Pros and Cons of Living in Santa Clara

Are you curious about what it is like to live in Santa Clara?

Curious what living in Santa Clara is like? Santa Clara features a population of around 130,000 residents and is located in the center of Santa Clara County.  A large tech center, Santa Clara is home to several top tech firms like Intel, Nvidia, and Applied Materials. Santa Clara has some great benefits for families such as family-friendly neighborhoods, good private and public schools, and fun entertainment options for all ages. 

Before you jump right in there are a couple of things you should know before you buy a home in Santa Clara. In this article, I will go over some of the pros and cons of living in Santa Clara.

Pros of Living in Santa Clara

Housing diversity

One of the great things about Santa Clara’s housing is its diversity. Homes are dating back to the late 1800s and early 1900s, including a few estate-type mansions, as well as homes built in the last 20 years, and everything in between.

Homes in Santa Clara are more affordable than homes to the west, such as Sunnyvale, Cupertino, and Mountain View

Relative to some of the surrounding communities to the west, homes in Santa Clara are more affordable than in cities like Sunnyvale, Cupertino, and Mountain View, and much more affordable than in Palo Alto and Los Altos. There are some parts of North Sunnyvale along 101 that may not be as expensive, but for the most part, you will get more for your money in Santa Clara.

Living in Santa Clara is convenient and is centrally located with good highway access

Silicon Valley is a pretty congested area. Also, the best and most desirable tech jobs are typically close to Palo Alto and up the peninsula. Companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon as well as Apple have located up the peninsula or on the western side of the valley. So if you happen to work for one of these companies or in that region, the farther you are to Palo Alto the more challenging you will find getting to work. Geographically Santa Clara straddles both Highway 101 and 280 which lead up the peninsula through Palo Alto and there is Also Central Expressway as well, which to me is a pro.

Additionally, Santa Clara also has a train station and additional train stops that can take you up the Penninsula to San Francisco.  If you prefer to take public transportation, this is a great alternative.

Santa Clara is fairly central in the valley and there are lots of great companies located right here, such as Nvidia, Intel, Applied Materials, and Service Now to name a few, and some that are right on the border like Apple, Intuitive Surgical and Linkedin. Living in Santa Clara will generally mean a better and easier commute to jobs up the peninsula than San Jose or Campbell, any community to the south or east

Santa Clara Schools are generally in good proximity to the homes inside their enrollment boundaries

This is very subjective, but again I feel this is another pro for Santa Clara. In the valley, the Santa Clara Unified School District does not have a reputation for high-performing academics, compared to the Palo Alto and Cupertino School Districts. One of the pros of Santa Clara Schools is that they are generally in good proximity to the homes inside their enrollment boundaries, so you don’t have to drive far to get your child to school.

The School District consists of 18 elementary schools, 5 middle schools, and 3 high schools. 

There are two open enrollment schools, Washington Open, and Millikin Basics, meaning they do not take enrollment from any boundaries within the district, but parents must apply. Both schools are highly rated and sought after and have very different educational philosophies.

One of the unique and little-known facts about the Santa Clara Unified School District is that the district is one of a few school districts in the state that is basic aid.

 Basic Aid districts are funded locally through taxes and not by the state. This allows Santa Clara Unified to offer more competitive salaries to their teachers and staff and offer additional education programs.

Also worth mentioning here is that there is a small part of Santa Clara in the southern part of the city, mainly homes south of Pruneridge avenue that are part of the Cupertino or Campbell school districts. In addition to public schools, there are several private schools and academies located in Santa Clara and the surrounding area.

Amenities

Santa Clara has everything you need close by.  There’s a Target, a Costco, several grocery stores such as Safeway, Whole Foods, and Nob Hill to name a few, as well as several ethnic supermarkets serving our Chinese, Indian, and Korean population.

Part of Westfield Valley Fair, the area’s largest retail mall, is in Santa Clara. Additionally, the trendiest shopping in the valley, Santana Row, lies right outside of Santa Clara’s borders.

And I have to mention the historic El Camino. This is the main boulevard that cuts through all of Santa Clara. It's a patchwork of large and small strip malls, some good some not so good. Here you will find your typical mom-and-pop type of establishments as well as the national chains that you see in most cities.  In recent years there have been several new dense housing developments along the El Camino and the city has invested in beautifying this historical road. To the west bordering Sunnyvale on the El Camino, there is the Korean business district or Korea town.  

By the way, if you want the scenic tour of the peninsula you can drive the El Camino to San Francisco, as proven by my assistant Neil.

Lastly for those of you interested in the Northside of the city, there is a new mix-use project that is currently in planning, which will be developed on the old Santa Clara Municipal Golf Course. It is slated to be the largest development ever in Santa Clara County’s history.

