Situated in the center of Silicon Valley, Santa Clara is one of the best cities for ambitious professionals, families, and retirees alike. There are several tech companies headquartered here, and opportunities for innovation and high-paying careers are bountiful. Less than 45 miles southeast of San Francisco and five miles west of San Jose, this Bay Area city offers proximity to other cultural and technological hotbeds like Mountain View, Palo Alto, Sunnyvale, and Cupertino.
Santa Clara isn’t all about technology, though. Along with world-class healthcare and educational opportunities – it’s home to California’s oldest university and one of the best schools in the nation, Santa Clara University. There’s also an abundance of things to do and see: 49ers at Levi’s Stadium, Intel Museum, California’s Great America, Triton Museum of Art, Apple Park to the west, and much more. Oh, and it’s close to coastal communities like Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Carmel. Simply put, The Mission City earns its title as one of the Top 100 places to live in the US. And with some help from one of the many trusted moving companies in Santa Clara, you’ll soon be yelling, “Welcome to Santa Clara!”
Living in Santa Clara, CA: What to Know Before Moving to Santa Clara
From Silicon Valley to world-class education to a wide variety of things to do, living in Santa Clara opens up a kaleidoscope of opportunities. Along with being one of the ultimate spots for tech professionals and entrepreneurs, the city of 127,000 also offers an exceptionally high quality of life for families and retirees in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Pros and Cons of Living in Santa Clara
- Beautiful weather: Offering 260 to 300 days of annual sunshine, Santa Clara has a comfortable and enjoyable year-round climate. This climate is a nice departure from chilly, foggy San Francisco.
- Located in Silicon Valley: One of the biggest draws, if not the top one, is the city’s location in the heart of Silicon Valley, home to tech giants like Intel, NVIDIA, and Applied Materials.
- Work & play: From high-paying careers to California’s Great America theme park, you’ll find a booming economy and an endless list of fun and exciting stuff to do here.
- Prime Location: Nestled in the Bay Area, the City of Santa Clara offers quick commutes and adventures to a host of places that include SF, San Jose, Mountain View, and Palo Alto.
- Stellar education: Along with topnotch K–12 public and private schools, the area is home to Santa Clara University, which ranks #54 nationally and #12 in entrepreneurship.
- Close to coastal communities: Though there’s plenty of amazing things to see and do in the local area, Santa Clara is a short distance north of Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Carmel.
- The high cost of living: According to The 15 Most Expensive Cities in America by Business Insider, the San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara area ranks as the highest cost region in the United States.
- Astronomical home prices: There’s no way to sugarcoat it – homeownership in Santa Clara is extremely expensive. The index is a whopping 558.9 (compared to the US average of 100).
- Demanding jobs: Yes, the standard image of tech companies and startups is casual and laidback. But the reality is that employees in Silicon Valley tend to work long hours.
- Tough traffic: With all the work opportunities come heavy congestion and delays. The Bay Area is ranked the second worst area to commute (just behind the Los Angeles metro area).
- Property tax: According to the Overview of Property Taxes by SmartAsset, the average county tax rate is 0.745%. The average property tax bill is $8,940 (assessed home value of $1.2 million).
- Sales tax: The state of California has a base sales tax rate of 7.25%. With the addition of 1.75% in local taxes, the 2020 combined sales tax rate in Santa Clara is currently 9%.
- State income tax: The state currently has ten separate tax brackets. Rates range from 1% to 13.3%. A taxpayer’s rate depends on income and filing status (single or married).
The median home selling price in Santa Clara is $1.28 million. Compared to the California median home value of $561,325, it can be shocking to potential homeowners. As a result, nearly 60% of residents rent their places. The median rent is currently $2,269 per month for a 1BR apartment (or $27,228 annually) and $2,844 for a 2BR apartment (or $34,128 annually).
Here are the cheapest neighborhoods to live in Santa Clara:
- Kiely Blvd / Benton St
- Benton St / Pomeroy Ave
- Miramar Way / Halford Ave
- Bowers Ave / Camino Real
- El Camino Real / Los Padres Blvd
Cost of Living
According to the Cost of Living in Santa Clara by BestPlaces, the city has a cost of living index of 250. This index is significantly higher than the nationwide average of 100.
Here are examples of individual costs (relative to the average of 100): Groceries (115.9), Health (100.5), Housing (558.9), Utilities (93.7), and Transportation (140.5). The median household income in Santa Clara is approximately $108,600 per year. This income is higher than the US median of about $62,000.
