San Jose is the economic, cultural, and political center of Silicon Valley and the largest city in Northern California. With an estimated 2015 population of 1,026,908, it is the third most populous city in California (after Los Angeles and San Diego) and the tenth most populous in United States. Located in the center of the Santa Clara Valley, on the southern shore of San Francisco Bay, San Jose covers an area of 179.97 square miles (466.109 km2). San Jose is the county seat of Santa Clara County, the most affluent county in California and one of the most affluent counties in the United States. San Jose is the largest city in both the San Francisco Bay Area and the San Jose-San Francisco-Oakland Combined Statistical Area, which contain 7.7 million and 8.7 million people respectively.
Before the arrival of the Spanish, the area around San Jose was inhabited by the Ohlone people. San Jose was founded on November 29, 1777, as the Pueblo of San José de Guadalupe, the first civilian town founded in Spanish Alta California. When California gained statehood in 1850, San Jose became the state’s first capital. Following World War II, San Jose experienced an economic boom, with a rapid population growth and aggressive annexation of nearby cities and communities carried out in the 1950s and 60s. The rapid growth of the high-technology and electronics industries further accelerated the transition from an agricultural center to an urbanized metropolitan area. Results of the 1990 U.S. Census indicated that San Jose had officially surpassed San Francisco as the most populous city in Northern California. By the 1990s, San Jose and the rest of Silicon Valley had become the global center for the high tech and internet industries.
San Jose is considered to be a global city, notable for its affluence and high cost of living. San Jose’s location within the booming high tech industry, as a cultural, political, and economic center has earned the city the nickname “Capital of Silicon Valley”. San Jose is one of the wealthiest major cities in the United States and the world, and has the third highest GDP per capita in the world (after Zurich, Switzerland and Oslo, Norway), according to the Brookings Institution. With a median home price of $1,085,000, San Jose has the most expensive housing market in the country and the fifth most expensive housing market in the world, according to the 2017 Demographia International Housing Affordability Survey. Major global tech companies including Cisco Systems, eBay, Adobe Systems, PayPal, Brocade, Samsung, Acer, and Western Digital maintain their headquarters in San Jose, in the center of Silicon Valley.
The city is generally divided into the following areas: Downtown San Jose, Central, West San Jose, North San Jose, East San Jose, and South San Jose. Many of these regions were originally unincorporated communities or separate municipalities that were later annexed by the city. Besides those mentioned above, some well-known communities within San Jose include Japantown, Rose Garden, Sunol-Midtown, Willow Glen, Naglee Park, Burbank, Winchester, Alviso, East Foothills, Alum Rock, Little Portugal, Blossom Valley, Cambrian, Almaden Valley, Silver Creek Valley, Evergreen Valley, Edenvale, Santa Teresa, Seven Trees, Coyote Valley, and Berryessa.
San Jose’s urban sprawl was made by the design of “Dutch” Hamann, the City Manager from 1950 to 1969. During his administration, with his staff referred to as “Dutch’s Panzer Division,” the city annexed property 1,389 times, growing the city from 17 to 149 square miles (44 to 386 km2), absorbing the communities named above, changing their status to “neighborhoods.”
Sales taxes were a chief source of revenue. Hamann would determine where major shopping areas would be, and then annex narrow bands of land along major roadways leading to those locations, pushing tentacles across the Santa Clara Valley and, in turn, walling off the expansion of adjacent communities.
During his reign, it was said the City Council would vote according to Hamann’s nod. In 1963, the State of California imposed Local Agency Formation Commissions statewide, but largely to try to maintain order with San Jose’s aggressive growth. Eventually the political forces against growth grew as local neighborhoods bonded together to elect their own candidates, ending Hamann’s influence and leading to his resignation. While the job was not complete, the trend was set. The city had defined its sphere of influence in all directions, sometimes chaotically leaving unincorporated pockets to be swallowed up by the behemoth, sometimes even at the objection of the residents.
