All About Los Gatos, California
Los Gatos is an incorporated U.S. town in Santa Clara County, California. The population is 30,391 according to the 2013 United States Census Bureau. According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Los Gatos is ranked the 33rd wealthiest city in the United States. It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area at the southwest corner of San Jose in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Los Gatos is part of Silicon Valley, with several high technology companies maintaining a presence there. Most notably, streaming and content creator, Netflix was founded in Los Gatos and has developed a large presence in the area.
The name Los Gatos is Spanish, meaning "the cats". The name derives from the 1839 Alta California land-grant that encompassed the area, which was called La Rinconada de Los Gatos, ("Cat's Corner"), where "the cats" refers to the cougars and bobcats that are indigenous to the foothills in which the town is located. The name has been anglicized to /lɔːs ˈɡætəs/ lawss-gat-əs, although one also hears pronunciations truer to the original Spanish, /loʊsˈɡɑːtoʊs/ lohss-gah-tohss.
The town's founding dates to the mid-1850s with the building of a flour operation, Forbes Mill, by James Alexander Forbes along Los Gatos Creek. The mill's two-story stone storage annex has been preserved as a museum just off of Main Street.
The settlement that was established in the 1860s was originally named for the mill, but the name was changed to Los Gatos after the Spanish land grant. The town was incorporated in 1887 and remained an important town for the logging industry in the Santa Cruz Mountains through the end of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, the town became a thriving agricultural town with apricots, grapes and prunesbeing grown in the area. By the 1920s, the Los Gatos area had a local reputation as an arts colony, attracting painters, musicians, writers, actors and their bohemian associates as residents over the years. The violinist Yehudi Menuhin lived there as a boy; the actresses Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland(sisters) were graduates of Los Gatos High School, John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath there (the location is now located in Monte Sereno), and Beat hero Neal Cassady lived there in the 1950s. Along with much of the Santa Clara Valley, Los Gatos became a suburban community for San Jose beginning in the 1950s, and the town was mostly built-out by the 1980s.
Downtown Los Gatos has retained and restored many of its Victorian-era homes and commercial buildings. Other notable buildings are the Forbes Mill annex, dating to 1880 and now housing a history museum; Los Gatos High School which dates from the 1920s; and the Old Town Shopping Center, formerly the University Avenue School (the school was established in 1882; the current buildings date to 1923).
A number of brick buildings in Downtown Los Gatos were destroyed or seriously damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, though the district was quickly rebuilt and has made a full recovery.
Transport by rail was an early aspect of Los Gatos. The South Pacific Coast Railroad, a popular narrow-gauge line from Alameda (and San Francisco via ferry) to Santa Cruz in the late 19th century, stopped in Los Gatos. Southern Pacific took over this line in 1887. Los Gatos was also near the Southern Pacific resort town of Holy City, along the rail line in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The last Southern Pacific passenger train to Santa Cruz left Los Gatos in March 1940. In town, the rail line used to run along the shore of Vasona Reservoir to the present-day location of the Post Office, following the path of what is now a continuous string of parking lots between Santa Cruz Ave. and University Ave. There was also a streetcar-type rail line with service to Saratoga and San Jose. Streetcar service via the Peninsular Railway started about 1905 and ended about 1933. San Francisco commuter trains continued into downtown until 1959, and Vasona Junction until 1964. The site of the old railroad station is now occupied by Town Plaza and the post office.
Geography and environment
State Route 85 roughly marks the northern boundary of the town, although a few pockets of homes to its North are included. Highway 9 (Los Gatos-Saratoga Road) from the coast terminates at Highway 17. Downtown Los Gatos, the area on and around Santa Cruz Avenue and Main Street, is located in the southwest quadrant of town. A left exit on northbound Highway 17 becomes the south end of South Santa Cruz Avenue, leading into downtown. The area around Los Gatos Boulevard, east of Highway 17, is much more typically suburban than downtown, with medium-sized shopping centers clustered at major intersections of the multilane boulevard. Although the town has generally a quiet setting, its principal noise generators are State Route 17 and Los Gatos Boulevard. Sound levels within one hundred and fifty feet of Los Gatos Boulevard exceed 60 CNEL (Community Noise Equivalent Level), a generally unacceptable range for residential living.
Vasona Park, a county park, and neighboring Oak Meadow Park, which belongs to the town, are located in what is roughly the geographic middle of the town, bordered on the south by Blossom Hill Road, on the east by Highway 17, on the west by University Avenue, and reaching at the north end not quite all the way to Lark Avenue. Located in the parks is the popular William "Billy" Jones Wildcat Railroad. One of Walt Disney's inspirations for the construction of Disneylandintroduced to him by animator Ward Kimball. In Vasona Park is the trail to Prune Ridge. Los Gatos Creek begins in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of the town and runs through the town parallel to Highway 17 all the way through neighboring Campbell and San Jose to the Guadalupe River, which flows into San Francisco Bay. A walking, jogging, and biking trail called the Los Gatos Creek Trail runs alongside much of the creek from Lexington Dam through Vasona Park and Campbell to Meridian Avenue in San Jose. In Los Gatos, the trail passes the 1854 Forbes Mill.
Los Gatos is surrounded by several mountain bike trails. Cyclists can leave from downtown on a 20-mile (32 km) loop through the Santa Cruz Mountains. From downtown, El Sereno mountain stands to the southwest; El Sombroso stands to the southeast. The El Sereno Open Space Preserve and the Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve open the top and upper flanks of each of these mountains to hiking and cycling.
Though the official total area of the town is 11.2 square miles, approximately 100 square miles of the surrounding Los Gatos Mountains (within the Santa Cruz Mountains range), has a Los Gatos address and uses the 95033 zip code (primarily) for U.S. Postal Service mail delivery (among other purposes).
Los Gatos experiences nearly the same temperatures as San Jose, just slightly warmer and with more rain. Los Gatos has a Mediterranean climate like much of California. January's average high is 63 °F (17 °C) and the low is 43 °F (6 °C) while July's average high is 86 °F (30 °C) and low is 57 °F (14 °C). Los Gatos has a Zone 10 hardiness zone. Daytime high temperatures very rarely stay below 50 °F (10 °C). Los Gatos rarely gets a hard frost. Los Gatos gets the slight winter chill that is needed to grow grapes and have vineyards. Certain types of bananas (the types that ripen in three months) grow well during the summer.
The record high temperature was 114 °F (46 °C) on June 14, 1961, and the record low temperature was 16 °F (−9 °C) on December 22, 1990. There are an average of 27.0 days annually with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 5.0 days annually with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. Rainfall averages 21.2 inches annually and falls on an average of 59 days annually. The wettest year was 1909 with 51.77 inches and the driest year was 2007 with 9.47 inches (241 mm). The most rainfall in one month was 26.56 inches in December 1955 and the most rainfall in 24 hours was 8.48 inches on December 23, 1955. Although snow sometimes falls in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains, it is very rare in Los Gatos. The most snow on record was 2.0 inches in February 1976. Los Gatos averages 330 sunny days per year.