Here are the average monthly expenses in Santa Clara County for a family of four:
- Housing = $2,522
- Food = $896
- Childcare = $1,559
- Transportation = $1,315
- Health Care = $1,039
- Other necessities = $1,379
- Taxes = $2,049
- Total = $10,758 per month or $129,092 per year
For comparison, let’s take a look at the monthly costs in San Francisco:
- Housing = $3,121
- Food = $998
- Childcare = $1,730
- Transportation = $1,114
- Health Care = $1,152
- Other necessities = $1,662
- Taxes = $2,593
- Total = $12,370 per month or $148,440 per year
Even though it’s expensive to live in either city, Santa Clara is actually more affordable than living in the San Francisco metro area – more than 13% cheaper on average!
Weather & Natural Disasters
Nestled in the Bay Area, south of San Francisco and north of Santa Cruz and other coastal communities, Santa Clara offers a temperate climate and pleasant, sunny weather.
The City of Santa Clara experiences the warmest temperatures in July and August, with July seeing an average high of 81°F and a low of 56°F. Conversely, the coldest months are December and January, with January seeing an average high of 58°F and low of 40°F. Those escaping frigid winters will love the overall warm and mild weather here!
Of course, if you love snow, Santa Clara may not be the place for you. It sees zero snow and about 15 inches of rainfall per year (along with 260+ days of sunshine). Safe to say, you’re probably not entirely heartbroken to move to such a temperate area.
As for natural disasters, earthquakes, severe storms, and power outages are the top risks. To be prepared, visit the City of Santa Clara’s Emergency Preparedness resource.
Economy & Job Market
Smack dab in the center of Silicon Valley, the City of Santa Clara is right in the middle of the action, surrounded by top tech companies like Alphabet (Google), Apple, Intel, and much more. Having grown from the semiconductor industry in the 1960s, Santa Clara has created a thriving economy.
With an unemployment rate of just 2.4% (lower than the national average of 3.9%), and the city anticipates a future job growth rate of 39.2% (higher than the US average of 33.5%). Top industries include professional, scientific, and technical services; manufacturing; healthcare and social assistance; information; and management of companies and enterprises.
Santa Clara residents earn a high average household income of more than $108,600. One thing to keep in mind, however, is work here can be quite demanding, and job security (especially for tech companies and startups) can be lacking. Nonetheless, there are myriad career and business opportunities.
Here are the Top 10 major employers in Santa Clara County:
- Adobe Inc.
- Advanced Micro Devices, Inc.
- Alphabet Inc.
- Apple Inc.
- Applied Materials, Inc.
- California’s Great America
- Christopher Ranch LLC
- Cisco Systems, Inc.
- eBay Inc.
- Flextronics International
Traffic and Transportation
When it comes to public transportation, there are a few options in Santa Clara. These include the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (bus and light rail) and Lawrence Caltrain Station. For air travel, San Jose International Airport (Silicon Valley’s airport, about 10 minutes away) and San Francisco International Airport (aka SFO, approximately 32 miles northeast of Santa Clara) are your two best options.
It’s practically a necessity to have a car here. Interstate 880 (north-south) takes you to Fremont, Hayward, and Oakland up north. Interstate 280 (north-south auxiliary) runs to San Francisco, and Interstate 680 goes up to cities like Pleasanton and Walnut Creek. Are you looking for a nice getaway along the coast? Highway 17 (north-south) travels to Santa Cruz, home of Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
According to Living in Santa Clara by Walk Score, the city has an average walk score of 58. Public transportation and walkability could use improvement, but the area is also very bikeable.
Okay, back to traffic in Santa Clara. As part of the Bay Area, some of the worst traffic congestion in the United States surrounds the city. According to The Mercury News, Bay Area traffic delays rank #2 in the country (behind Los Angeles). If you plan to commute, just be prepared for severe traffic.
What to Do
From the Intel Museum to the San Francisco 49ers to California’s Great America, Santa Clara is home to a wide variety of attractions and tourist destinations. The city might not be as well known for its offerings as neighboring cities like San Francisco and San Jose, but as the heart of Silicon Valley, the City of Santa Clara has plenty of treasures to share!
- We’ll start with parks. Mission Santa Clara, founded in 1777, is a famous Spanish mission with well-kept grounds and self-guided tours. Central Park is home to the International Swim Center, which serves as the training facility for Olympians and hopefuls. Last but not least, Ulistac Natural Area offers 40 acres of open space, ideal for picnicking, biking, hiking, and birdwatching.
- Are you looking for the top attractions and destinations in Santa Clara, CA? Theme park enthusiasts have to check out Great America. (In Summer 2020, Great America will debut South Bay Shores Waterpark.) For those into computer history, the Intel Museum – located at Intel’s headquarters – is a must-see. Santa Clara Convention Center, a 302,000 square-foot facility, holds many popular events and expos.
