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 Rancho Rinconada de Los Gatos, ("the corner of the cats"), where "the cats" refers to the wild cats (bobcats and mountain lions) that are indigenous to the Santa Cruz Mountains in whose foothills the town is nestled. The name is normally pronounced in anglicized form, sounding like las gaddis (lɑsˈgæɾɪs), although one also hears pronunciations truer to the original Spanish, lohs GAH tos ().
The founding of the town dates to the mid-1850s with the building of Forbes Mill by James Alexander Forbes along Los Gatos Creek. The townsite 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. 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).
Downtown Los Gatos was heavily damaged in the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake.
Transport by rail was an early feature of Los Gatos. The South Pacific Coast railroad, a popular narrow-gauge line from Alameda (and San Francisco via ferry) to Santa Cruz in the late 19th century, stopped in Los Gatos. Southern Pacific took over this line in 1887. Los Gatos was also near the Southern Pacific resort town of Holy City, along the rail line in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The last Southern Pacific passenger train to Santa Cruz left Los Gatos in March 1940. In town, the rail line used to run along the shore of Vasona Reservoir to the present-day location of the Post Office, following the path of what is now a continuous string of parking lots between Santa Cruz Ave. and University Ave. There was also a streetcar-type rail line with service to Saratoga and San Jose. Streetcar service via the Peninsular Railway started about 1905 and ended about 1933. San Francisco commuter trains continued into downtown until 1959, and Vasona Junction until 1962. The site of the old railroad station is now occupied by Town Plaza and the Post Office.
State Route 85 roughly marks the northern boundary of the town, although a few pockets of homes to its North are included. Highway 9 (Los Gatos-Saratoga Road) from the coast terminates at Highway 17. Downtown Los Gatos, the area on and around Santa Cruz Avenue and Main Street, is located in the southwest quadrant of town. A left exit on northbound Highway 17 becomes the south end of South Santa Cruz Avenue, leading into downtown. The area around Los Gatos Boulevard, east of Highway 17, is much more typically suburban than downtown, with medium-sized shopping centers clustered at major intersections of the multilane boulevard. Although the town has generally a quiet setting, its principal noise generators are State Route 17 and Los Gatos Boulevard. Sound levels within one hundred and fifty feet of Los Gatos Boulevard exceed 60 CNEL (Community Noise Equivalent Level), a generally unacceptable range for residential living.
Vasona Park, a county park, and neighboring Oak Meadow Park, which belongs to the town, are located in what is roughly the geographic middle of the town, bordered on the south by Blossom Hill Road, on the east by Highway 17, on the west by University Avenue, and reaching at the north end not quite all the way to Lark Avenue. Located in the parks is the popular Billy Jones Wildcat Railroad. In Vasona Park is the trail to Prune Ridge. Los Gatos Creek begins in the Santa Cruz Mountains south of the town and runs through the town parallel to Highway 17 all the way through neighboring Campbell and San Jose to the Guadalupe River, which flows into San Francisco Bay. A walking, jogging, and biking trail called the Los Gatos Creek Trail runs alongside much of the creek from Lexington Dam through Vasona Park and Campbell to Meridian Avenue in San Jose. In Los Gatos, the trail passes the 1854 Forbes Mill.
Los Gatos is surrounded by several mountain bike trails. Cyclists can leave from downtown on a loop through the Santa Cruz Mountains. Road cycling is also popular. Downtown is often crowded with cyclists on weekend mornings. From downtown, El Sereno mountain stands to the southwest; El Sombroso stands to the southeast.
| Los Gatos |
Population by year
As of the census of 2000, there were 28,592 people, 11,988 households, and 7,300 families residing in the town. The population density was 1,030.8/km² (2,669.1/mi²). There were 12,367 housing units at an average density of 445.8/km² (1,154.5/mi²). The ethnic makeup of the town was 86.68% Caucasian, 0.79% African American, 0.30% Native American, 7.60% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 1.28% from other races, and 3.27% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.21% of the population.
There were 11,988 households out of which 27.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 50.9% were married couples living together, 7.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.1% were non-families. 29.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 10.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.33 and the average family size was 2.93.
In the town the population was spread out with 21.2% under the age of 18, 4.3% from 18 to 24, 31.5% from 25 to 44, 27.7% from 45 to 64, and 15.3% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 41 years. For every 100 females there were 90.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.2 males.
The median income for a household in the town was $94,319, and the median income for a family was $119,194. Males had a median income of $89,420 versus $57,596 for females. The per capita income for the town was $56,094. About 3.1% of families and 4.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 4.4% of those under age 18 and 5.6% of those age 65 or over.
The two Los Gatos Community Buses run from Santa Cruz and Main to the Winchester Transit Center, the 49 via Los Gatos Boulevard and the 48 via Winchester.
For railroad transportation the nearby city of Santa Clara has the closest train station served by Caltrain, and the nearby city of Campbell provides access to VTA light-rail via the Winchester, Downtown Campbell, and Hamilton stations.
For Air Travel the closest international airports are San Jose International Airport (SJC), San Francisco International Airport (SFO), Oakland International Airport. All these airports are used for Air travel by people across the bay area.