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Portola Valley, California

Portola Valley is an incorporated town in San Mateo County, California, United States, which was founded in 1964. It is the wealthiest town in America per the American Community Survey,[5] based on per-capita income for communities larger than 4,000. Home prices are also among the highest in the nation.[5]

Portola Valley, California
Town of Portola Valley
The Portola Valley Town Center, looking towards the East
The Portola Valley Town Center, looking towards the East
Official seal of Portola Valley, California
Location in San Mateo County and the state of California
Location in San Mateo County and the state of California
Portola Valley, California is located in the United States
Portola Valley, California
Portola Valley, California
Location in the United States
Coordinates: 37°22′30″N 122°13′7″W / 37.37500°N 122.21861°W / 37.37500; -122.21861Coordinates: 37°22′30″N 122°13′7″W / 37.37500°N 122.21861°W / 37.37500; -122.21861
CountryUnited States
CountySan Mateo
IncorporatedJuly 14, 1964[1]
 • MayorMaryann Derwin[2]
 • Vice MayorCraig Hughes[2]
 • Total9.10 sq mi (23.57 km2)
 • Land9.10 sq mi (23.56 km2)
 • Water0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)  0.02%
459 ft (140 m)
 • Total4,353
 • Estimate 
 • Density505.28/sq mi (195.09/km2)
Time zoneUTC-8 (PST)
 • Summer (DST)UTC-7 (PDT)
ZIP code
Area code650
FIPS code06-58380
GNIS feature ID1659786


Portola Valley was named for Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolá, who led the first party of Europeans to explore the San Francisco Peninsula in 1769. The town was officially incorporated in 1964.[6]

The Native Americans already present were Ohlone and specifically the group (or groups) known as Olpen or Guemelento but these were later moved to Mission Dolores and Mission Santa Clara de Asís which claimed the land and peoples.[7][8] The area's written history dates back to 1833, when a square league of land was given to Domingo Peralta and Máximo Martínez by Governor José Figueroa to form the Rancho Cañada del Corte de Madera.[9] In those days it was used for lumbering and cattle grazing. By the 1880s Andrew S. Hallidie, a wire rope manufacturer, had built his country home of Eagle Home Farm in what is now Portola Valley. He built a 7,341 foot long aerial tramway from his house to the top of Skyline in 1894 though it was removed after his death in 1900.[10][11]

In 1886 the name Portola-Crespi Valley was bestowed on the area from the then community of Crystal Springs (now under Crystal Springs Reservoir to the then community of Searsville (in the area of the present day Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve); Crespi is for Juan Crespí, a Franiciscan friar with the Portola expedition. Ambassador Bill Lane was the first mayor.[9]


Portola Valley is located on the San Francisco Peninsula on the eastern slope of the Santa Cruz Mountains. The town is west of Interstate 280 and the southwest boundary is along Skyline Boulevard which more or less is the ridge of the mountains. The Windy Hill Open Space Preserve is a large part of the town's southwest side and the north side of the town borders Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. Woodside borders it to the northwest and Palo Alto to the southeast The unincorporated subdivision of Ladera is adjacent to the northern boundary of the town. It is in a mostly wooded area, with some open fields. The San Andreas Fault bisects the town.[12][13]

Alpine road and Portola road are the two relatively main roads in the town and their intersection forms a small shopping nexus.

Portola Valley can generally be divided into 7 subdivisions: Central Portola Valley, The Ranch, Corte Madera, Los Trancos/Vista Verde, Woodside Highlands, Westridge, and Blue Oaks.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 9.099 square miles (23.57 km2), 99.98% of it land and 0.02% of it water.[3]


  • Ford Field
  • Alpine Inn, aka Rossotti's, aka Zott's
  • Alpine Hills Tennis and Swimming Club
  • The Village Restaurants and Shops
  • Portola Valley Garage (Tom Ramies)
  • Alpine-Portola Junction
    • Roberts Market
    • Triangle Park
    • Portola Valley Hardware
    • Ron Ramies Auto Repair
    • Portola Cafe Deli
  • Portola Valley Town Center
    • Portola Valley Library, Children's Playground, Field

Our Lady of the Wayside Church was built in 1912 for the local Catholic community and is a California Historic Landmark and on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.[14][15]

Portola Valley School is a one-room former school house built in 1909 and is on the U.S. National Register of Historic Places.[16] It is now used for town council meetings.[17]

The Alpine Inn, also known as Rossotti's or Zott's, is one of the oldest existing drinking establishments in California, which started around 1852 when Felix Buelna built it as a gambling house.[18][19] The first two-network TCP/IP transmission was between a specialized SRI van and ARPANET on August 27, 1976; the van was parked next to the Alpine Inn and wires were run to one of the picnic tables.[20][21] In 2018, the inn was acquired by new owners, who closed it temporarily for remodeling.[22][23]

Villa Lauriston, an estate located at 5050 Alpine Road and encompassing almost 29 acres, was initially commissioned by James Graham Fair, the founder of Fairmont Hotels and Resorts.[citation needed]


Portola Valley is known for its expansive trail network both maintained by the town[24] and also in the Windy Hill Open Space Preserve maintained by the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District.[citation needed]


Census Pop.
Est. 20184,598[25]5.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[26]


The average income per household in Portola Valley is $354,744.[27]

The 2010 United States Census[28] reported that Portola Valley had a population of 4,353. The population density was 478.7 people per square mile (184.8/km²). The racial makeup of Portola Valley was 3,960 (91.0%) White, 12 (0.3%) African American, 5 (0.1%) Native American, 242 (5.6%) Asian, 1 (0.0%) Pacific Islander, 29 (0.7%) from other races, and 104 (2.4%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 175 persons (4.0%).

