the average size but it’s listed at $1,380,000. Will it sell for that much? I have no idea. If it does sell close to that price, we will know that prices are rising again. I cannot wait to see this home myself – naturally I want my home to appreciate in value (that is, until I think about my kids hopefully being in the housing market themselves in 10 years…then I hope it just climbs very, very slowly). You can check out the housing situation in Belwood by visiting my site, www.BelwoodOfLosGatos.com and clicking on the “Homes Info” button, or navigate there directly by using this link: http://www.belwoodoflosgatos.com/more/index.cfm?Fuseaction=more_11917
Historical information for recent years is on the following page, which you can reach at the top of the Homes Info page.

So how’s the market? If you are the owner of a high end home and you need to sell, you will say it’s awful. If you own a nicely updated, well priced middle class home, you would say it’s a market that is great for sellers and a little rough on buyers. If your home is not in great shape or is not priced in the bottom third of its competition, you might be convinced it’s a terribly strong buyer’s market. Truth is, it is close to balanced for most homes. It can be a win-win market, but everyone has to be realistic and be prepared to do a little work. But that would be true for most worthwhile things in life: they tend to need a dose of realism and some effort.

Winter In Los Gatos

February 15, 2007

While the East Coast is buried in snow, we have had a week with more than a little rain – but we needed it so no one dared to complain! Today, however, the sun was out and I wanted to capture a little of Los Gatos on film … er, make that on my digital camera. So here are a few shots from around town.

 

To the left is a sign that recently made its way to the Main Street Bridge (which, by the way,

El Camino Real Bell with Penthouse Apartments in Background. Main St. Los Gatos.was once known as The Hanging Bridge – you guessed it, that’s where lynchings and “justice” were carried out). This sign for The King’s Highway surprised me because The El Camino Real (The King’s Highway) is known in this valley as either El Camino Real, The Alameda, or Market Street. It winds through San Jose, Santa Clara, Sunnyvale, and on up the Peninsula.

So how or why is the sign

here? Well, the Main Street Bridge crosses over Highway 17, which makes its way over to Santa Cruz – and the Mission in Santa Cruz. So I am presuming that because 17 links the missions (Santa Clara and Santa Cruz) that it constitutes part of the historic route and thus won the right to display this cool Mission Trail bell and sign. Below, please find a more telling view of the bell – with the Penthouse Apartments and the famous Cats on the wall to prove the location (no, it’s not photoshopped- honest!) And next to them are some other shots of Los Gatos today. Not bad for winter, is it??

Gateway to Old Town, Los Gatos, on University Avenue.So you can see, there’s no snow, no rain, no frost (OK you can’t see it, but take my word for it). The weather has been in the mid-60s the last few days and when I take our pooch, Bella, out for a walk it seems I find half the neighborhood doing the same thing. This is winter in Los Gatos – where we have 300 sunny days a year and we

North Santa Cruz Avenue and Main Street, Los Gatos seldom get a hard frost. We are just 30 minutes from the beach, but protected from the fog by “The Hill” (seen in the middle photo above, behind the famous Beckwith Building). We’re an hour from San Francisco, 90 minutes from Monterey and Carmel, and 20 or so minutes to San Jose – the safest large city in the US. This area has a very highly educated population, low crime, great schools, wonderful shops and restuarants – and, possibly the supreme highlight – fabulous weather.
Come visit Los Gatos! Enjoy wine tasting, museums, shops, fine dining, and all the outdoors activities. Or just enjoy the Town Plaza Park and watch the world go by, like the people in the photo below. Los Gatos: always a great place to be, but perhaps especially remarkable in winter!


Town Park Plaza, Los Gatos, Feb 15, 2007

 

What's The Market Doing?

January 26, 2007

What’s The Market Doing?

Date: Jan. 26, 2007
Tags: None

Right now in Los Gatos there are 80 properties for sale. They range in price from $15,950,000 to $795,000 (though the one at $795k is actually a San Jose address but is pulled into the “Los Gatos area” by our mls system). The average list price is $2,979,029 and average “days on the market” is 103 (and 193 for “continuous days on the market”). 

The pending sales (whether a contingent sale, a normal sale with inspection & loan contingencies in place, or all contingencies removed and nearly a closed escrow) amount to 35. For these homes, the average “days on market” is 71 (and 104 for “continuous days on market”). The average list price of these pending sales is much lower $1,774,550. (The average lot size, by the way, is about 3/4 of an acre for these homes.)

So what does that mean? Basically it means that homes which are under $2 million are selling much better than the ultra luxury homes which are at or over $2 million, $2.5 million, or more. There has been one recent sale (still pending) of a home listed at $4,795,950 but this is the exception. Every other home sold in January is at or under $2 million.  There are some higher sales between $2 million and $3 million, but they occurred in December, not January.

What’s most hot is what’s more affordable – by Los Gatos standards.  

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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

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