Los Altos, California

Not to be confused with Los Altos Hills, California.
Los Altos, California

A City of Los Altos entrance marker, located in Lincoln Park just off of Main Street

Location in Santa Clara County and the state of California
Los Altos, California

Location in the United States

Coordinates: 37°22′5″N 122°5′51″W / 37.36806°N 122.09750°W / 37.36806; -122.09750Coordinates: 37°22′5″N 122°5′51″W / 37.36806°N 122.09750°W / 37.36806; -122.09750
Country  United States
State  California
County Santa Clara
Incorporated December 1, 1952[1]
  Type Council/Manager[2]
  Mayor Jeannie Bruins[3]
  City manager Marcia Somers[4]
  Total 6.487 sq mi (16.80 km2)
  Land 6.487 sq mi (16.80 km2)
  Water 0 sq mi (0 km2)
Elevation[6] 157 ft (48 m)
Population (April 1, 2010)[7]
  Total 28,976
  Estimate (2013)[7] 30,010
  Density 4,500/sq mi (1,700/km2)
Time zone Pacific Time Zone (UTC−8)
  Summer (DST) PDT (UTC−7)
ZIP codes 94022–94024
Area code 650
FIPS code 06-43280
GNIS feature IDs 1659745, 2410876
Website www.losaltosca.gov

Los Altos i/lɔːs ˈælts/ is a city at the southern end of the San Francisco Peninsula, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The city is in Santa Clara County, California, United States. The population was 28,976 according to the 2010 census.

Most of the city's growth occurred between 1950 and 1980. Originally an agricultural town with many summer cottages and apricot orchards, Los Altos is now an affluent bedroom community. Los Altos has several distinctive features. Commercial zones are strictly limited to the downtown area and small shopping and office parks lining Foothill Expressway and El Camino Real.

Homes and other real estate are costly in Los Altos. The median household income of Los Altos for 2009–2013 was $157,907.[8] The average listing price in 2014 was $1.96 million.[9] In 2015, Forbes put Los Altos (ZIP codes 94022 and 94024) as the 11th and 57th most expensive ZIP codes in the United States.[10]

Los Altos means "the heights" in Spanish.


The area was originally called Banks and Braes.[11] Paul Shoup, an executive of the Southern Pacific Railroad, and his colleagues formed the Altos Land Company in 1906 and started the development of Los Altos. The company acquired 140 acres of land from Sarah Winchester. Shoup wanted to link Palo Alto and Los Gatos by making Los Altos a commuter town. It continued a train a day operation to and from San Francisco.

In 1908, Southern Pacific Railroad began running steam train service through Los Altos (April 19, 1908) with five trains per day. Two freight cars served as train depot. Also, the first commercial building, Eschenbruecher’s Hardware, was built in downtown.[11]

In 1913, the craftsman-style Los Altos train station was built at 288 First Street.

By 1949, many residents were dissatisfied with the zoning policy of Santa Clara county. Also, there was a constant threat of being annexed by neighboring Palo Alto and Mountain View,[12] so they decided to incorporate. Los Altos became the eleventh city in Santa Clara county on December 1, 1952.

Train service stopped its operation in January, 1964, and the train track became Foothill Expressway.[12]

In 1976, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, along with others including Ronald Wayne, built the first 50 Apple I's in Jobs's garage in Los Altos. Jobs, Wozniak, and Wayne founded Apple Computer, Inc on 1 April 1976.[13]

In 2004, Mark Zuckerberg rented a home in Los Altos where he and other early Facebook employees developed the then-nascent company.[14]


Los Altos is located at 37°22′5″N 122°5′51″W / 37.36806°N 122.09750°W / 37.36806; -122.09750 (37.36819, −122.097511).[15] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.487 square miles (16.80 km2). All of it is land.


Los Altos is crossed by three creeks that flow north to San Francisco Bay, Adobe Creek on its western boundary, Stevens Creek on its eastern boundary and Permanente Creek in the middle. Hale Creek is tributary to Permanente Creek, and Permanente Creek is now largely diverted to Stevens Creek by a diversion channel. All three creeks originate on the flanks of Black Mountain.


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 201530,671[16]5.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[17]


The 2010 United States Census[18] reported that Los Altos had a population of 28,976. The population density was 4466.8 people per square mile (1724.6/km2). The racial makeup of Los Altos was 20,459 (70.6%) White, 148 (0.5%) African American, 48 (0.2%) Native American, 6,815 (23.5%) Asian, 59 (0.2%) Pacific Islander, 195 (0.7%) from other races, and 1,252 (4.3%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1,132 persons (3.9%).

