Moving to San Jose

Nestled in the heart of Silicon Valley, San Jose, California will delight you with its mild climate, tech-centric economy, and rich history. Founded in 1777 as a Spanish farming community, San Jose has grown to become the 10th largest city in the US. While today the city is known as the home of major tech players like eBay, PayPal, and Adobe, its roots are in agriculture. A Mediterranean climate and rich soil create the ideal conditions for growing fruits, vegetables, and fruit trees; thanks to its agricultural roots, the area is known as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight.” When you move to San Jose, prepare yourself to enjoy 300 days of sunshine each year.

While San Jose is famous for its “techie” culture, there’s more to this town than you can download in an app. Within the city, there are nearly 16,000 acres of parkland, museums, wineries, a lively performing arts scene, and even a zoo. While you’re exploring all that your new hometown has to offer, you may find yourself singing its unofficial anthem, “Do You Know the Way to San Jose?”

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Living in San Jose, CA: What to Know Before Moving to San Jose

When you move to San Jose, you can expect a lot of sunshine, beautiful vistas, and a diverse population of more than 1 million people, however, the greater San Jose metropolitan area’s population is closer to 2 million residents. California’s third-largest city is young (the median age is 36 years) and educated (one in four residents has a bachelor’s or higher degree). Recognized as the capital of Silicon Valley, the city that began as a farming community has blossomed to become a center of pioneering entrepreneurial spirit.

Pros and Cons of Living in San Jose

First, the pros:

  • The weather. You won’t shovel any snow. Walking, cycling, hiking, kayaking, riding are year-round activities due to mild weather and little rain.
  • You’ll be living in the most concentrated tech center in the world, with proximity to tech “hubs” like Palo Alto, Mountain View, Menlo Park, and San Francisco.
  • Jobs, jobs, jobs: unemployment is low, and San Jose’s income per capita is 27% higher than the national average.
  • Hey, it’s in California. You’ll be a short drive to Santa Cruz (aka “Surf City”) and to Half Moon Bay’s famously beautiful beaches where surfing is a way of life. If you’re into wine tasting, you’ll find vineyards and tasting rooms in Cupertino and Los Gatos, just a quick drive (or bike ride) from San Jose, and of course in Napa Valley, about two hours north. Two hours south is world-class golfing at Pebble Beach and shopping in historic Carmel-by-the-Sea. Love to ski? Drive north to Lake Tahoe’s beautiful ski resorts including Heavenly Valley and Sugar Bowl.

As for the cons:

  • One of the cons—and it’s a major one—is the cost of living. In San Jose, rent, gas, groceries, and even water are among the nation’s most expensive “basics.”
  • Traffic. You may wonder what’s going on when you’re driving ten mph on Highway 85 from Cupertino to Gilroy (and right through San Jose). No, it’s not construction; it’s 3 p.m. That’s when the evening “rush hour” begins, and it can extend to 7 p.m.
  • Long work days. Start-ups and many established tech companies demand long days to get the job done. Burnout is fairly common in the tech industry.

Tax Rates

  • Property tax: The average property tax rate in Santa Clara County, where San Jose is located, is .794%. For comparison, the national average is 1.211%, and the average property tax in California is .813%.
  • Income tax: California’s income tax is based on ten brackets, charging from 1% up to 13.3% in the highest income bracket. This chart clearly defines the brackets and rates.
  • Sales tax: In California, the state sales tax is 7.25%. With local taxes added into the mix, a CA city’s sales tax can be as high as 10.25%. In San Jose, the combined state and local sales tax rate is 9.25%.

Housing Market

A desirable place to live, San Jose is expensive when it comes to housing. More people own than rent, at approximately 60% and 40%, respectively. The median home cost in San Jose, CA is just over a million dollars, compared to the national average of $219,700.

The median rent for a two-bedroom apartment in San Jose is $2,670, though locals will tell you it’s higher—about $3,500 for something in the most desirable neighborhoods. Are you looking for a deal? You might consider “co-living,” the apartment equivalent to co-working spaces like WeWork.

Cost of Living

Based on a national average “score” of 100, the cost of living in San Jose is 260. By comparison, the cost of living in Tucson, Arizona, is 99; in Boston, it’s 182; and in Dallas, Texas it’s 108. Housing and transportation are the main contributors to San Jose’s high cost of living. According to the Economic Policy Institute’s Family Budget Calculator, a family of two adults and two children in the San Jose area will spend $129,092 annually for the basics like housing, food, transportation, and taxes.