Assortment of restaurants with cuisines from all over the world

Santa Clara, like much of the bay area, is a melting pot of cultures and nationalities. You’ll find cuisine from all over the world, and Santa Clara is no exception. Besides your typical Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and Japanese restaurants you’ll find several Korean, Thai, and various Indian cuisines from all over India. There is also Afghani, Pakistani, Mediterranean cuisine from Greece, various Arab and middle eastern cuisines, and who could forget the Portuguese bakery? You can enjoy tacos, dosas, shawarmas, falafels, samosas, quejadas, and pretty much any food you can imagine, you’ll find it here in Santa Clara.

Parks in the city of Santa Clara

There are close to 40 parks in the city of Santa Clara. The city probably has the most parks per capita than any other city in Santa Clara county. This includes Central Park where the annual Art and Wine festival is held. 

There is a community garden, Santa Clara Skate Park, which is located next to the Youth Activity Center, a sports park, several dog parks, as well as lighted basketball and tennis courts, and several community pools, including the famous international swim center.

There are neighborhood parks all over the city featuring upgraded playgrounds, bathroom facilities, and fields for its residents to enjoy.

The city also has the Ulistac Natural area, which technically is not a park but a great open area with space to walk and see local wildlife and natural bay area plant life. There have been sightings of coyotes and beavers in the Ulistac, and of course, it's a great place for birdwatching. I have a great video on Ulistac if you would like to learn more about this unique Santa Clara gem.

Santa Clara libraries

Santa Clara has three libraries. There’s Central Park Library, which is the largest and is located right next to Central Park. There is the mission library in the 95050 area of the city by downtown and the Old quad neighborhood. There is also the city’s newest library, the Northside library which is within walking distance of Rivermark and Rivermark Plaza. The libraries are all state of the art and provide several services to the community.

Other factors to consider:

Santa Clara utilities

Santa Clara has its own private power company, Silicon Valley Power, which produces electricity for all its residents. The cost is lower and more reliable than PG&E, California’s energy monopoly.

Santa Clara features Kaiser Permanente Santa Clara Medical Center and Medical Offices, which is one of the largest hospitals in the South Bay

Opened in 2007, and located on Lawrence Expressway and Homestead RD, the Santa Clara Kaiser is one of the largest hospitals in the South Bay with 327 beds, 17 operating rooms, a 24-hour emergency room, and a level 1 trauma center.

Traveling in Santa Clara 

Proximity to San Jose International Airport, SFO, and Oakland International Airports.

Levi’s Stadium

There's Levi’s Stadium - NFL Football games, other sporting events, and concerts.

Great America

If you like Amusement Parks there is Great America - The top amusement park attraction in the Bay Area.

Senior Center

The Santa Clara Senior Center is free to our resident seniors and features an indoor pool, gym, and exercise classes.


Santa Clara University

California's oldest higher education institution.  You can enjoy nice evening walks through the Beautiful campus and visit the Santa Clara Mission.

Trails

San Tomas Creek Trail is a paved trail for walking, running, or bicycles that leads to the bay.

Carmelite Monastery

Just a cool place to walk around and explore.  A little history for some of you history buffs, the opening of Jack London’s Call of the was written and based on a ranch that was located on this property.

The city of Santa Clara hosts an assortment of events

The city hosts several events each year:  such as the Santa Clara Parade of Champions, Santa Clara Art and Wine Festival, Winter Ice Rink and Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony,  and 4th of July Central Park Celebration and Fireworks.  

Santa Clara also provides some very valuable services such as the Yearly Cleanup where once a year you can put out and discard your unwanted items on your curb and the city's street department will pick them up.

Enjoy slightly lower property taxes than San Jose and no City transfer taxes when you buy or sell a home in Santa Clara.

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Both Pro & Con (depending on how you see it)

A large number of contemporary townhomes and condos

In the last 15 years, there have been lots of developments in newer condo and townhome communities. So there is a good amount of contemporary townhomes and condos.

There are lots of different areas and neighborhoods in Santa Clara

Many are old established neighborhoods with an aging population but also a growing population of young tech workers and families moving into the area. There are some neighborhoods like Rivermark and the Old Quad that have active residents and associations, but for the most part, many Santa Clara neighborhoods are not very active.

 Here are a few Santa Clara Neighborhoods or Communities to consider if you are thinking of moving to Santa Clara.

  • Old Quad
  • Rivermark
  • Forest Park
  • Killarney Farms
  • Westwood Oaks
  • Darvon Park
  • Briarwood
  • Nuevo
  • Central Park

Cons of Living in Santa Clara

Vast Majority of Tract homes from the 1950s and 1960s

65% of all Santa Clara single-family homes were built in the 1950s and 1960s. One important thing to understand about Santa Clara housing is the vast majority is made up of post-war ranch-style homes. These are homes built in the 1950s and 1960s and are typically referred to as tract homes. Most are built in the ranch style, with a few Mid-Century modern-style homes here and there.