The Census reported that 28,749 people (99.2% of the population) lived in households, 34 (0.1%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 193 (0.7%) were institutionalized.

There were 10,745 households, out of which 4,067 (37.9%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 7,476 (69.6%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 599 (5.6%) had a female householder with no husband present, 228 (2.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 199 (1.9%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 55 (0.5%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 2,086 households (19.4%) were made up of individuals and 1,228 (11.4%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.68. There were 8,303 families (77.3% of all households); the average family size was 3.08.

The population was spread out with 7,560 people (26.1%) under the age of 18, 1,006 people (3.5%) aged 18 to 24, 5,273 people (18.2%) aged 25 to 44, 9,353 people (32.3%) aged 45 to 64, and 5,784 people (20.0%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 46.2 years. For every 100 females there were 93.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.9 males.

There were 11,204 housing units at an average density of 1727.1 per square mile (666.9/km2), of which 9,002 (83.8%) were owner-occupied, and 1,743 (16.2%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 0.7%; the rental vacancy rate was 5.0%. 24,669 people (85.1% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 4,080 people (14.1%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[19] of 2000, there were 27,693 people, 10,462 households, and 8,024 families residing in the city. The population density was 4269 people per square mile (1648.3/km2). There were 10,727 housing units at an average density of 1653.6 per square mile (638.5/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 80.35% White, 15.42% Asian, 0.47% African American, 0.17% Native American, 0.16% Pacific Islander, 0.66% from other races, and 2.44% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino residents of any race constituted 3.76% of the population.

Of 10,462 households, 33.6% had minor children living with them, 69.4% were married couples living together, 5.4% had a female head with no husband present, and 23.3% were non-families. 18.7% were singles including 9.8% 65 or older. The average household size was 2.61 and the average family size was 2.98.

The median age was 44 years, much higher than the 35.3 national figure. 23.7% were under 18, 3.5% from 18 to 24, 24.5% from 25 to 44, 29.1% from 45 to 64, and 19.3% were 65 years of age or older. For every 100 females there were 93.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.0 males.


Approximately 2,900 people would have considered themselves a resident of Los Altos.[12]


In 2015, Forbes placed Los Altos (ZIP codes 94022 and 94024) as the 11th and 57th most expensive ZIP codes in the United States, behind such cities as Atherton, California and Sagaponack, New York. For the 94022 ZIP code, which includes parts of Los Altos Hills, California the median home price is $4.9 million with an average of 120 days on the market. For the 94024 ZIP code, the median home price is $2.8 million with an average of 36 days on the market.[20]

Top employers

According to the City's 2010 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report,[21] the top employers in the city are:

Top employers in Los Altos
# Employer # of Employees
1 Los Altos School District 568
2 Los Altos High School 217
3 Whole Foods Market 198
4 Coldwell Banker 190
5 Covenant Care 163
6 Alain Pinel Realtors 150
7 City of Los Altos 130
8 Adobe Animal Hospital 125
9 The Terraces at Los Altos 120
10 David and Lucile Packard Foundation 100
11 Guardsman Inc 100
12 United States Postal Service 100
13 Palo Alto Medical Foundation 85


In the California State Legislature, Los Altos is in the 13th Senate District, represented by Democrat Jerry Hill, and in the 24th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Marc Berman.[22]

In the United States House of Representatives, Los Altos is in California's 18th congressional district, represented by Democrat Anna Eshoo.[23]


Public education

Primary and middle school students attend schools in the Los Altos School District, the Cupertino Union School District, or Bullis Charter School (K-8). The Los Altos School District has one of the highest average API scores in California and includes seven elementary schools in the Los Altos–Mountain View area.

Local residents generally attend high school in one of two public school districts: Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District, or Fremont Union High School District.

All of the public schools are highly regarded,[24] and many graduates of Los Altos area high schools continue their education at well-known universities.

Private education

Los Altos is also served by highly regarded private and religious schools. St. Nicholas School, St. Simon School, Miramonte Elementary School, (JrK-8th)[25] Canterbury Christian School (K-6th),[26] the Lower and Middle Campuses (K-6th) of Pinewood School, The School for Independent Learners[27] and Waldorf School of the Peninsula's lower school campus[28] are located within city limits. Others nearby include St. Francis High School (Mountain View), Mountain View Academy,[29] and The King's Academy (Sunnyvale).[30] Other schools farther away with students from Los Altos include Mitty High School, Menlo School, Woodside Priory School, Castilleja School, The Harker School, and Bellarmine College Preparatory.