Important landmarks in San Jose include Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, History Park at Kelley Park, Cathedral Basilica of St. Joseph, Plaza de César Chávez, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Mexican Heritage Plaza, Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum, Lick Observatory, Hayes Mansion, SAP Center at San Jose, Hotel De Anza, San Jose Improv, San Jose Municipal Stadium, Spartan Stadium, Japantown San Jose, Winchester Mystery House, Raging Waters, Circle of Palms Plaza, San Jose City Hall, San Jose Flea Market, Oak Hill Memorial Park, and The Tech Museum of Innovation.
San Jose lies close to the Pacific Ocean and close to San Francisco Bay (a small portion of its northern border touches the bay). Santa Clara Valley is the population center of the Bay Area and, like the hub and spokes of a wheel, surrounding communities emanate outwards from the valley. This growth, in part, has shaped the greater Bay Area as it is today in terms of geographic population distribution and the trend of suburbanization away from the valley.
There are four distinct valleys in the city of San Jose: Almaden Valley, situated on the southwest fringe of the city; Evergreen Valley to the southeast, which is hilly all throughout its interior; Santa Clara Valley, which includes the flat, main urban expanse of the South Bay; and the rural Coyote Valley, to the city’s extreme southern fringe.
The large concentration of high-technology engineering, computer, and microprocessor companies around San Jose has led the area to be known as Silicon Valley. As the largest city in the valley, San Jose has billed itself “the capital of Silicon Valley.” Area schools such as the University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Santa Cruz, San Jose State University, San Francisco State University, California State University, East Bay, Santa Clara University, and Stanford University pump thousands of engineering and computer science graduates into the local economy every year.
High economic growth during the tech bubble caused employment, housing prices, and traffic congestion to peak in the late 1990s. As the economy slowed in the early 2000s, employment and traffic congestion diminished somewhat. In the mid-2000s, traffic along major highways again began to worsen as the economy improved. San Jose had 405,000 jobs within its city limits in 2006, and an unemployment rate of 4.6%. In 2000, San Jose residents had the highest median household income of any city in the United States with a population over 300,000, and currently has the highest median income of any U.S. city with over 280,000 people.
The cost of living in San Jose and the surrounding areas is among the highest in California and the nation, according to 2004 data. Housing costs are the primary reason for the high cost of living, although the costs in all areas tracked by the ACCRA Cost of Living Index are above the national average. Households in the city limits have the highest disposable income of any city in the U.S. with over 500,000 residents.
San Jose lists many companies with 1,000 employees or more, including the headquarters of Adobe, Altera, Brocade Communications Systems, Cadence Design Systems, Cisco Systems, eBay, Lee’s Sandwiches, Lumileds, PayPal, Rosendin Electric, Sanmina-SCI, and Xilinx, as well as major facilities for Becton Dickinson, Ericsson, Hewlett-Packard, Hitachi, IBM, Kaiser Permanente, KLA Tencor, Lockheed Martin, Nippon Sheet Glass, Qualcomm, and AF Media Group. The North American headquarters of Samsung Semiconductor are located in San Jose. Approximately 2000 employees will work at the new Samsung campus which opened in 2015. Other large companies based in San Jose include Altera, Atmel, CEVA, Cypress Semiconductor, Echelon, Extreme Networks, Harmonic, Integrated Device Technology, Maxim Integrated, Micrel, Move, Netgear, Novellus Systems, Oclaro, OCZ, Online Trading Academy, Quantum, SunPower, Sharks Sports and Entertainment, Supermicro, Tessera Technologies, TiVo, Ultratech, and VeriFone. Sizable government employers include the city government, Santa Clara County, and San Jose State University. Acer’s United States division has its offices in San Jose. Prior to its closing, Netcom had its headquarters in San Jose.
In January 2014 Forbes Magazine reported that Careerbliss.com had ranked San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara metro area as the happiest place to work in the USA. The report cited a large concentration of technology jobs that typically offer a high salary and opportunity for growth, in addition to companies providing “fun and innovative work environments” as some of the reasons for the ranking.
