Thursday, December 11, 2008

Where To Live In Silicon Valley?

People moving into Silicon Valley are faced with a tricky initial choice: where-o-where should we hang our hats?

In common with any large conurbation, there are a myriad array of discrete towns or communities to choose from, and, matching this, an equally large set of criteria to be applied if you are having to decide where to live. Are the schools more important than, say, the anticipated commute? Is access to a park a key requirement? Are there three Starbuck's within spitting distance? (Actually, the last one barely warrants even a passing thought since that rule would easily be met even if you were moving to the wilds of Alaska.)

The San Jose Mercury News today offered another way of looking at this: how many poor people do you want to encounter, on average, when strolling over for your daily caffeine fix? In the print edition, the Mercury News looks at poverty levels around the Valley using data that was derived from the 05-07 U.S. census.

In the South Bay, the only area mapped in this way, San Jose comes in at last place with 10.2% of the population below the poverty level. At the other end of the scale, Los Altos tops out with a quite remarkable 2.1%. (And that's remarkable because I have no idea where in Los Altos that 2.1% are living, given the prevailing property prices, even in today's market. Must be in the garden sheds of the large and plush grounds surrounding the mansions in the hills.)

Starting from Palo Alto in the north and going down to Gilroy in the south, three cities in Santa Clara County show up as having less than 5% of the population below the poverty line: Los Altos, Los Gatos and Saratoga. On the other side of the ledger, three cities are at 9% or higher: Gilroy, Santa Clara and San Jose.

Does any of this really say much about the quality of daily life for residents in these cities? Not to me, but in all fairness we are hardly the standard issue nuclear family & so may not be the best of judges. Personally, I either like to live a long way from anyone - pretty much as we do now - or in the middle of a city larger than any of those listed above; San Francisco, for example, would fit the bill quite nicely. And as they say in real estate, the three most important factors to assess with any property purchase are location, location and location. After all, the wrong sort of neighbours in Los Altos can likely be just as annoying as those you might find in San Jose; they might just drive a nicer car, is all.


Mary Pope-Handy said...

That's an interesting deomgraphic to use. I did not see the Merc's article, but am surprised that Monte Sereno did not make the list. Perhaps the tiny city (about 4000 residents) was not big enough to be considered.

J said...

Hi Mary - yes, size is a factor. To quote from another article that refers to the same Census database ...
"A new trove of data today from the Census Bureau offers the most detailed look since 2000 at how Silicon Valley's communities are changing. For the first time in eight years, the survey analyzes cities between 20,000 and 65,000 in population."