Los Gatos

 

The town of Los Gatos is an incorporated town in Santa Clara County, California.  The population was 29,413 at the 2010 census.  According to Bloomberg Businessweek, Los Gatos is ranked the 33rd wealthiest city in the United States.  It is located in the San Francisco Bay Area at the southwest corner of San Jose in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Los Gatos is part of Silicon Valley, with several high technology companies maintaining a presence there.

The name Los Gatos is Spanish, meaning "the cats". The name derives from the 1839 Alta California land-grant that encompassed the area, which was called La Rinconada de Los Gatos, ("Cat's Corner"), where "the cats" refers to the mountain lions and bobcats that are indigenous to the foothills in which the town is located.

The town's founding dates to the mid-1850s with the building of a flour operation, Forbes Mill, by James Alexander Forbes along Los Gatos Creek. The mill's two-story stone storage annex has been preserved as a museum just off of Main Street.

The settlement that was established in the 1860s was originally named for the mill, but the name was changed to Los Gatos after the Spanish land grant. The town was incorporated in 1887 and remained an important town for the logging industry in the Santa Cruz Mountains through the end of the 19th century. In the early 20th century, the town became a thriving agricultural town with apricots, grapes and prunes being grown in the area. By the 1920s, the Los Gatos area had a local reputation as an arts colony, attracting painters, musicians, writers, actors and their bohemian associates as residents over the years. The violinist Yehudi Menuhin lived lived there as a boy; the actresses Joan Fontaine and Olivia de Havilland (sisters) were graduates of Los Gatos High School, John Steinbeck wrote The Grapes of Wrath there (the location is now located in Monte Sereno), and Beat hero Neal Cassady lived there in the 1950s. Along with much of the Santa Clara Valley, Los Gatos became a suburban community for San Jose beginning in the 1950s, and the town was mostly built-out by the 1980s.

Downtown Los Gatos has retained and restored many of its Victorian-era homes and commercial buildings. Other notable buildings are the Forbes Mill annex, dating to 1880 and now housing a history museum; Los Gatos High School which dates from the 1920s; and the Old Town Shopping Center, formerly the University Avenue School (the school was established in 1882; the current buildings date to 1923).

A number of brick buildings in Downtown Los Gatos were destroyed or seriously damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, though the district was quickly rebuilt and has made a full recovery. Recently the Main Street Bridge has emulated the Ponte des Artes bridge in Paris by displaying love locks for anniversaries and engagements.

Los Gatos experiences nearly the same temperatures as San Jose, just slightly warmer and with more rain. Los Gatos has a Mediterranean climate like much of California. January's average high is 63 °F (17 °C) and the low is 43 °F (6 °C) while July's average high is 86 °F (30 °C) and low is 57 °F (14 °C). Los Gatos has a Zone 10 hardiness zone. Daytime high temperatures very rarely stay below 50 °F (10 °C). Los Gatos rarely gets a hard frost. Los Gatos gets the slight winter chill that is needed to grow grapes and have vineyards. Certain types of bananas (the types that ripen in three months) grow well during the summer.

The record high temperature was 114 °F (46 °C) on June 14, 1961, and the record low temperature was 16 °F (−9 °C) on December 22, 1990. There are an average of 27.0 days annually with highs of 90 °F (32 °C) or higher and an average of 5.0 days annually with lows of 32 °F (0 °C) or lower. Rainfall averages 21.2 inches annually and falls on an average of 59 days annually. The wettest year was 1909 with 51.77 inches and the driest year was 2007 with 9.47 inches (241 mm). The most rainfall in one month was 26.56 inches in December 1955 and the most rainfall in 24 hours was 8.48 inches on December 23, 1955. Although snow sometimes falls in the nearby Santa Cruz Mountains, it is very rare in Los Gatos. The most snow on record was 2.0 inches in February 1976. Los Gatos averages 330 sunny days per year.