San Jose residents produce more U.S. patents than any other city. On October 15, 2015, the United States Patent and Trademark Office opened a satellite office in San Jose to serve Silicon Valley and the Western U.S. States. Thirty-five percent of all venture capital funds in the U.S. are invested in San Jose and Silicon Valley companies. On July 31, 2015, Cupertino-based Apple Inc. purchased a 40-acre site in San Jose. The site, which is bare land, will be the site of an office and research campus where it is estimated that up to 16,000 employees will be located. Apple paid $138.2 million in cash for the site. The seller, Connecticut-based Five Mile Capital Partners, paid $40 million for the site in 2010. Real estate experts expect that other tech companies currently located in Silicon Valley will also follow in Apple’s path by purchasing land or property in San Jose.
Because the downtown area is in the flight path to nearby Mineta San Jose International Airport (also evidenced in the above panoramic), there is a height limit for buildings in the downtown area, which is underneath the final approach corridor to the airport. The height limit is dictated by local ordinances, driven by the distance from the runway and a slope defined by Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Core downtown buildings are limited to approximately 300 feet (91 m) but can get taller farther from the airport.
There has been broad criticism over the past few decades of the city’s architecture. Citizens have complained that San Jose is lacking in aesthetically pleasing architectural styles. Blame for this lack of architectural “beauty” can be assigned to the re-development of the downtown area from the 1950s onward, in which whole blocks of historic commercial and residential structures were demolished. Exceptions to this include the Downtown Historic District, the Hotel De Anza, and the Hotel Sainte Claire, both of which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places for their architectural and historical significance.
Municipal building projects have experimented more with architectural styles than have most private enterprises. The Children’s Discovery Museum, Tech Museum of Innovation, and the San Jose Repertory Theater building have experimented with bold colors and unusual exteriors. The new City Hall, designed by Richard Meier & Partners, opened in 2005 and is a notable addition to the growing collection of municipal building projects.
Public art is an evolving attraction in the city. The city was one of the first to adopt a public art ordinance at 2% of capital improvement building project budgets, and the results of this commitment are beginning to affect the visual landscape of the city. There are a considerable number of public art projects throughout the downtown area, and a growing collection in the newer civic locations in neighborhoods including libraries, parks, and fire stations. Of particular note, the Mineta Airport expansion is incorporating a program of Art & Technology into its development.
Within the early efforts at public art, there are notable controversies. Two examples include the statue of Quetzalcoatl (the plumed serpent) in downtown which was controversial in its planning because some religious groups felt that it was pagan, and controversial in its implementation because many felt that the final statue by Robert Graham did not closely resemble a winged serpent, and was more noted for its expense than its aesthetics. This has resulted in locals joking that the statue resembles a pile of feces.
The statue of Thomas Fallon also met strong resistance from those who felt that people like him were largely responsible for the decimation of early native populations and Chicano/Latino activists protested he captured San Jose by violent force in the Mexican-American war (1846) as well “repressed” historic documents of Fallon ordered the expulsion of most of the city’s Californio (early Spanish or Mexican) residents. In October 1991 after protests in part of Columbus Day and Dia de la Raza celebrations, the Fallon statue plan was scrapped and the statue was stored in a warehouse in Oakland for more than a decade. The statue was returned to public display in 2002, albeit in a less conspicuous location: Pellier Park, a small triangular patch formed by the merge of West Julian and West St. James streets.
In 2001, the city sponsored SharkByte, an exhibit of decorated sharks, based on the mascot of the hockey team, the San Jose Sharks, and modeled after Chicago’s display of decorated cows. Large models of sharks were decorated in a variety of clever, colorful, or creative ways by local artists and were then displayed for months at dozens of locations around the city. Many displays were removed early because of vandalism. After the exhibition, the sharks were auctioned off and the proceeds donated to charity. The sharks can still be found in their new owners’ homes and businesses.
In 2006, Adobe Systems commissioned an art installation titled San Jose Semaphore by Ben Rubin, which is located at the top of its headquarters building. Semaphore is composed of four LED discs which “rotate” to transmit a message. The content of the San Jose Semaphore’s message remained a mystery until it was deciphered in August 2007. The visual art installation is supplemented with an audio track, transmitted from the building on a low-power AM station. The audio track provides clues to decode the message being transmitted.