The Census reported that 4,309 people (99.0% of the population) lived in households, 9 (0.2%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and 35 (0.8%) were institutionalized.

There were 1,746 households, out of which 518 (29.7%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,149 (65.8%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 70 (4.0%) had a female householder with no husband present, 35 (2.0%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 37 (2.1%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 21 (1.2%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 420 households (24.1%) were made up of individuals and 290 (16.6%) had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47. There were 1,254 families (71.8% of all households); the average family size was 2.93.

The population was spread out with 1,001 people (23.0%) under the age of 18, 145 people (3.3%) aged 18 to 24, 538 people (12.4%) aged 25 to 44, 1,496 people (34.4%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,173 people (26.9%) who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 51.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 98.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 91.2 males.

There were 1,895 housing units at an average density of 208.4 per square mile (80.5/km²), of which 1,392 (79.7%) were owner-occupied, and 354 (20.3%) were occupied by renters. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.0%; the rental vacancy rate was 9.8%. 3,702 people (85.0% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 607 people (13.9%) lived in rental housing units.


As of the census[29] of 2000, there were 4,392 people, 1,772 households, and 1,269 families residing in the town. The population density was 487.5 people per square mile (188.3/km²). There were 1,772 housing units at an average density of 193.6 per square mile (74.8/km²). The racial makeup of the town was 4,210 White, 29 African American, 22 Native American, 217 Asian, 5 Pacific Islander, 54 from other races, and 64 from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 149.

There were 1,772 households out of which 532 had children under the age of 18 living with them, 1,176 were married couples living together, 68 had a woman householder with no man present, and 431 were non-families. 339 of all households were made up of individuals and 226 had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.75 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the town the age distribution of the population shows 1021 persons under the age of 18, 90 from 20 to 24, 867 from 25 to 44, 1492 from 45 to 64, and 938 who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 47.5 years old. For every 100 women there were 96.8 men. For every 100 women age 18 and over, there were 91.7 men.

The median income for a household in Portola Valley, including earnings, is $244,771 and the median income for a family was $180,893. Men have a median income of over $200,000 versus $172,585 for women. The per capita income for Portola Valley is $152,128. About 18 families and 104 people were below the poverty line, including 38 of those under age 18 and none of those age 65 or over.


The Portola Valley Elementary School District has two public primary schools: Ormondale School (with grades K-3) and Corte Madera School (grades 4-8). The public high school is Woodside High School part of the Sequoia Union High School District and in the neighboring community of Woodside.[30] Ormondale is named for the Ormondale ranch that had covered much of present-day Westridge, Oak Hills, and Ladera and was home to the famous English racehorse, Ormonde, in his later years.[31]

Portola Valley is also home to two private schools: an independent college-preparatory Roman Catholic day and boarding school, Woodside Priory School, with grades 6-12 and an independent pre-K-8 grade school, Woodland School.[30]

The city is served by the Portola Valley Public Library of the San Mateo County Libraries, a member of the Peninsula Library System.[32]


In the California State Legislature, Portola Valley is in the 13th Senate District, represented by Democrat Jerry Hill, and in the 24th Assembly District, represented by Democrat Marc Berman.[33]

Federally, Portola Valley is in California's 18th congressional district, represented by Democrat Anna Eshoo.[34] Politically, Portola Valley leans slightly Democratic based on voting patterns for past presidential elections.[35]

Portola Valley is part of the Woodside Fire Protection District (which also covers Woodside, Ladera, Emerald Hills, Los Trancos, Skyline, and Viste Verde), which has one its three stations in the town.[36]

For law enforcement, Portola Valley contracts with the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office.

