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Atherton, California
Town of Atherton
Holbrook-Palmer Park
Holbrook-Palmer Park
Tree on a yellow background
Seal
Location of Atherton in San Mateo County, California
Location of Atherton in San Mateo County, California
Atherton, California is located in California
Atherton, California
Atherton, California
Location in California
Atherton, California is located in the United States
Atherton, California
Atherton, California
Location in the United States
Country United States
State California
County San Mateo
Incorporated September 12, 1923
Named for Faxon Dean Atherton
Area
 • Total 5.05 sq mi (13.07 km2)
 • Land 5.02 sq mi (12.99 km2)
 • Water 0.03 sq mi (0.08 km2)  0.63%
Elevation
59 ft (18 m)
Population
 (2020)
 • Total 7,188
 • Density 1,433.01/sq mi (553.28/km2)
Time zone UTC−8 (Pacific)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−7 (PDT)
ZIP Code
94027
Area code 650
FIPS code 06-03092
GNIS feature IDs 1657960, 2411651

Atherton is an incorporated town in San Mateo County, California, United States. Its population was 7,188 as of 2020.

Atherton is known for its wealth; in 1990 and 2019, Atherton was ranked as having the highest per capita income among U.S. towns with a population between 2,500 and 9,999, and it is regularly ranked as the most expensive ZIP Code in the United States.

History

In 1866, Atherton was known as Fair Oaks, and was a flag stop on the California Coast Line of the Southern Pacific Railroad between San Francisco and San Jose for the convenience of the owners of the large estates who lived north of Menlo Park. The entire area was called Menlo Park. It had been part of the Rancho de las Pulgas that had covered most of the area, which is now southern San Mateo County. There were several attempts to incorporate Fair Oaks, one in 1874 and another in 1911.

In 1923, Menlo Park wished to incorporate its lands to include the Fair Oaks lands. During a meeting of the representatives of the two communities, it became clear to the Fair Oaks property owners that in order to maintain their community as a strictly residential area, they would have to incorporate separately. Both groups rushed to Sacramento but the Fair Oaks committee arrived first. It was at that time they realized that they could not keep the name Fair Oaks, as it was already the name of a town near Sacramento. It was decided to honor Faxon Dean Atherton who had been one of the first property owners in the south peninsula and name the Town for him. Atherton was incorporated on September 12, 1923. That same year, in 1923, the Menlo Polo Club was founded in Atherton.

Faxon D. Atherton, a native of Massachusetts, had spent several years in Chile and Hawaii as a trader in tallow, hides and merchandise. His friend and business associate, Thomas Lark had written to him "there is education available for your children and a dignity of living on landed estates down the San Francisco peninsula (that is) convenient and accessible." Atherton purchased 640 acres (2.6 km2) for ten dollars an acre ($2470/km²)in 1860. His home, "Valparaíso Park", was built several years later. It was simple in design and ample for his family of seven children.

Because of the development of the railroad, other San Franciscans traveled south and established summer homes. Because the dirt roads were usually impassable in the winter, the families were only in residence from May through September.

Thomas H. Selby purchased 420 acres (1.7 km2). A successful businessman, he served as mayor of San Francisco. His country estate was called "Almendral". John T. Doyle, an attorney, built a home off Middlefield Road, "Ringwood". James C. Flood purchased successive parcels and built an extravagant mansion, "Linden Towers".This is now Lindenwood. The Joseph A Donohoe estate was "Holmgrove" and is now the site of Menlo Atherton High School. James Thomas Watkins' home was "Fair Oaks" and after two moves, stands restored today on Alejandra Avenue.

The government was established with Edward E. Eyre as the first mayor. In 1928, the residents voted to build a Town Hall, which stands today. The early residents wanted a Town that would be divided into large parcels and would not contain businesses. The author Gertrude Atherton, daughter-in-law to Faxon D. Atherton wrote in "The Californians", "Menlo Park (Atherton) has been cut up into country places for what might be termed the 'old families of San Francisco', the eight or ten families who owned the haughty precinct were as exclusive, as conservative, as any group of ancient country families in Europe." A few of the large land holdings were subdivided during the 1920s and 1930s, James Flood estate in 1938. In the 1940s and 1950s over eighty subdivisions were recorded. With the minimum size of one acre (4,000 m²), the era of the large estates was over. Atherton is still a "plain of oaks". Native live oaks, white oaks, bays, redwoods, cedars, pines and other ornamental trees cover the six square miles (16 km²) of town. There are approximately 50 miles (80 km) of roads. The population is around 7500 with approximately 2500 households.