Weather & Natural Disasters

The semiarid, Mediterranean climate in San Jose is one of its most appealing features. January is the coolest month with average highs of 60° F and average lows of 42. The hottest months are July and August with average highs in the mid-80s and lows in the high-50s. Sunshine is the rule, with only about 65 rainy days annually that total up to about 16″ of rain per year. Rain usually falls between November and April. Summers are typically very dry.

Many people enjoy the mild climate in San Jose, but some will point out that there’s no noticeable change of seasons in this part of California. Unlike the East Coast, where fall colors bring tourists for “peak week,” in San Jose most of the trees have been planted; there’s no native forest like other parts of the country. Some species’ leaves will change color. The grasses go dry in the summer unless irrigated.

The biggest natural disaster threats in San Jose are California wildfires, which adversely affect air quality — and earthquakes. San Jose is between the San Andreas Fault and the Calaveras Fault. Scientists have predicted “The Big One” could hit at any moment, but most people who have lived in California for a while seem to become accustomed to the risk. Other places have tornadoes and hurricanes. People in San Jose have earthquakes (and we don’t mean just the soccer team).

Economy & Job Market

Throughout the San Francisco Bay Area, the economy is growing at nearly twice the rate of the national average. San Jose is ranked third in the world for per-capita gross domestic product. The top industries in San Jose are manufacturing; professional, scientific and technical services; and health care and social assistance.

According to DataUSA, the highest paying jobs (and their median annual salary) in San Jose are “Computer & Mathematical Occupations ($123,637); Computer, Engineering, & Science Occupations ($121,284); and Architecture & Engineering Occupations ($120,670).”

Who are the biggest employers in San Jose? The top five are Cisco, Western Digital, Sanmina, PayPal, and Adobe. Career experts at Zippia.com have curated a list of the 20 best places to work in San Jose, and the list includes PayPal, eBay, Cisco, Netgear, and Fair Isaac. The entire Bay Area is networking-focused, with events from San Francisco to Sausalito to San Jose practically every day of the week. Have your business cards ready and prepare yourself for lots of hors d’oeuvres. A great place to start networking is at a power lunch (or breakfast or dinner—these are overachievers) sponsored by the Silicon Valley Organization.

Traffic and Transportation

  • San Jose offers a variety of public transportation options, including bus and light rail service throughout Santa Clara County. Caltrain provides a quick, reasonably priced, car-free trip to San Francisco.
  • San Jose and the South Bay rank No. 5 in the U.S. for traffic congestion.
  • The major thoroughfares are US Route 101, a major four-lane highway that runs from San Diego to the Oregon border. State Route 85 bypasses downtown San Jose and runs west to Los Gatos and Cupertino. State Route 87 is a north-south freeway entirely within San Jose city, while Interstate 280 connects San Jose north to San Francisco, and Interstate 880 is commonly used to get from San Jose to the eastern side of San Francisco Bay. There is typically some construction going on, and it’s good to remember that traffic fines can double or triple in construction zones. To get real-time information about road conditions, enter the highway number on the California Department of Transportation website, or call 1-800-427-7623.
  • Most highways in the area have a high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane that requires either a second person (and don’t even think about using a mannequin—it’s been done) in the car or a “pass” for high-efficiency vehicles such as hybrid cars.
  • Hybrid cars are everywhere and, because San Jose is very ‘green,’ the high-efficiency vehicles even score reserved parking at places like shopping malls and sports arenas. Hey, it’s good to be green.
  • The Walk Score for San Jose is 51/100, meaning it’s “somewhat walkable.” The city’s Transit Score is 41, and its Bike Score is 59.
  • Air travel is easy in the San Jose area. The Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport (SJC) has many flights per day on several various airlines. San Francisco International Airport (SFO), 35 miles northwest of San Jose, is a major international hub.

What to Do

People who live and work in San Jose and surrounding towns like Cupertino (where Apple has its headquarters) and Mountain View (where you’ll find Google’s main campus) have a reputation for working all the time. Don’t do it. There’s a lot to see and experience in and around San Jose.

  • San Jose is home to two professional sports teams, the San Jose Sharks hockey team and the Earthquakes soccer team. The minor league baseball team, the San Jose Giants, has a robust following.
  • San Jose has 61 miles of urban trails, one of the largest urban trail systems in the US.
  • If you’re more into vertical trails and rock climbing, check out Castle Rock State Park. The views are astonishing.
  • From the Museum of Quilts and Textiles to the Tech Interactive and the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, San Jose’s museums have something for everyone.
  • San Jose Taiko is a world-renowned Japanese taiko drumming company. Take in a performance or take classes and learn this traditional art form.
  • For the kids (or the kid in you), the Happy Hollow Park and Zoo is a San Jose institution that has been connecting people and nature since 1961.
  • At the summit of Mount Hamilton, the Lick Observatory, operated by the University of California, offers a panoramic view of San Jose and also a look at the stars. The observatory was built in 1888 when “James Lick, an eccentric California millionaire who dreamed of building a ‘telescope superior to and more powerful than any telescope yet made’” donated $700,000 to build the Great Refractor. The observatory is an active research facility that, thankfully, is open to the public for daytime and evening tours.

