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


Free Distribution of Water Saving Devices ~ Friday, August 7 Santa Clara Valley Water District

Water dropFrom 10:30am to 2:30pm on Friday August 7 2015, stop by the Los Gatos Public Library to pick up your free water saving devices courtesy of the Santa Clara Valley Water District.  If that date doesn’t work for you, you can go to the Gilroy Public Library on Thursday, August 6 or the Mitchell Park Libary in Palo Alto on Wednesday Aug 6 during the same hours.

The SCVWD is giving away shower timers, aerators, low flow shower heads, hose nozzles, moisture meters, buckets to collect shower water, and more.  It’s free, so stop by and increase your water savings!

Los Gatos Public Library is located at 100 Villa Avenue, Los Gatos, adjacent to the Civic Center and close to Los Gatos High School. Beat the drought, conserve water, and get a helping hand from the water district!

Learn more at http://www.valleywater.org/droughtgear/

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:


Interior floods in the home

January 02, 2013

Flood damage in Dining Room from refrigerator leak in the kitchenHappy New Year, Los Gatos!  The last 2-3 weeks there haven’t been many posts on this blog.  It wasn’t due to Christmas and family events alone, but rather exceptional efforts required around my house due to a small interior flood.

Most of the time, when we think of floods it’s a natural disaster, and that the people impacted live in a 100 year flood plain.  On the east coast, basements are the part of the home usually impacted by floods.

Our house isn’t in a flood plain, there’s no basement, and the water didn’t get into the house from heavy rains, a flash flood or any other external cause.  Instead, it was an inside job: a broken water line in the house, in this case from a refrigerator’s water line.

I first discovered the water on December 9th when I noticed that our dining room’s carpeting didn’t look quite right – and found it damp.  My initial thought was that our elderly dog had had an accident, but there was far too much liquid and it all seemed to be up against the wall backing to the kitchen, so it didn’t take long to realize that the pooch was not to blame.  Needless to say, that same water was under the kitchen floor and other places nearby, all in all impacting about 25-30% of the floorcovering in the home since much of it is contiguous.

Haz Mat crew removing original flooring with asbestos on Dec 15The next two weeks following this discovery were not a lot of fun and involved a parade of tradespeople to find and stop the leak, then remediation work to remove and dry out impacted areas, then reinstalling what was removed (still ongoing, but down to just sheetrock repairs, installing new baseboard to cover up the holes put into the walls, and some touch up paint) and of course an insurance adjustor, who was quite pleasant to work with and told us upfront what to expect.  Our insurance did cover much of the work, including surprises such as asbestos in the vinyl flooring under the floor we installed over it in 2000. But naturally it doesn’t cover everything, and we upgraded items which had been on the “to do list” but we hadn’t planned to do just yet.

In the case of our water line flood, the moisture appeared quickly and suddenly a lot of things got turned upside down.  But leaks can also begin slowly, sight unseen until there’s significant damage such as dry rot.  Our insurance adjustor (from Allstate) told us that he’d had claims come in where toilets literally fell through the floor.  In those cases, the dry rot would have been present for many years, though it appeared out of nowhere to the home owners.  They had no idea that a leak was at work.

Interior, non weather related floods can be caused by a number of things.  Here’s a short list of some of the main culprits that start within the house or home:

  • frozen water pipes in the attic (perhaps most commonly found with slab foundations)
  • burst hoses at the washing machine
  • washing machine overflow that’s not found quickly
  • water heater leakage
  • dishwasher, icemaker, refrigerator lines that break
  • dishwasher overflow – if you’re in a condo with an upstairs neighbor, you may know about the leak before they do
  • water pipes hit by a nail
  • toilet leakage – sometimes from a wax ring that stops working or was installed improperly, sometimes from a blockage in the toilet or sewer line
  • broken aquariums
  • shower enclosures which leak or poorly fitting shower curtains (they seem to always leak!)
  • radiator leaks (older homes)
  • threshholds on exterior doors that do not seal well
  • air conditioning drain lines
  • any other corrosion in pipes and drains

I wouldn’t wish the last few weeks on anyone.  What can be done to prevent an interior leak from happening?  Here are some suggestions I found while researching this question online:

