Welcome to Portola Valley
Located in an undeveloped valley between the Pacific Ocean and Santa Clara County, Portola Valley is a city that values its cultural heritage and unspoiled scenery. A strong rural ambiance surrounds the city, thanks in large part to the efforts of the community to minimize development and to preserve large swaths of open spaces. Community efforts have ensured that the town has remained a scenic, relaxing location despite regional development and modernization.
Lay of the Land
Located in San Mateo County, Portola Valley is one of the southernmost cities in the county. The city is actually closer to many of the cities in Silicon Valley, with Los Altos Hills and Stanford acting as its closest neighbors. The valley is one of the most affluent cities in the region, with average home values well over one million dollars and median household incomes of well over $200,000. However, unlike many of the more economically powerful cities in the Bay Area and Santa Clara County, Portola Valley has minimal commercial development serving its 4,500 residents.
Portola Valley is relatively isolated thanks to the local topography. This limits the amount of available public transportation. While the town does have local a SamTrans route it has nothing in the way of public connections to any of the neighboring cities. Thankfully for residents, once they reach the nearby Interstate 280 they have access to Santa Clara County and the Bay Area via roadway. Additionally, Interstate 280 connects to numerous local cities that have Bay Area Rapid Transit stations and CalTrain commuter train stations.
Portola Valley is a community that features some of the most expensive houses in the nation. Property values are driven in part by the city’s proximity to Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. However, most of the value is derived by the community’s dedication to maintaining a very specific type of city.
Community guidelines and zoning laws ensure that commercial development within the city exists at the absolute bare minimum for resident functionality. Additional zoning laws ensure that homes within the city are required to blend in as much as possible with the local scenery. These regulations, when combined with a variety of open space preserves surrounding the town, create an undeveloped ambiance that makes the valley unlike any other city in the region.
Portola Valley is very similar to many of the cities in San Mateo County in that they have a thriving parks and recreation department. This department serves to operate several low-impact athletic and activity centers with the city. It also organizes numerous activities and community outreach programs focused on enrichment and education. What makes the city unique among its peers is that it also owns huge sections of undeveloped land within the city limits.
The vast majority of these spaces have been either donated to the city outright or purchased by the city using community generated funds. The city’s goal is to develop these spaces to maximize natural aesthetics while minimizing overall maintenance requirements. They remain open for public use and are utilized in large part as hiking trails or equestrian trails. Almost all of the trails within the city are maintained via volunteer services and are a source of immense pride for the city’s residents.
Volunteer work is a rich tradition among the residents of Portola Valley. The city currently has dozen of volunteer committees dedicated to community enrichment and development. They include committees dedicated to cable and utilities undergrounding, cultural arts, historic resources, nature and science, bicycle, pedestrian, and traffic safety, as well as open space acquisition. Each of the committees within the city are fully funded and operated via public donations.