Public libraries

Santa Clara County Library operates the Los Altos Library and the Woodland Branch Library in Los Altos.[31]

Parks and conservation

Mallard in May just above Fremont Street bridge; the creek now runs dry by summer.

Adobe Creek flows through Redwood Grove, a 5.9-acre (2.4 ha) nature preserve off University Avenue in Los Altos purchased by the city in 1974. In October 2009 Los Altos contracted with Acterra to remove non-native plants and revitalize the redwood, oak woodland, riparian and grassland ecosystems by installing native plants, improving soil conditions, and creating habitat for wildlife such as bird houses and native bee boxes.[32] The Coast Redwoods (Sequoia sempervirens) were transplanted by the Halsey family from a location on Summit Road in the Santa Cruz Mountains and replaced the native willows. The historic Halsey House, built in the late 1920s by Theodore and Emma Halsey, is a good example of Spanish Revival architecture. The city designated Halsey House a local landmark in 1981 and until recently it housed the Florence Fava collection of Coastanoan or Ohlone Indian artifacts from a nearby archeological excavation in Los Altos Hills (now moved to the Los Altos History House).[33] On June 16, 2010 the Los Altos City Council finalized the purchase of 10,000 square feet (930 m2) of creekside property from Delbert and Marlene Beumer, who wanted to provide a safe pathway connecting Shoup Park and Redwood Grove.[34]

Steelhead trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) occurred historically in Adobe Creek. However, tidal gates at the mouth of Adobe Creek as well as culverts at the El Camino Real and Interstate 280 overpasses probably preclude the passage of migrating salmonids, even though the reaches upstream from Hidden Villa have been judged excellent trout habitat.[35]


Los Altos has a variety of youth-oriented sports organizations, programs, and after-school activities. Some examples:


The Los Altos Town Crier, a weekly, is the primary newspaper for the town, "serving the Hometown of Silicon Valley since 1947."[40] The San Jose Mercury News is the primary daily newspaper serving the town, delivering a Peninsula Section to Los Altans and locations north in lieu of the Local section delivered to those in San Jose and other communities closer to San Jose.

Design and planning

Los Altos strives to maintain a semi-rural atmosphere. Los Altos has few sidewalks except in commercial zones and along arterial roads. Minimum lot size for most residential housing is one-quarter of an acre. Most roads have broad dirt shoulders and little or no street lighting. The civic center sits in the middle of an orchard, a remnant of those that once covered the area. The downtown is a triangle with arterials on all sides that enable most through traffic to bypass Main Street. Many Los Altos homes fetch $2 million and higher, putting the city (along with neighboring Los Altos Hills, with which it shares ZIP codes) at numbers 24 and 28 on Forbes' "Most Expensive ZIP Codes in America" list in 2007.[41]

Since the mid-1990s, downtown Los Altos has experienced mild economic difficulties due to competition from nearby shopping centers and chain stores, as well as its lack of a hotel or movie theater. Revitalizing downtown is a major issue in city politics.[42]

Los Altos may have a legitimate claim to having the first scientifically designed sound baffle in the year 1970. Santa Clara County undertook a seminal study to calculate the effects of alternate soundwall designs along Foothill Expressway.[43] The resulting wall brought about the predicted reduction of seven to ten decibels in noise pollution levels experienced by adjacent homes.

Los Altos History Museum

Located in one of Santa Clara Valley's few remaining apricot orchards, the Los Altos History Museum explores the rich history of local people and how the use of the land over time has transformed the agricultural paradise once known as the "Valley of Heart's Delight" into the technology hub that is today's Silicon Valley.

Opened in spring of 2001 adjacent to the Los Altos Library, the Los Altos History Museum occupies an 8,200-square-foot (760 m2) building – built entirely with private donations; ownership went to the town in 2002. The Museum features a changing exhibits gallery as well as the permanent exhibit, "Crown of the Peninsula".

With the mission to "collect, preserve and interpret the history of the Los Altos area," the Museum includes interactive exhibits and hands-on activities to encourage children and adults to learn about the community. Other programs include third and fourth grade tours and curricula for local school children, oral history collections, a traveling Ohlone kit, and much more.

