In Monte Sereno, 15 minutes from the Apple campus, 20 minutes from Yahoo and Google and 25 from Facebook’s Menlo Park HQ, fans of spacious homes on large, (half of the homes in town sit on lots of an acre or more) wooded lots can find peace — and surprising convenience; the southern edge of Monte Sereno sits only a few blocks from Los Gatos’ bustling Santa Cruz Avenue. It’s a blueprint that makes Monte Sereno very popular with established professionals and their families. The median age of a Monte Sereno resident (49.7) is more than 10 years older than the statewide median. Approximately three-fourths of local residents are married.
This unsurpassed combination of seclusion, convenience, high-end homes and a chronically limited inventory of for-sale property, adds up to a high-end real estate market. Monte Sereno regularly appears on lists of the most expensive Bay Area towns. The Monte Sereno market lacks the breadth of markets in Saratoga and (especially) Los Gatos, towns 10 times its size and — not insignificantly — towns that are not exclusively single-family. “Entry-level” buyers can expect to spend at least $2 million to get into the neighborhood, with prices ranging all the way up to eight figures.
Monte Sereno is a unique town in Santa Clara’s West Valley. It shares its Santa Cruz Mountain foothills setting and its exclusive real estate market with Saratoga and Los Gatos, but it takes those two towns’ formula a bit further. Here you will find the ultimate retreat, the ultimate quiet small town, the ultimate Eden-within-the-metropolis, the ultimate safe haven. It’s no wonder that the locals are content with letting their “big” city neighbors take as much of the spotlight as they want.
Monte Sereno History
Unlike many other Silicon Valley towns, Monte Sereno wasn’t a mill town and, because of its hilly, wooded topography, it didn’t develop any significant agriculture. This is also the reason it never established a traditional downtown area. Instead, Monte Sereno matured slowly as a small gathering of ranches, orchards, dairies and summer homes accented by a few large estates.
Years ago, Monte Sereno, like neighboring Los Gatos, attracted artists seeking refuge from San Jose and San Francisco. Countless writers, painters, dancers and general bohemians came to the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains for inspiration – and cheap rent – before and after World War II. The most famous of these was John Steinbeck, who wrote the “Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men” between 1936 and 1938 while residing in a small cabin he built on Greenwood Lane. Neal Cassady, a Beat Generation icon who inspired author Jack Kerouac, also lived in Monte Sereno in a modest ranch home. Though known for his wanderings, Cassady lived a fairly conventional life in Monte Sereno during the 1950s, raising his children in a home on Bancroft Avenue that was razed in 1997. In its place stands a much larger, two-story home more consistent with modern Monte Sereno but somewhat lacking in legend.
Be they artists, city refugees or ranchers, Monte Sereno’s handful of residents were content to live in an unincorporated town with a Los Gatos postal address. That changed in the late 1950s when a retired U.S. Navy Admiral named Thomas B. Inglis noticed of what he considered to be some nefarious intentions on the part of the city of Los Gatos.
Inglis began to see signs that Los Gatos was planning to annex Monte Sereno, putting in peril its rural atmosphere and driving up its residents’ property taxes. Along with others, Inglis formed the West County Improvement Association. “By control of zoning, Monte Sereno can preserve natural scenic beauty and residential character of our city,” Inglis told a reporter in 1982, the town’s 25th anniversary of incorporation. “This can be done through incorporation, which is the only way to protect ourselves against exploitation of empire-building cities and absentee land owners.”
At the time, annexation of rural areas was relatively easy, a fact compounded by rumors that the city of Los Gatos was promising large landowners that post-annexation, their lots would be rezoned to commercial parcels, making them worth a great deal of money. Monte Sereno moved to incorporate and Los Gatos, taking advantage of an unintended mistake in the map submitted by the Monte Sereno group, responded by trying to block the vote in court. After a great deal of drama, the map was corrected. As such, the original Los Gatos argument that Monte Sereno was essentially uninhabited, and thus not eligible for incorporation, was rebuked. Monte Sereno achieved its incorporation via a 60% majority on April 23, 1957.