- Like pro sports? You’re going to love the Bay Area! At the top of the list is Levi’s Stadium, home of the San Francisco 49ers. If basketball is more your speed, the Golden State Warriors (currently led by Stephen Curry) are just up the way at Chase Center in San Francisco. Santa Clara also has several other pro teams, including the San Jose Sharks (NHL) and San Jose Earthquakes (MLS), nearby.
- There are many other popular tourist destinations and local activities, too. Triton Museum of Art houses a comprehensive collection of regional and national artwork, with an emphasis on Bay Area artists. The Winchester Mystery House is a highly popular oddity, located about 10 minutes south of Santa Clara. Are you looking for retail therapy? Check out Great Mall, California’s largest indoor outlet shopping center!
Schools and Universities
Santa Clara Unified School District and Cupertino Unified School District, which serve 15,500+ and 18,000+ students, respectively, are the primary providers of public education for the city. Santa Clara is home to some of the best schools in the nation and, overall, has a high public-education rating.
Highly-rated public schools include Cupertino High School, Adrian Wilcox High School, Christa McAuliffe Elementary School, Cupertino Middle School, and Montclaire Elementary School. As for private education, consider Sierra School, North Valley Baptist School, Stratford School – Santa Clara Pomeroy, Monticello Academy, and Granada Islamic School.
As for higher education, Santa Clara is home to one of the best universities in America, Santa Clara University, which is a private Jesuit university with around 5,400 undergraduates and 3,300 postgraduate students. There’s also Mission College, a 2-year community college.
According to Crime in Santa Clara by BestPlaces, the city has a property crime rate of 38.8. This rate is higher than the US average of 35.4 but lower than the local metro average of 34.3. Conversely, the violent crime rate (robbery, murder & non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, and aggravated assault) is only 9.0, which is much lower than the US average of 22.7 and the local metro average of 18.9.
Before you move to Santa Clara, you’ll want to schedule new utilities. Here are the primary providers:
- Gas & Electric service: The major provider in Santa Clara is Silicon Valley Power. To start gas/electricity service, visit the Residents page or call (408) 984-5111.
- Water service: Water is provided to businesses and residents by the Water Utility. New customers can visit the Water Utility page or call (408) 615-2300.
- Trash pick-up/recycling service: The city’s Garbage & Clean Green Program, contracted out to Mission Trail Waste Management and Recology, provides trash and recycling services.
- Internet/Cable service: Along with Santa Clara Free Wi-Fi, major providers include AT&T, Xfinity, DirecTV, Frontier Communications, Dish TV, Earthlink, and Verizon.
Best Neighborhoods in Santa Clara, CA
Looking for the best neighborhoods to call home in Santa Clara? Here’s our list:
Agnew (Agnew’s Village)
Dating back to the 1960s, and named after the famous 1870s pioneer, Agnew is a well-established neighborhood in the northern part of Santa Clara. It sits between Southbay Fwy (north), the 101 (southwest), Montague Expy (south), and Interstate 880 (east).
Sharing part of its border with the Guadalupe River and Castaway River (and about 5.5 miles northeast of Downtown Santa Clara), Agnew offers high-value midsize homes ranging in current list price between $749,000 and $2 million. As for things to do, the neighborhood provides proximity to Levi’s Stadium, Intel Museum, California’s Great America, and Mission Park Business Park.
- Population Type – Suburban density
- Home Price – Median home value over $1.2 million
- Rent Prices – $3,000 for 1BR apartment and $5,000 for 3BR place
- Schools – Santa Clara High School, Don Callejon School, Buchser Middle School, Kathryn Hughes Elementary School
Central Santa Clara
Family-friendly, safe, and clean, Central Santa Clara is right in the middle of everything. Home to several top schools (including Santa Clara High School and Monticello Academy), the neighborhood is bordered by El Camino Real (north), Pruneridge Ave (south), and Lawrence Expy (west).
Looking for stuff to do? Central Santa Clara is home to Santa Clara Central Park (a 52-acre park with many amenities), as well as Santa Clara City Library. Saratoga Creek travels through the community. Enjoy Asian cuisine? Orenchi Ramen is popular spot.
- Population – Under 20,600 residents
- Home Price – Ranges from $600,000 to $1.6 million
- Rent Prices – $2,500 for studio and $3,800 for 3BR place
- Schools – Santa Clara High School, Monticello Academy, Stratford School- Santa Clara Pomeroy, Pomeroy Elementary School
Kentfield, southeast of Central Santa Clara and about three miles southwest of the downtown area, is a smaller neighborhood with cozy and cheaper housing options that include attached properties, condos, and single-family homes. It borders Kiely Blvd (west) and Mauricia Ave (south).