Schools and Universities

  • San Jose serves more than 30,000 K-12 students. To learn more about the schools in your future neighborhood, begin here.
  • According to U.S. News & World Report, high school students in San Jose have a “college readiness” score of 10 out of 10.
  • California State University at San Jose, established in 1862 as the founding campus of the California State University system, is a top-20 school in engineering, a top-5 public university, and is known for its graduate schools of business and social work.
  • Stanford University, University of California at Santa Cruz, and Santa Clara University are prestigious universities in the San Jose metropolitan area.
  • Silicon Valley University, Cogswell College, and other colleges in San Jose provide advanced degrees, four-year, two-year and certificate programs.

Crime

San Jose is safer than 18% of American cities. The crime rate (number of crimes per 1,000 residents) is 29.06, with property crimes six times more likely than violent crimes. According to data from bestplaces.net, violent crime in San Jose is ranked 25, compared to the US rank of 22.7. San Jose property crime is ranked 36.5, compared to the US rate of 35.4.

Utility Providers

  • Pacific Gas & Electric is your first stop for utilities. You can initiate service by clicking here.
  • You can initiate your water service with San Jose Water by clicking here.
  • For everything, you need to know about garbage pick-up and recycling in San Jose, click here.
  • It may come as no surprise that there are a lot of internet service providers in this high-tech town. For a list of residential providers, start here.

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Best Neighborhoods in San Jose, CA

Rose Garden

There’s a lot to love in the Rose Garden neighborhood of San Jose: beautiful architecture, highly rated schools, and a range of outdoor activities. Perhaps the most loved of all is the iconic San Jose Municipal Rose Garden, named in several competitions as “America’s Best Rose Garden.” With more than 4,000 roses, this charming five-acre park was first dedicated in 1937. Since then, countless weddings and other family occasions have been celebrated among the nearly 200 different types of rose species growing here.

Close to downtown San Jose, and a quick drive to San Jose’s International Airport, the Rose Garden neighborhood feels like it’s set apart from the big city. The neighborhood is quiet and peaceful. It’s perhaps the most sought-after neighborhood in San Jose, California.

  • Population – 15,273
  • Home Prices – Median home value is $712,082
  • Rental Prices – $1,940 (about two-thirds of residents in this neighborhood rent)
  • Schools – The schools in the Rose Garden neighborhood are highly rated and include: Abraham Lincoln High School, Forest Hill Elementary School, Marshall Lane Elementary School, and Rolling Hills Middle School

Something to try: Less than a mile from the Rose Garden is San Jose’s “Antiques Colony” filled with vintage and antique shops, along with the famous Silicon Valley hotspot, Falafel Drive-In, rated #1 of more than 2,000 places to eat in San Jose.

Willow Glen

Tree-lined streets and an enchanting array of architectural styles make Willow Glen a beautiful place to come home to at the end of the day. Its schools and low crime rates make it a wonderful place for families. Just south of San Jose’s downtown, Willow Glen is a mix of vintage and modern, with 50s-style coffee shops, modern art studios, and even an old-fashioned children’s bookstore, Hicklebee’s. Walking through downtown Willow Glen feels a bit like stepping back to the 1950s, with family diners and local businesses on every corner.

  • Population – 79,706
  • Home Prices – Median home value is $802,249
  • Rental Prices – Median rent is $1,647 (about half of residents in this neighborhood rent)
  • Schools – The schools that serve the Willow Glen neighborhood include University Prep Academy Charter School, Summit Public School, Abraham Lincoln High School, and Forest Hill Elementary School

Something to try: Streetlight Records on Bascom Avenue has the ambiance of what record stores used to be like, including some very nice vinyl.

Japantown

Ranked one of the friendliest neighborhoods in America, San Jose’s Japantown is a hidden gem.

One of the three remaining historical Japantowns in the United States, it is only a mile away from downtown San Jose, and yet it feels like a world of its own. You’ll find a “microeconomy” here, with restaurants, cafes, and retail shops interspersed between apartment buildings and single-family homes. San Jose’s Japantown features the Japanese Museum of San Jose, seasonal festivals including Obon, and a year-round farmers’ market.