Not many new single-family homes

Although there are a variety of homes built in different time periods, you’re not going to find many new single-family homes, and unfortunately not many large homes. An average Santa Clara home is a 3 bedroom 2 bath, is around 1200-1400 square feet, has a 2 car garage, and a 5000 - 6000 square foot lot. Finding a large home can be a challenge. Many 2000-square-foot homes are homes that have been expanded, some better than others. If you are looking for 3000 sq. ft. homes or a larger one, Santa Clara may not be the place for you.

Santa Clara real estate is expensive

You are probably already aware of this, but one of the major drawbacks of living in the bay area is housing prices.  Housing in the Bay Area is expensive and Santa Clara is no exception. I won’t go into specifics here on pricing because it seems like pricing is always changing.

If you need specifics on housing prices in Santa Clara, or the Bay area, I’ve provided a link here to our website where you can access information on Santa Clara real estate market and home values.

Some housing in Santa Clara is more expensive and older than the Santa Clara homes to the East

To the south of Santa Clara are West San Jose and the city of Campbell, and although close in price, Santa Clara has a slightly higher cost per sq. ft. than these areas. To the east and northeast of Santa Clara is Central and North San Jose, also the city of Milpitas is nearby, and these areas are more affordable than Santa Clara and offer more of a selection of newer homes built in the 1970s and 1980s.

An important detail about Bay Area Housing

Keep in mind, that the general trend is as you move more northwest, up the peninsula real estate gets pricier and older, and as you move down the peninsula to Santa Clara Valley and San Jose, homes are less costly and newer.

An important detail about Santa Clara Housing

One thing to note about Santa Clara Housing is that Santa Clara consists of three distinct Zip Codes: 95051, 95050, and 95054. Each Zip code has its unique advantages and disadvantages when it comes to housing. Most of the top neighborhoods in Santa Clara are gonna be located in the 95051 zip code, located in the southern part of the city, along Pruneridge Avenue. 

Neighborhoods like Laurel Park, Forest Park, Westwood Oaks, and Killarney Farms are located in this area. But you’ll find pockets of great homes and neighborhoods throughout Santa Clara. One unique development that contains newer contemporary homes is the Rivermark Development located in the Northern Part of the city. This area features contemporary housing developed in the early 2000s and has close proximity to jobs and great schools.

The Cons of this area are the surrounding area is not as consistent in its makeup. There is a mixture of housing, commercial and industrial property in that northern Santa Clara Zone. Rivermark is also in close proximity to the San Jose Airport and is directly under the flight path, so airplane noise is very prevalent in this area, however, if you fly often, this could be a pro.

No Trader Joe's

The only thing Santa Clara is missing is Trader Joe's. This is definitely a con if you are like me and you love Trader Joe's.

No downtown or business district

Many people will remark that Santa Clara doesn’t have a downtown. Santa Clara’s downtown is actually located in the old quad area of the city near the university. Unfortunately, the original downtown was destroyed during urban renewal in the 1960s.

I have a great video on downtown Santa Clara’s history if you are curious and want to learn more about the history of downtown, the link is right here, or you can find it on our Santa Clara Living YouTube channel.

Unfortunately when the downtown was redeveloped it lost all of its original characters. Currently, the Downtown mainly consists of Franklin Mall, which is like a town and country-style shopping center, and University Plaza. There are still some cool shops, cafes, great restaurants, and pubs Downtown, but it's not what you would expect of a downtown:

  • Taplands
  • Rantai
  • Mountain Mikes Pizza
  • Jasmine Thai
  • Jiaren Cafe

I want to point out that there is a movement to revitalize the downtown, and likely to be some big changes in Downtown Santa Clara’s future.

City lack consistency

Poor planning of the city in the past has made Santa Clara somewhat spotty, one could say that the city lacks consistency.

Limited trails

Besides the San Tomas Creek Trail, there are not a lot of Walking or Biking Trails. 

Located in the flat part of Silicon Valley

Santa Clara is fairly suburban and it's located in the low part of the valley and very flat.

Flood insurance

There are some FEMA-designated flood zones in Santa Clara that will require you to carry flood insurance.

No major Golf Courses in Santa Clara

There are no major Golf Courses in Santa Clara. 

Santa Clara had a great 18-hole municipal golf course, but it has been closed down for several years and will be the location of a new future mix-use development. Currently, Santa Clara does have a great 9-hole golf course with a driving range, the Pruneridge Golf Club.

 

Conclusion:

As you can see there is a lot going on in Santa Clara and depending on how you look at it Santa Clara may or may not be the right place for you and your family.

If you are considering a move to Santa Clara or anywhere in Santa Clara County, I would love to be a great resource for you and help you learn more about the area.

To contact me, you can call me directly or send me a message.

Vinicius Brasil - The Brasil Group

VINICIUS BRASIL
Email: Email Me

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