As a well-established neighborhood – it was built in 1971 – Kentfield provides quick access to the San Tomas Expressway to the east. Homes range in value from $220,000 to $960,000 with average-size lots. Barnes & Noble Booksellers and Tao Tao Restaurant are popular places in the area.
- Population – Under 1,000 residents
- Home Price – Median home value over $800,000
- Rent Prices – $2,750 for 1BR condo and $3,250 for 2BR place
- Schools – Cupertino High School, Dwight E. Eisenhower Elementary School, Warren E. Hyde Middle School
Lawrence and El Camino
Situated in the Koreatown area and north of Central Santa Clara, Lawrence and El Camino is a peaceful and family-friendly neighborhood of approximately 4,300. It’s three miles west of the downtown area, and 53% of residents are homeowners.
Close to Sunnyvale, which is to the west of Santa Clara, Lawrence and El Camino offers a close-knit community and easy commutes to its neighboring city and other popular areas to work and play. Top spots to check out are La Paloma Mexican Restaurant, Trader Joe’s, Cold Stone Creamery, and Baskin-Robbins. Sunken Gardens Golf Course and Ponderosa Park are close by, too.
- Population – Under 4,400 residents
- Home Price – Median home value over $1.25 million
- Rent Prices – $2,500 for studio and $3,800 for 3BR place
- Schools – Santa Clara High School, Peterson Middle School, Briarwood Elementary School
Oakmead, less than four miles northwest of downtown, is a neighborhood of less than 10,400 where Highway 101 and Montague Expressway intersect. Approximately 54% of neighborhood residents are homeowners. Oakmead offers a strong sense of community and convenient access to many top companies and commute routes.
Top interests for residents include home improvement & DIY, dogs (and dog walking), and hiking. As for popular spots, the community is home to (or close) to Santa Clara Square Marketplace, AMC Mercado 20, Leigh’s Favorite Books, Whole Foods Market, and K1 Speed Indoor Go Karts. It’s also where you can find Qualcomm, Veritas Technologies, Palo Alto Networks, NVIDIA Corporation, and more.
- Population – Under 10,400 residents
- Home Price – Ranges from $800,000 to $2.1 million
- Rent Prices – $2,750 for 1BR apartment and $3,300 for 2BR place
- Schools – Santa Clara High School, Adrian Wilcox High School, Mission College, University of California Santa Clara Extension in Silicon Valley
Technically part of Sunnyvale, Ponderosa Park is a popular neighborhood for those that spend most of their time working in Santa Clara. It borders E Evelyn Ave (north), Lawrence Expy (east), El Camino Real (south), and S Wolfe Rd (west). About 66% of residents own their homes.
Less than three miles north of Santa Clara’s downtown area, Ponderosa Park is considered a quiet and walkable neighborhood. It’s home to the Sunken Gardens Golf Course, as well as Ponderosa Elementary School and Shambhavi’s International School of Kathak.
- Population – Under 14,000 residents
- Home Price – Median home value over $1.09 million
- Rent Prices – $2,400 for a 1BR apartment
- Schools – Santa Clara High School, Ponderosa Elementary School, Peterson Middle School, Shambhavi’s International School of Kathak
Rivermark, which is technically part of the Agnew community, is a highly desirable neighborhood constructed in 2004. It borders Guadalupe River (east) and Montague Expressway (south) and is just a little over 4 miles north of Downtown Santa Clara.
As a master-planned and family-friendly community, Rivermark sits on a 152-acre parcel with parks, retail space, apartments, condos, and townhouses. It’s home to Northside Branch Library, Thamien Park, as well as other popular spots like Armadillo Willy’s BBQ, Stan’s Donut Shop, and In-N-Out Burger.
- Population – Under 12,900 residents
- Home Price – Median home value over $1.29 million
- Rent Prices – $3,000 for 1BR apartment and $5,000 for 2BR place
- Schools – Santa Clara High School, Don Callejon School, Buchser Middle School
Our last stop takes us to Westwood. Less than three miles east of downtown, the neighborhood of fewer than 4,000 borders Winchester Blvd (east), Pruneridge Ave (south), and Saratoga Ave (west). About 41% of residents are homeowners, and homes (typically 3BR, 2BA) sit on quarter-acre lots.
Neighborly and family-friendly, Westwood is also a very bikeable area. It’s home to Mission City Memorial Park, along with Le Parc Apartments and close to Henry Schmidt Park and Pruneridge Golf Club. Santa Clara University is just to the northeast of the neighborhood.
- Population – Under 3,900 residents
- Home Price – Median home value over $1.09 million
- Rent Prices – $2,500 for studio and $4,500 for 4BR place
- Schools – Westwood Elementary School, Campbell Union (K–8), Campbell Union High School, Santa Clara High School, Del Mar High School, Monroe Middle School
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