“It’s all strip malls.”

10 San Jose neighborhoods offering more than just strip malls.

Noor Ali-Hasan
May 23 · 4 min read
The palm tree lined streets of Palm Haven. Photo by author.

I was having lunch at a team offsite (remember those?) a couple of years ago. A bunch of us who normally don’t work together were sitting at a table chatting about the things that people chat about when they don’t really know each other that well. Somehow the topic of where people live and how long their commutes are came up. One woman talked about how much she hated the South Bay. “It’s all strip malls. No character,” she proclaimed. It was an odd (rude?) statement to make given that you could probably characterize most of California as a bunch of strip malls. At the time, I had been living in the Bay Area (mostly in the South Bay) for over 10 years and I knew there were pockets that had a ton of character. Now that I’ve had had a tour of fifty homes across the South Bay, I can assure you that this woman was full of shit. Here are 10 neighborhoods (in no particular order) that prove this woman wrong:

Old Quad. Situated near Santa Clara University is the Old Quad, a neighborhood of historic homes and buildings. There seems to be a lot of Craftsman and Victorian homes in this neighborhood. And a lot of the homes that I saw here were in walking distance to cafes and restaurants.

A home that was for sale in Cory in Fall 2020. Photo by author.

Cory. If you haven’t heard of Cory, you’re not alone. Every time I’d mention to someone that I was looking for homes in Cory, they’d look puzzled. Cory seems to be North San Jose’s best kept secret (it’s close to Valley Fair and Santana Row). Cory features tract style homes built in the 1950s. I liked a lot of things about Cory. It’s location meant that it would be an easy commute to tech companies further north in the Peninsula (and a faster commute to San Francisco on weekends). The homes were all beautifully maintained. And it always seemed so quiet.

Downing. Near downtown Campbell and the Pruneyard is Downing, a neighborhood of well maintained tract style homes. Compared to some of the other neighborhoods on this list, Downing doesn’t have as much character but it’s in a great location.

A home in Willow Glen that was for sale in fall 2020. Photo by author.

Willow Glen. If you’re looking for a home in San Jose, then you probably already know about Willow Glen. Willow Glen is a great neighborhood in Southwest San Jose that features it’s very own little downtown of restaurants, cafes, and shops. Aside from the downtown, what makes Willow Glen unique is its holiday celebrations, especially Halloween and Christmas. Homeowners really get into the holiday decorating with some very impressive displays. A couple of downsides to Willow Glen — the schools aren’t great and it can be a hike of a commute to the Peninsula or San Francisco.

An Eichler in Fairglen that was for sale in early 2021. Photo by author.

Fairglen. In South Willow Glen, there’s a pocket neighborhood of Eichlers called Fairglen. If you love Eichlers and mid-century design, you have to check out Fairglen. The Fairglen Eichlers are even on the National Historic Register.

Palm Haven. In North Willow Glen, there’s another pocket neighborhood called Palm Haven. The neighborhood is characterized by 100 foot tall palm trees that line several streets. The neighborhood features ornate street signs that remind me of 1920s Hollywood (not that I’ve been to 1920s Hollywood). Noise from the freeway, Caltrain, and San Jose airport is an issue here, though.

Naglee Park. Close to San Jose State and downtown San Jose is the historic neighborhood of Naglee Park. If you love historic architecture (think Craftsman, Tudors, and Victorians), you’re going to love Naglee Park.

Rose Garden. As the name implies, Rose Garden is a historic residential neighborhood surrounding the San Jose Municipal Rose Garden. Most homes in Rose Garden were well beyond my budget so I’m not sure I even saw any homes here. But even if you’re in the same boat as me, Rose Garden is still worth a visit. It’s fun to stroll through the neighborhood and look at the historic homes … some even qualify as mansions!

Shasta Hanchette Park. Bordering Rose Garden and The Alameda is the Shasta Hanchette Park neighborhood. I found homes here to be a bit more affordable than Rose Garden but they were just as historic and full of character (though some were significantly smaller). Shasta Hanchette’s proximity to The Alameda means that if you buy a home here you’ll be in walking distance to restaurants, cafes, shops, and a newish Whole Foods.

Hyde Park. Close to downtown San Jose is yet another neighborhood of older homes full of character called Hyde Park. The homes that I saw in this neighborhood were well maintained and full of charm. But the neighborhood is bordered by some fairly industrial areas that weren’t to my liking.

Good luck with your search!

Little Pink Taqueria

First time home buyer. Silicon Valley. Renovations. What could go wrong?

Noor Ali-Hasan

Written by

I’m a UX research lead at Google, where I help teams design and build desirable and easy to use products. Outside of work, I love art, Peloton, and Lego.

Little Pink Taqueria

Renovating a 1949 bungalow in the Palm Haven neighborhood of San Jose, CA.

Noor Ali-Hasan

Written by

I’m a UX research lead at Google, where I help teams design and build desirable and easy to use products. Outside of work, I love art, Peloton, and Lego.

Little Pink Taqueria

Renovating a 1949 bungalow in the Palm Haven neighborhood of San Jose, CA.

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