The city is home to many performing arts companies, including Opera San Jose, Symphony Silicon Valley, Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley, sjDANCEco, Children’s Musical Theater of San Jose (45 years old in 2013), the San Jose Youth Symphony, the San Jose Repertory Theatre, City Lights Theatre Company, The Tabard Theatre Company, San Jose Stage Company, and the now-defunct American Musical Theatre of San Jose which was replaced by Broadway San Jose in partnership with Team San Jose. San Jose also is home to the San Jose Museum of Art, one of the nation’s premiere Modern Art museums. The annual Cinequest Film Festival in downtown has grown to over 60,000 attendees per year, becoming an important festival for independent films. The San Francisco Asian American Film Festival is an annual event, which is hosted in San Francisco, Berkeley, and Downtown San Jose. Approximately 30 to 40 films are screened in San Jose each year at the Camera 12 Downtown Cinemas. The San Jose Jazz Festival is another of many great events hosted throughout the year.
The SAP Center at San Jose is one of the most active venues for events in the world. According to Billboard Magazine and Pollstar, the arena sold the most tickets to non-sporting events of any venue in the United States, and third in the world after the Manchester Evening News Arena in Manchester, England, and the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, for the period from January 1 – September 30, 2004. Including sporting events, the SAP Center averages 184 events a year, or roughly one event for every two days, which is significantly higher than the average for NHL arenas.
San Jose has many examples of houses with fine architecture. Late 19th century and early 20th century styles exist in neighborhoods such as Hanchett Park, Naglee Park, Rose Garden, and Willow Glen (including Palm Haven). Styles include Craftsman, Mission Revival, Prairie style, and Queen Anne style Victorian. Notable architects include Frank Delos Wolfe, Theodore Lenzen, Charles McKenzie. and Julia Morgan
San Jose is home to the San Jose Sharks of the NHL, the San Jose Barracuda of the AHL, and the San Jose Earthquakes of Major League Soccer. The Sharks and the Barracuda play in the SAP Center at San Jose. The Earthquakes built an 18,000 seat new stadium that opened in March 2015. San Jose was a founding member of both the California League and Pacific Coast League in minor league baseball. San Jose currently fields the San Jose Giants, a High-A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. The NFL’s San Francisco 49ers call neighboring Santa Clara, California home.
San Jose has “aggressively wooed” the Oakland Athletics to relocate to San Jose from nearby Oakland, and the Athletics in turn have said that San Jose is their “best option,” but the San Francisco Giants have thus far exercised a veto against this proposal. In 2013, the city of San Jose sued Major League Baseball for not allowing the Athletics to relocate to San Jose. On October 5, 2015 the United States Supreme Court rejected San Jose’s bid on the Athletics.
From 2005 to 2007, the San Jose Grand Prix, an annual street circuit race in the Champ Car World Series, was held in the downtown area. Other races included the Trans-Am Series, the Toyota Atlantic Championship, the United States Touring Car Championship, the Historic Stock Car Racing Series, and the Formula D Drift racing competition.
In 2004, the San Jose Sports Authority hosted the U.S. Olympic team trials for judo, taekwondo, trampolining and rhythmic gymnastics at the San Jose State Event Center. In 2008, around 90 percent of the members of the United States Olympic team were processed at San Jose State University prior to traveling to the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. The 2009 Junior Olympics for trampoline were also held here.
In August 2004, the San Jose Seahawk Rugby Football Club hosted the USA All-Star Rugby Sevens Championships at Watson Bowl, east of Downtown. San Jose State hosted the 2011 American Collegiate Hockey Association (ACHA) national tournament. The NCAA Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament is also frequently held in San Jose.
San Jose possesses about 15,950 acres (6,455 ha) of parkland in its city limits, including a part of the expansive Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. The city’s oldest park is Alum Rock Park, established in 1872. In its 2013 ParkScore ranking, The Trust for Public Land, a national land conservation organization, reported that San Jose was tied with Albuquerque and Omaha for having the 11th best park system among the 50 most populous U.S. cities.
