Location and orientation
Silicon Valley and the city of San José are located on California's coast, in a valley of the Santa Cruz Mountains, south of the San Francisco Bay.
It should be stated that Silicon Valley is not a geographical area defined on a map. In fact, slight variations exist in definitions of the area. This report refers to Silicon Valley as the area encompassing nearly all of Santa Clara County - San José's county - and southern parts of both San Mateo and Alameda Counties.
San José, the capital of Silicon Valley, lies nearly 645 km/400 mi. northwest of Los Angeles and 68 km /45 mi southeast of San Francisco. The city is 451 sq.km/174 sq.mi.
Major rivers and creeks flow through the area, keeping the soil rich. These include the Guadalupe River and Los Gatos Creek, the confluence of which is in downtown San José, near the San José Arena. Its mild climate and fertile soil prompted early settlers to call San José the Garden City located in the Valley of Heart's Delight.
San José itself, located in Santa Clara County, is an old city by U.S. standards. Founded by Spaniards in 1777 as Pueblos de San José de Guadalupe, it is named for St. Joseph. The entire state of California was part of Mexico until 1848; San José became California's first incorporated city in 1850, the same year California was admitted to the union. San José was the first state capital, an honor it held for one year.
Originally an agricultural area, the rich soil produced fruit orchards and other produce. Manufacturing developed in the early 1900s as an outgrowth of local harvesting. Canning and packaging plants provided jobs, as did farm machinery factories.
Technology defines the area
In the 1930s, important advances in technology were initiated at Stanford University in Palo Alto, slightly northwest of San José. Students such as William Hewlett, David Packard, and the Varien brothers spawned a new entrepreneurial era as small, technologically innovative companies sprang up.
World War II fueled local population growth, as technology drew people to the area. The valley's developing technology offered employment and opportunities for military developments that would help the war effort. Transistors were developed there, and later integrated circuits and semiconductors.
Agriculture gradually lost its dominance, replaced by new high technology firms as businesses expanded and established themselves in what became known as Silicon Valley, with San José at its heart.
Silicon Valley and San José today
Silicon Valley's dramatic growth has changed San José's character from fertile farmland to high-tech mecca. Known as the capital of Silicon Valley, San José is now the 10th largest city in the U.S. and the third largest in California, after Los Angeles and San Diego. Downtown San José, much of which can be explored on foot, is a mixture of ultra modern architecture and restored 19th century Victorian buildings.
In addition to computer-related businesses, major local industries in the metropolitan area include aerospace, finance, insurance, medicine, and tourism.
As technology industries enjoyed explosive growth, so did residential areas in the Silicon Valley. More than two-thirds of the valley's total population live in the sprawling city of San José, which has enjoyed a rise in popularity. Others live in nearby Santa Clara County towns, or in neighboring Alameda County.
Silicon Valley is an area of enterprise and innovation, home to many global high tech firms. Economic growth has brought affluence to San José and its surroundings, affording its citizens a high standard of living and a pleasant, low-crime environment. The local computer industry brought an influx of global workers during the height of the .com boom, adding an international flavor to the city.
The prosperity of the late 1980s and early 1990s has not been sustained, however, and many computer firms folded as the new millenium ushered in economic recession. The latest recession that began in 2008 brought further challenges and changes to the area. With a high number of unemployed residents and cuts to city services - like police - the standard of living has suffered for all.
Quality of living
Despite the impact of the recession, San José still has much to offer. With an average of 300 sunny days per year, the climate is pleasant. Expatriates, tourists, and business visitors alike enjoy the region's wide variety of cultural, recreational, educational and entertainment opportunities, making the Silicon Valley and the city of San José one of the most popular areas in the United States.