Something to try: Check out the Ukulele Source, a charming shop with a wide assortment of ukuleles and a staff who will help you make the right choice (and who may even teach you a tune or two).

Downtown San Jose

Recognized as the #1 neighborhood in San Jose for young professionals, Downtown has transformed over the past 30 years, from a downtrodden downtown to a hip urban center with a young, educated population.

The heart of Downtown is San Pedro Square, with its vibrant market, culinary extravaganza, and live music. There’s always something happening Downtown. You’ll find plenty of nightlife as well as daytime fun, too: theaters, vineyards, and the San Jose Museum of Art.

  • Population – 88,541
  • Home Prices – Median home value is $515,537
  • Rental Prices – In the range of $1,650 and up (about two-thirds of the population in Downtown are renters)
  • Schools – Among the many public and private schools serving Downtown are Horace Mann Elementary School, Notre Dame High School, St. Patrick Parochial School, and Rocketship Mateo Sheedy Elementary School

Something to try: Visit Discovery Meadow, home to the Children’s Discovery Museum, featuring
“more than 150 interactive exhibits for young children in the areas of science, humanities, technology, and arts.” While you’re there, you can play the largest Monopoly game in the world!

Silver Creek Valley

In the south part of San Jose, near the Diablo Mountain Range, lies the quaint and affluent Silver Creek Valley. Unlike its northern counterparts, there are no nightclubs here, only country clubs. The atmosphere is quiet and conducive to relaxing family life.

  • Population – 25,599
  • Home Prices – Median Home Value – $1,063,549
  • Rental Prices – Median rent – $1,566 (only about 10% of Silver Creek Valley residents are renters)
  • Schools – Tops schools include Evergreen Valley High School, Silver Creek High School, Summit Public School: Rainier, Silver Oak Elementary School, and Chaboya Middle School

Something to try: Relax at the Silver Creek Country Club while enjoying one of their annual events.

Evergreen

Close to Silver Creek Valley but three times the population is Evergreen, a neighborhood with beautiful views and a close-knit community. Recognized for its excellent public schools, Evergreen is a great place for young families. It’s got an urban feel with lots of coffee shops and a bustling town square.

  • Population – 79,941
  • Home Prices – Median home value is $798,794
  • Rental Prices – Median rent is $1,771 (only about 18% of Evergreen residents are renters)
  • Schools – Top public schools serving Evergreen include Evergreen Valley High School, Silver Creek High School, Summit Public School: Rainier, Chaboya Middle School, and Tom Matsumoto Elementary School

Something to try: Visit the Chinese Cultural Garden, just past Friendship Gate in the Overfelt Gardens Park.

West San Jose

Considered the #1 top neighborhood in San Jose, West San Jose has a median household income of more than twice the national average. West San Jose has benefited from the meteoric economic growth of Silicon Valley. This neighborhood borders Cupertino (home of Apple) and was once full of apple orchards. Today, the area is known for its A+ schools.

West San Jose is increasingly diverse, and that’s reflected in its many shops and restaurants. Nearly 40% of households have children, making this a family community. Throughout the area, there are sports venues such as tennis clubs, karate schools, and dance studios for even the youngest sports enthusiasts.

  • Population – 128,368
  • Home Prices – Medium Home Value is $1,000,299
  • Rental Prices – $2,024 (about half of West San Jose residents rent their homes)
  • Schools – Lynbrook High School, Monte Vista High School, Cupertino High School, Discovery Charter School, and Montclair Elementary, among others

Something to try:  An architectural wonder, the Winchester Mystery House is full of secrets and legends, and has thrilled visitors from all over the world. Tour this national landmark if you dare!

Santana Row

The newest neighborhood in San Jose, Santana Row is part of West San Jose. However, its lovely tree-lined streets, outdoor cafes, and upscale shopping have created what locals like to call the city’s own “Rodeo Drive,” a destination in itself. Shops, salons, wine bars, and restaurants create a vibrant scene that is bustling seven days a week. Along the edges of “The Row” are very upscale condos. Santana Row feels a bit like a slice of Manhattan, with a dash of Europe for good measure. Accessible from nearby highways 280 and 880, it’s easy to reach and easy to navigate. Warm Mediterranean breezes make this a perfect spot for sipping an ice cold drink and enjoying some people watching between a meal and a movie, or before an evening at one of Santana Row’s lively clubs.

  • Population – 916
  • Home Prices – Median home value $1,116,800
  • Rental Prices – Median rent price is $3,498
  • Schools – Lynhaven Elementary School, Monroe Middle School, Del Mar High School

Something to Try: Unwind and get pampered at BellaU Spa and Wellness in the heart of Santana Row.

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