Early written documents record the local presence of migrating salmon in the Rio Guadalupe dating as far back as the 18th century. Both steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss) and King salmon are extant in the Guadalupe River, making San Jose the southernmost major U. S. city with known salmon spawning runs, the other cities being Anchorage, Alaska; Seattle, Washington; Portland, Oregon and Sacramento, California. Runs of up to 1,000 Chinook or King Salmon (Oncorhynchus tshawytscha) swam up the Guadalupe River each fall in the 1990s, but have all but vanished in the current decade apparently blocked from access to breeding grounds by impassable culverts, weirs and wide, exposed and flat concrete paved channels installed by the Santa Clara Valley Water District. In 2011 a small number of Chinook salmon were filmed spawning under the Julian Street bridge.
San Jose’s trail network of 60 miles (100 km) of recreational and active transportation trails throughout the city. This large urban trail network, recognized by Prevention Magazine as the nation’s largest, is linked to trails in surrounding jurisdictions and many rural trails in surrounding open space and foothills. Several trail systems within the network are designated as part of the National Recreation Trail, as well as regional trails such as the San Francisco Bay Trail and Bay Area Ridge Trail.
Colleges and universities
San Jose is home to several colleges and universities. The largest is San Jose State University, which was founded by the California legislature in 1862 as the California State Normal School, and is the founding campus of the California State University (CSU) system. Located in downtown San Jose since 1870, the university enrolls approximately 30,000 students in over 130 different bachelor’s and master’s degree programs. The school enjoys a good academic reputation, especially in the fields of engineering, business, art and design, and journalism, and consistently ranks among the top public universities in the western region of the United States. San Jose State is one of only three Bay Area schools that fields a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) Division I college football team; Stanford University and U.C. Berkeley are the other two.
California University of Management and Technology (CALMAT) offers many degree programs, including MBA, Computer Science, Information Technology. Most classes are offered both online and in the downtown campus. Many of the students are working professionals in the Silicon Valley. Lincoln Law School of San Jose and University of Silicon Valley Law School offer law degrees, catering to working professionals. National University maintains a campus in San Jose. The San Jose campus of Golden Gate University offers business bachelor and MBA degrees.
San Jose’s community colleges, San Jose City College, West Valley College, Mission College and Evergreen Valley College, offer associate degrees, general education units to transfer to CSU and UC schools, and adult and continuing education programs. The West campus of Palmer College of Chiropractic is also located in San Jose.
WestMed College is headquartered in San Jose and offers paramedic training, emergency medical technician training, and licensed vocational nursing programs.
The University of California, Santa Cruz operates Lick Observatory atop Mount Hamilton.
Western Seminary has one of its four campuses in San Jose, which opened on the campus of Calvary Church of Los Gatos in 1985. The campus relocated in 2010 to Santa Clara. Western is an evangelical, Christian graduate school that provides theological training for students who hope to serve in a variety of ministry roles including pastors, marriage and family therapists, educators, missionaries and lay leadership. The San Jose campus offers four master’s degrees, and a variety of other graduate-level programs.
Primary & Secondary Education
Up until the opening of Lincoln High School in 1943, San Jose students only attended San Jose High School. Some of the city’s history is embedded within these two high schools, which hold a Thanksgiving Day high school football game, called the “Big Bone.” As of 2010, there are 127 elementary, 47 middle, and 44 high schools, of which are all public. Public education in the city is provided by four high school districts, fourteen elementary districts, and four unified school districts (which provide both elementary and high schools). In addition to the main San Jose Unified School District (SJUSD), other nearby unified school districts of nearby cities are Milpitas Unified School District, Morgan Hill Unified School District, and Santa Clara Unified School District. Prior to 1954, California law required cities and school districts to have the same boundaries. When San Jose began expanding, rural school districts became one of the major opponents, as their territory and tax base was taken by the city. The city’s legislators pushed a bill through the California Legislature, removing that requirement, and ending much of the opposition. The result is a patchwork of local school districts in the areas annexed after 1954.