There's more history just across the lushly landscaped courtyard in the landmark J. Gilbert Smith House. Built in 1905 and refurbished, the home nestles under majestic heritage oaks and replicates a 1930s farmhouse. Visitors are welcome to enjoy the gardens and picnic tables even when the House and Museum are closed.

Natural disasters

A store in disarray following the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.


Los Altos is near the San Andreas Fault and subject to earthquakes.


Notable residents and former residents

Sister cities

Los Altos has four sister cities, as designated by Sister Cities International:

Neighboring cities


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  2. "Welcome to the Office of the City Manager". City of Los Altos. Retrieved February 2, 2015.
  3. "Council Members". City of Los Altos. Retrieved December 10, 2015.
  4. "Contact the City Manager". City of Los Altos. Retrieved February 9, 2015.
  5. "2010 Census U.S. Gazetteer Files – Places – California". United States Census Bureau.
  6. "Los Altos". Geographic Names Information System. United States Geological Survey. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  7. 1 2 "Los Altos (city) QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved April 7, 2015.
  8. "State & County QuickFacts.".
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  12. 1 2 3 McDonald, Don. Early Los Altos and Los Altos Hills. Arcadia Publishing. p. 8. ISBN 978-0-7385-8010-4.
  13. |title: No Starch Press |author: Owen Linzmayer |work: The Denver Post |accessdate=2013-07-11
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  16. "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016.
  17. "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  18. "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Los Altos city". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  19. "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  20. Schiffman, Betsy (November 10, 2015). "Full List: America's Most Expensive ZIP Codes 2015". Forbes. Retrieved 2015-11-10.
  21. "City of Los Altos Comprehensive Annual Financial Report For the Fiscal Year Ended June 30, 2010" (pdf). Retrieved 2013-11-04.
  22. "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved November 21, 2014.
  23. "California's 18th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC.
  24. Blitzer, Carol (March 6, 1995). "Building on Success". San Jose Business Journal. sec. S, p. 3.
  25. "Miramonte Elementary School". Retrieved 2012-11-14.
  26. "Canterbury Christian School". Retrieved 2012-11-14.
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  28. Waldorf School of the Peninsula
  29. "Mountain View Academy". Retrieved 2012-11-14.
  30. "The King's Academy". Retrieved 2012-11-14.
  31. "Welcome to the Los Altos Library". Santa Clara County Library. Retrieved 2010-03-27.
  32. Seshadri, Jana (October 8, 2009). "City council signs agreement to restore Redwood Grove". Los Altos Town Crier. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
  33. Ridgway, Eliza (June 3, 2009). "Science learning, restoration in works for Redwood Grove". Los Altos Town Crier. Retrieved 2010-01-13.
  34. Luther, Nicholas (June 22, 2010). "City purchases land to connect Shoup Park, Redwood Grove". Los Altos Town Crier. Retrieved 2010-06-25.
  35. Leidy, R.A.; Becker, G.S.; Harvey, B.N. (2005). "Historical distribution and current status of steelhead/rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss) in streams of the San Francisco Estuary, California." (pdf). Center for Ecosystem Management and Restoration, Oakland, CA. Retrieved 2009-10-18.
  36. "Organization: About our club". MVLASC. April 22, 2008. Archived from the original on June 24, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
  37. "About LA-MV PONY". LA-MV Pony Baseball. June 17, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
  38. "About WVPW". West Valley Pop Warner. June 19, 2008. Archived from the original on July 5, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-20.
  39. "Youth Basketball League is a slam dunk for area kids". Los Altos Town Crier. March 16, 1998.
  40. "Los Altos Town Crier". Los Altos Town Crier. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
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  42. McPherson, Sarah (April 6, 2005). "Small Town, Hard Sell: Village leader trying to pump up downtown". San Jose Mercury News. sec. B, p. 1.
  43. Hogan, C. Michael; Seidman, Harry (October 1970). "Design of Noise Abatement Structures along Foothill Expressway, Los Altos, California". County of Santa Clara Public Works Department.
  44. "Los Altos Shake map for SF Earthquake (Choose Los Altos and then San Andreas (1906 Quake) to see map)". Retrieved 2012-11-14.
  45. "Downtown Los Altos Farmers' Market". Urban Village Farmers Market Association. Retrieved 2011-03-01.
  46. http://www.billboard.com/articles/news/79345/bluesman-john-lee-hooker-dies

External links

Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Los Altos.
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Los Altos, California.

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