  • run the washing machine only while home – if you turn it on and leave, you may be unaware if the hoses break and spew water everywhere!
  • change the washing machine hoses every 3 – 5 years, and inspect them annually for any signs of cracking
  • inspect water lines to your fridge periodically and make sure that you have an easy to reach shutoff valve for it (usually installed under the kitchen sink) so that you can turn it off quickly if needed
  •  check for signs of leakage anywhere there’s water: toilets, sinks, shower enclosure, dishwasher, ice makers, refrigerators, wet bars etc. 
  • shower and tub enclosures, especially shower curtains, often do not contain the water well, so keep an eye out for water escaping
  • caulk around sinks, showers, tile as needed – I have seen expensive problems from kitchen sinks, especially, where the grout was neglected
  • consider placing appliances with water in areas where there’s drainage available or place a drain pan underneath them

Fans and dehumidifier at work to dry out the kitchen floor and walls (holes drilled in sheetrock too)There are certainly many other areas to check, and this is not an exhaustive list by any means.  We didn’t even touch on the roof, downspouts, grading, or external conditions than can cause flooding.  These are all important too, but they are probably better known and appreciated than the interior causes of flooding which we just experienced.

We were lucky as our leak involved clear, pure water.  If a toilet or sewer backs up it’s considered black or gray water, and it gets far more complicated since then you’ve also got a biohazard.  We were also lucky in that we caught it early and began the repairs quicky, before mold became an issue.

Is there anything else that can be done to minimize water damage?  After this experience, and watching the flood remediation people at work, I wanted to add one more thing to our arsenal for prevention: I asked Jim to give me a pinless moisture meter for Christmas.  He very kindly complied and I’m happy to have it and intend to spot check for leaks on a regular basis. (The one we have is made by Ryobi and costs about $50.)

Prevention is a lot easier, and more affordable, than remediation.  When creating your annual home maintenance “to do list”, be sure to include checking for signs of leaks around the home.

Proactively Look for Construction or Remodeling Defects

June 27, 2009

Although a lot of my work is in Los Gatos, Cambrian Park, Saratoga, and Almaden Valley, I do have buyer and seller clients all over San Jose and Silicon Valley. One of my buyers is interested in neighborhoods close to downtown San Jose such as Japantown, the Vendome area, and Naglee Park.

This week we saw a classic, historic Spanish style home that offered a lot of “old San Jose” charm.  It was partially updated and remodeled but there were a few red flags and odd things about the home.

One of the oddities involved the roof, downspouts and gutters.  Here’s a view of the back end of that home.  Please note the downspout in the center of the photo (it meanders around the window with a large catch-basin at the top). 

Back side of Spanish style home in downtown San Jose, CA

Do you see anything amiss?  If not, have a look again with my annotated version:

Spanish style home in San Jose, CA - downspouts exist, but gutters do not

The home was re-roofed a number of years ago, with permits and finals – but without gutters.

Do gutters and downspouts matter all that much? You bet they do. For more information on that topic, please read “Cracked Foundations, Adobe Clay Soils and Water in Silicon Valley” on my ValleyOfHeartsDelight.com blog.

Cleaning Up After the California Storms:Trees, Leaves, Fences and Damage

January 05, 2008

Silicon Valley is not alone in being pounded by a fierce Alaskan storm this weekend. The Friday rains – which we desperately need – came in a short period of time, together with strong winds which apparently gusted close to 100mph in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

Several storms in a row have battered California, including Los Gatos and Silicon Valley.It’s a mess out there, and it’s not over yet. The roads are filled with fallen leaves and branches. In the Almond Grove District of downtown Los Gatos, a bough actually blocked off an entire street and damaged a car. This is not an uncommon story from one end of the state to the other. Fences are down all over. Emergency personnel are working overtime to handle the accidents and weather related problems. In Southern California, they face mudslides after the fires a few months ago – homes are truly at risk there.

Not surprisingly, power was lost to over a million P, G & E customers in northern California alone. Additionally, cable and internet services are out for many of us too. At our house in the Belwood area of east Los Gatos, we have Comcast cable for high speed internet and television. But they are both out. (The town of Los Gatos requires the cable boxes to be below ground, at least where we live, and every time we get a heavy rainfall, the boxes flood and those services go out. Our neighbors used a sump pump on theirs, and helped us use it on ours, to no avail. We keep dialup as a backup here since my husband and I both work from home and can’t afford to not have internet access.)

The end is in sight. By Monday, the rain should have stopped. Then it will be time to do the cleanup.