The Portola Valley Town Council made up of volunteers elected for four year terms governs the town. It appoints a town manager and other necessary officers and also elects a mayor.[37]

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ "California Cities by Incorporation Date" (Word). California Association of Local Agency Formation Commissions. Retrieved August 25, 2014.
  2. ^ a b "Town Council". Portola Valley, CA. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  3. ^ a b "2016 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved Jun 28, 2017.
  4. ^ "American FactFinder - Community Facts". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  5. ^ a b "The Top 20 Richest Cities in the U.S." WTOP. 2016-01-12. Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  6. ^ "Portola Valley, CA : History of Portola Valley". Retrieved 2017-03-16.
  7. ^ Millikan, Randally; Shoup, Laurence H.; Ortiz, Beverley R. (June 2009). Ohlone/Costanoan Indians of the San Francisco Peninsula and their Neighbors, Yesterday and Today (PDF). National Park Service. pp. 293–294.
  8. ^ Bocek, Barbara (1992). "Subsistence, Settlement and Tribelet Territories on the Eastern San Francisco Peninsula" (PDF). Proceedings of the Society for California Arhchaeology. 5: 269–297. Retrieved 8 April 2018.
  9. ^ a b Kyle, Douglas E.; Rensch, Hero Eugene; Rensch, Ethel Grace; Hoover, Mildred Brooke (2002). Historic Spots in California: Fifth Edition. Stanford University Press. ISBN 9780804778176. Retrieved 24 March 2018.
  10. ^ Clifford, Jim (8 May 2017). "Cable car inventor built tram in Portola Valley". San Mateo Daily Journal. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  11. ^ "Hallidie Tramway - Portola Valley, CA - Signs of History on". Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  12. ^ Aiden, Andrew (8 August 2013). "Lost and Found: The 1906 Earthquake Rupture in Portola Valley". KQED. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  13. ^ "Geologic Map: Town of Portola Valley". Portola Valley. Cotton, Shires, and Associates. June 2017. Retrieved 25 March 2018.
  14. ^ California, California State Parks, State of. "OUR LADY OF THE WAYSIDE". CA State Parks. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  15. ^ "National Register #77000338: Our Lady of the Wayside in Portola Valley, California". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  16. ^ "National Register #74000557: Portola Valley School, California". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  17. ^ "Town Center: Portola Valley, CA". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  18. ^ Staiger, Steve (24 January 2001). "Echoes of Alpine Inn's early days". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  19. ^ "Buelna's Roadhouse, 3915 Alpine Road, Portola Valley, San Mateo County, CA". The Library of Congress. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  20. ^ Laws, David. "Alpine Inn & Beer Garden". Silicon Valley Roots & Shoots. Retrieved 2013-03-31.
  21. ^ "SRI Mobile Van | X1590.99 | Computer History Museum". Retrieved 30 May 2018.
  22. ^ "Popular burger joint is closed until March for remodeling". Retrieved 19 Feb 2018.
  23. ^
  24. ^ "Portola Valley Trails". Town of Portola Valley. Retrieved 22 March 2018.
  25. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved October 12, 2019.
  26. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  27. ^ "94028 Income Statistics - Current Census Data for Zip Codes". Retrieved 2018-03-27.
  28. ^ "2010 Census Interactive Population Search: CA - Portola Valley town". U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved July 12, 2014.
  29. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  30. ^ a b "Local Schools: Portola Valley, CA". Town of Portola Valley. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  31. ^ "The Incorporation of Portola Valley – Part 1". Portola Valley, Past and Present. 14 January 2014. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  32. ^ "Portola Valley Library". Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  33. ^ "Statewide Database". UC Regents. Retrieved December 19, 2014.
  34. ^ "California's 18th Congressional District - Representatives & District Map". Civic Impulse, LLC. Retrieved March 13, 2013.
  35. ^ Schleuss, Jon; Fox, Joe; Krishnakumar, Priya. "California neighborhood election results: Did your precinct vote to elect Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump?". Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  36. ^ "About - Woodside Fire Protection District". Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  37. ^ "Portola Valley Municipal Code". Municode Library. Retrieved 2 June 2018.
  38. ^ Marion Softky (February 8, 2006). "Author Don Nielson chronicles SRI research achievements". The Almanac. Retrieved December 23, 2017.
  39. ^ John Markoff (June 21, 2008). "Hewitt D. Crane, 81, Early Computer Engineer, Is Dead". The New York Times. Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  40. ^ Berlin, Linda; Chronicle, Special to The (2001-10-05). "Profile / Thomas Fogarty / Stanford doctor to be honored for inventions". SFGate. Retrieved 2019-02-01.
  41. ^ Collins, Glenn (October 18, 1991). "Tennessee Ernie Ford Dies at 72; Folksy Singer Recorded '16 Tons'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-02-16. He was 72 years old and lived in Portola Valley, near Palo Alto, Calif.
  42. ^ Laurance Zuckerman (June 2, 1996). "Cuthbert Hurd, 85, Computer Pioneer at I.B.M". New York Times. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  43. ^ Saratoga Horticultural Research Foundation (2003). "Manzanita introductions of the Saratoga Horticultural Foundation" (PDF). Retrieved May 25, 2010.
  44. ^ Lisa Kwiatkowski (February 25, 2005). "Bill Lane makes a gift of $5 million to endow Stanford's Center for the Study of the North American West". Stanford University. Retrieved May 24, 2010.
  45. ^ "Bucolic Portola Valley Home to Famous Figures". SFGate. Retrieved 2018-03-22.
  46. ^ Military Vehicle Technology Foundation

External linksEdit