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Santa Clara

Santa Clara is one of the oldest cities in California, but perhaps no Bay Area community has its eyes more firmly aimed at the future.

In incorporated on July 5, 1852, less than two years after California became a state, Santa Clara just became the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, who now play at Levi’s Stadium in 2014, just a stone’s throw from Northern California’s pre-eminent theme park, California’s Great America, and is arguably the epicenter of Silicon Valley, where innovation happens every day.

Despite just completing this major project, Santa Clara is far from finished growing. Great America, Levi’s Stadium, the Santa Clara Golf and Tennis Club and the Santa Clara Convention Center may soon be joined by 21st-century Santa Clara’s new “Main Street,” a large-scale urban development similar to San Jose’s Santana Row. This project is presently in early-stage planning. It has the potential to transform this city of 120,000 residents, adding thousands of square feet of commercial and retail space, restaurants and transit-friendly residential units and giving Santa Clara the traditional, pedestrian-friendly “downtown” its lacked for decades.

Santa Clara is home to a virtual phone book of technology firms, from Affymetrix and Agilent Technologies to Synaptics and Trident Microsystems. Two of the companies, Applied Materials and Intel, between them employ 15,000 workers in Santa Clara. It’s a familiar Silicon Valley story: over the past 50 years, technology has transformed a sleepy agricultural town into an economic powerhouse.

Santa Clara’s roots run as deep as those of any California town. It was first settled in 1777 and is the site of the eighth-oldest Mission in California, Mission Santa Clara de Asis. For the past 160 years the Mission has sat on the campus of Santa Clara University, California’s oldest institution of higher learning. Santa Clara, established in 1851, it remains a centerpiece of the town that bears its name.

The university is closely aligned with Silicon Valley companies and provides more than pride for the city of Santa Clara. SCU also offers a wide variety of recreational outlets for Santa Clara residents. The alma mater of future basketball hall-of-famer Steve Nash fields teams in 19 Division I sports, including the 2001 women’s soccer national champions. In fact, at one time Santa Clara women’s and men’s soccer teams were ranked #1 in the country simultaneously – the only time that’s ever happened in college sports. The Broncos play at Buck Shaw Stadium, which is also the home of the Major League Soccer San Jose Earthquakes.

Athletics are a big deal in Santa Clara, maybe because of its warm, dry climate and its undeniable civic pride. Each year more than 3,000 Santa Clarans participate in adult softball and basketball leagues. Graduates of the Santa Clara Swim Club have so far earned 71 Olympic medals, including the seven golds won in 1972 by the legendary Mark Spitz.

People lead busy lives in Santa Clara, but even they eventually go home. To what? Santa Clara, more than its Silicon Valley brethren, has neighborhoods of classic pre-war homes and tree-lined streets, along with newer developments and ample condominium and apartment communities.

The city’s on going transformation into a world-class technology hub has impacted it in many ways, from the restoration of its vintage homes to the shining example of the Santa Clara Public Library, completed in 2004 and located in Central Park, Santa Clara’s largest public green space. Central Park is where you’ll find the library, the swim club and the city community center. It’s one of 37 public parks, pools and soccer fields located within the city limits.

Once a year, Santa Clara’s city leaders hold an Art and Wine Festival at Central Park. 50,000 people attended last year’s event, enjoying wine, beer, food, arts and entertainment on a typically beautiful Santa Clara September weekend. Just another day in paradise? To Santa Clarans, it certainly seems so.