Once you take care of the immediately obvious items, let me suggest a few others to protect your home while they are on the top of your mind.

(1) Water Against Your Home: Get It Away

Water is bad for your home's foundation: get it away!Did the water pool up against your house, or come very close to doing so, during these storms? If so, it’s imperative to get the water away from the house. If you live in Los Gatos, Monte Sereno, Saratoga, Almaden Valley, or any of the regions close to the coastal foothills, you may be getting hillside runoff. Or you may have a very high water table – both which are much more serious and will require expert help. (Call or email me if you’d like a recommendation for an inspector.)

Often water pools for two very simple, and easy to remedy, reasons. Fist, it may be there because the downspouts don’t extend away from the house and/or secondly because the dirt around the soil is not properly graded.

If your downspouts don’t have extenders, go get them! They are ugly but functionally very important. They are cheap. Ace Hardware in Los Gatos carries them and the folks there are friendly and will assist you. Next, see if you need to work on the grading around your home to carry the water away from your home’s foundation. (If you lay a marble 1′ away from your house, would it roll toward or away from it? You want it to go away from your house.)

Here in Santa Clara County, in the San Jose area generally, we have clay soil. It expands when wet and is extremely strong – much more powerful than the concrete and rebar in most homes’ foundations. Foundations can be very costly to repair, and a moving foundation can put your home out of level and cause other problems too – most of which are not easy or inexpensive to fix. So if you care about your real estate as an investment, protect your house’s foundation: get the water away from it.

(2) Leaves On Your Roof and In Your Gutters: Get Them Off

A Saratoga, CA home - beautiful trees, but hard to keep the roof clear of leaves and tree debris.We love our trees, especially here in the west valley communities. When they are too close to our residences, though, they can be an issue. (In the photo here, the house has a shake roof, which is dark gray. But there are so many leaves on the roof that it’s almost not visible at all.)

Overhanging branches can be a superhighway for rodents to get onto your roof. Depending on your roof type, from there it may not be a whole lot of effort for them to get into your attic, and then down into your walls, too. Rats munching on electrical wires can spark a fire. The list of why you don’t want your home to be a habitrail go on and on.

But the leaves themselves are a problem too if they pile up on your roof and in your gutters. On the roof, they can trap moisture and cause accelerating aging to the shingles, or encourage the growth of moss (also ages the roof faster). Perhaps worse, when the roof and gutters fill with tree debris, it can cause actual roof leakage as the water does not drain properly but instead backs up into your home from between the shingles or tiles.

Meanwhile, though, we need to wait out this series of storms. Our total rainfall has been off by about half of last year’s, and last year’s was low too. (Not unlike the real estate market…) If we don’t get more rainfall, the folks at San Jose Water are saying we may have a full on drought and rationing next summer. So we are thankful for the precipitation – just wish it wouldn’t all come at once!

Los Gatos Has A Water Problem…And We Can All Help

June 15, 2007

glass of water - Los Gatos Has A Water Problem...And We Can All HelpWe’ve had more than a decade without a drought in Silicon Valley, but this year, it did return. Our rainfall was off by about a third, and now the delta water has been interrupted due to an endangered smelt, so water is an even bigger issue.

We are being asked to cut our water useage by 10%. It’s voluntary.

If you’ve lived here 15 or more years, you know that this is mild.  In the past, we’ve had actual water rationing and it involved lots of rules (and fines and penalties for using too much H2O), including when you could water your yard (time of day, days of week), how much water you could use in a month and so on.

watering can - Los Gatos Has A Water Problem...And We Can All HelpWhat can the average Los Gatos resident do to save on the water bill?  First, only water your lawn and garden at night (at least NOT between 10am and 5pm). Use a timer – buy one if need be. Second, shut the water off except when really needed for washing your dishes, face, hands or teeth (and don’t take excessively long showers). Third, only run a full load of dishes or clothes in those machines.

A few small measures can easily cut the water useage by 10%. Let’s do it now, and avoid rationing in the near future!

Mary Pope-Handy's Valley of Heart's Delight logo

Mary Pope-Handy

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
Silicon Valley, with
special focus on
Los Gatos 

and nearby areas,
Monte Sereno,
and the San Jose areas of
Cambrian and Almaden Valley

Helping Nice Folks to
Buy & Sell Homes
in Silicon Valley
since 1993


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