Private schools in San Jose are primarily run by religious groups. The Catholic Diocese of San Jose has the second largest student population in the Santa Clara County, behind only SJUSD; the diocese and its parishes operate several schools in the city, including six high schools: Archbishop Mitty High School, Bellarmine College Preparatory, Notre Dame High School, Saint Francis High School, St. Lawrence High School, and Presentation High School. Other private high schools not run by the Diocese include two Baptist high schools, Liberty Baptist School and White Road Baptist Academy, one Non-Denominational Protestant high school, Valley Christian High School (San Jose, California), one University-preparatory school, Cambrian Academy, and a nonsectarian K-12 Harker School west of the city in the Blackford neighborhood.
The San Jose Public Library system is unique in that the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library combines the collections of the city’s system with the San Jose State University main library. In 2003, construction of the library, which now holds more than 1.6 million items, was the largest single library construction project west of the Mississippi, with eight floors that result in more than 475,000 square feet (44,100 m2) of space with a capacity for 2 million volumes.
The city has 23 neighborhood branches including the Biblioteca Latinoamericana which specializes in Spanish language works. The East San Jose Carnegie Branch Library, a Carnegie library opened in 1908, is the last Carnegie library in Santa Clara County still operating as a public library and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. As the result of a bond measure passed in November 2000, a number of brand new or completely reconstructed branches have been completed and opened. The yet-to-be-named brand new Southeast Branch is also planned, bringing the bond library project to its completion.
The San Jose system (along with the University system) were jointly named as “Library of the Year” by the Library Journal in 2004.
San Jose is served by Greater Bay Area media. Print media outlets in San Jose include the San Jose Mercury News, the weekly Metro Silicon Valley, El Observador and the Silicon Valley / San Jose Business Journal. The Bay Area’s NBC O&O, KNTV 11, is based in San Jose. In total, broadcasters in the Bay Area include 34 television stations, 25 AM radio stations, and 55 FM radio stations.
In April 1909, Charles David Herrold, an electronics instructor in San Jose, constructed a radio station to broadcast the human voice. The station, “San Jose Calling” (call letters FN, later FQW), was the world’s first radio station with scheduled programming targeted at a general audience. The station became the first to broadcast music in 1910. Herrold’s wife Sybil became the first female “disk jockey” in 1912. The station changed hands a number of times before eventually becoming today’s KCBS in San Francisco. Therefore, KCBS technically is the oldest radio station in the United States, and celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2009 with much fanfare.
A 2011 study by Walk Score ranked San Jose the nineteenth most walkable of fifty largest cities in the United States.
On March 14, 2013, San Jose implemented a public wireless connection in the downtown area. Wireless access points were placed on outdoor light posts throughout the city.
Rail service to and from San Jose is provided by Amtrak (the Sacramento–San-Jose Capitol Corridor and the Seattle–Los-Angeles Coast Starlight), Caltrain (commuter rail service between San Francisco and Gilroy), ACE (commuter rail service to Pleasanton and Stockton), and a local light-rail system connecting downtown to Mountain View, Milpitas, Campbell, and Almaden Valley, operated by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA). Historic streetcars from History Park operate on the light rail lines in downtown during holidays. Long-term plans call for BART to be expanded to Santa Clara through Milpitas and San Jose from the current terminal in Fremont. Originally, the extension was to be built all at once, but due to the recession, sales tax revenue has dramatically decreased. Because of this, the extension will be built in two phases. Phase 1 will extend service to a temporary terminal in north-eastern San Jose in late 2017 at Berryessa station. Construction has been approved and funded and began in Summer 2012 and will connect with the Warm Springs extension to southern Fremont. In addition, San Jose will be a major stop on the future California High Speed Rail route between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Diridon Station (formerly Cahill Depot, 65 Cahill Street) is the meeting point of all regional commuter rail service in the area. It was built in 1935 by the Southern Pacific Railroad, and was refurbished in 1994. VTA also operates many bus routes in San Jose and the surrounding communities, as well as offering paratransit services to local residents. Additionally, the Highway 17 Express bus line connects central San Jose with Santa Cruz. Intercity bus providers include Greyhound, BoltBus, Megabus, California Shuttle Bus, TUFESA, Intercalifornias, Hoang, and USAsia.
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