Saratoga is arguably one of the most prestigious communities in the 408 area code. It has an abundance of support for the arts, some of the best public education in the Bay Area and is home to numerous natural settings that attract people from around the world. It is known for its small town feel, its wineries, two world-class performance venues and high academic standards in its public schools. The quaint downtown is a gourmet lover’s delight with a concentration of fine dining alternatives.
The San Jose Mercury News, in an article in the spring of 2010, said this about Saratoga:
- Population: 32,900
- Median Age: 43.2
- Median household income: $155,246
- Average household size: 2.8
- College graduates: 44%
- Parks: 13
Saratoga, like its neighbors Los Gatos and Monte Sereno, is a quiet haven for the wealthy, who appreciate its excellent restaurants, antique stores, European bakeries, vintage architecture and first-rate schools. For its size, Saratoga has an abundance of parks, including one with a town history museum. The Japanese-style Hakone Gardens, with bamboo and water-strolling gardens, is one of the largest of its kind outside of Japan. The Montalvo Arts Center is 175 acres of well-tended greenery and home to an active arts program. At the Paul Masson-built Mountain Winery, which dates back to the 19th century, visitors from all over the Bay Area come to enjoy wine tasting and its annual series of concerts featuring well-known pop, rock, jazz and classical music performers. Drama fans have easy access to the Saratoga Civic Theater, Shady Shakespeare Theatre Company and West Valley College Theater. Plus, the annual Saratoga Rotary Art Show is one of the oldest in the area.
A mineral spring similar to the famous Saratoga Springs in New York state gave California’s Saratoga its name in 1865 and made it a popular resort for decades. Rich soil and the area’s Mediterranean climate proved a perfect environment for growing fine wine grapes. Famed vintner Paul Masson created an estate whose buildings and arboretum are now open to the public.
Saratogans have always fought hard to keep their town small and residential. It remains rural, with towering redwoods and bans on sidewalks and street lights in some neighborhoods. Zoning regulations support larger lot sizes – one residential development proposal included homes on 1.73 acre lots.
Real estate tends to be pricey in Saratoga compared to neighboring alternatives, but people feel the lifestyle is worth it. The housing choices include remote hillside properties of a range of values, entry and higher end uniform tract housing in a popular area called the Golden Triangle, and estate homes in the premium location near Villa Montalvo locally known as the Platinum Triangle. There are some nice townhouse alternatives as well.
Don’t confuse the city of Saratoga boundaries with the Saratoga school district boundaries. Saratoga is served by three different school districts each with a very different experience for the children. The Campbell Union Elementary is known for having fabulous elementary schools for those Saratoga homeowners who live in that geography (Forest Hill and Marshall Lane) and constantly improving middle and high schools. This district is unique in its use of Charter Block grants which give it a high dollar per pupil relative to other districts. Sherman Oaks, in this district offers a dual immersion Spanish/English curriculum. Village is a parent participation formatted elementary school. All schools in this K-8 district have pre-schools on site from 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. where payments are on a sliding scale based on income. The extra funding also lets the schools offer P.E. and Drama when many other districts are having to cut those programs. Saratoga School district uniformly has three very strong elementary schools, one middle school they all feed into and a high school, which by any measure (API, SAT, STAR, AP, music) is at the head of the class. The parent volunteerism is very high and the result is a well run district that can focus on strong academic performance. Cupertino school district, which feeds the northern part of Saratoga, is known for its academic rigor.
The majority of the shopping in Saratoga is not in its downtown. There are the popular markets of the Safeway at Argonaut shopping center and Gene’s Market in the Quito area. Movie theaters and more casual restaurants and the major name stores are off Saratoga Avenue at Westgate shopping center. Many Saratoga residences travel to Los Gatos for a more vibrant downtown experience.