Olive Holbrook-Palmer left Holbrook-Palmer Park, a 22-acre (89,000 m²) park, to the Town in 1958. It is an open, tree-covered park, which offers recreational programs and has facilities for functions.

Geography

Atherton is located at 37°27′31″N 122°12′00″W / 37.458615°N 122.200099°W / 37.458615; -122.200099.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 5.0 square miles (13 km2), of which, 5.0 square miles (13 km2) of it is land and 0.03 square miles (0.078 km2) of it (0.63%) is water.

Atherton lies two miles (3 km) southeast of Redwood City, and 18 miles (29 km) northwest of San Jose. The town is considered to be part of the San Francisco metropolitan area.

The town has a Caltrain station with service only on weekends.

Culture and contemporary life

There are a number of active community organizations; the Atherton Heritage Association, the Atherton Arts Committee, the Atherton Tree Committee, the Friends of the Atherton Community Library, the Holbrook-Palmer Park Foundation, the Atherton Dames, the Police Task force, and the Atherton Civic Interest League. There are also home owners' associations. The Menlo Circus Club is a private club with stables and a riding ring located within the town.

There are also several tracts of contemporary Eichler homes, most notably in the Lindenwood neighborhood.

Demographics

Historical population
Census Pop.
1930 1,324
1940 1,908 44.1%
1950 3,630 90.3%
1960 7,717 112.6%
1970 8,085 4.8%
1980 7,797 −3.6%
1990 7,163 −8.1%
2000 7,194 0.4%
2010 6,914 −3.9%
U.S. Decennial Census

In September 2010, Forbes magazine placed Atherton's ZIP code of 94027 at #2 on its annual list of America's most expensive zip codes. In October 2013, 94027 moved to #1 on the list, where it remained through at least 2018, save for 2016 when it appeared at #3. In context, Beverly Hills was placed at #14 in 2015. Atherton had topped the list in earlier decades; a 20-year retrospective showed Atherton also at #1 in 1998. Atherton is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States.

2000

At the 2000 census there were 7,194 people in 2,413 households, including 1,984 families, in the town. The population density was 1,467.6 people per square mile (566.9/km2). There were 2,505 housing units at an average density of 511.0 per square mile (197.4/km2). Of the 2,413 households 33.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 75.6% were married couples living together, 4.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 17.8% were non-families. 12.8% of households were one person and 7.5% were one person aged 65 or older. The average household size was 2.85 and the average family size was 3.06.

The age distribution was 23.7% under the age of 18, 7.2% from 18 to 24, 18.7% from 25 to 44, 30.3% from 45 to 64, and 20.2% 65 or older. The median age was 45 years. For every 100 females, there were 93.6 males. For every 100 women age 18 and over, there were 90.2 men.

The median income for a household in the town was in excess of $200,000, as is the median family income. Males had a median income of over $100,000 versus $68,393 for females. The per capita income for the town was $112,408. About 0.8% of families and 1.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 0.6% of those under age 18 and 3.3% of those age 65 or over.

2010

At the 2010 census Atherton had a population of 6,914. The population density was 1,369.5 people per square mile (528.8/km2). The racial makeup of Atherton was 5,565 (80.5%) White, 75 (1.1%) African American, 7 (0.1%) Native American, 911 (13.2%) Asian, 45 (0.7%) Pacific Islander, 95 (1.4%) from other races, and 216 (3.1%) from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 268 people (3.9%).

The census reported that 6,529 people (94.4% of the population) lived in households, 385 (5.6%) lived in non-institutionalized group quarters, and no one was institutionalized.

There were 2,330 households, 787 (33.8%) had children under the age of 18 living in them, 1,755 (75.3%) were opposite-sex married couples living together, 109 (4.7%) had a female householder with no husband present, 48 (2.1%) had a male householder with no wife present. There were 34 (1.5%) unmarried opposite-sex partnerships, and 15 (0.6%) same-sex married couples or partnerships. 321 households (13.8%) were one person and 178 (7.6%) had someone living alone who was 65 or older. The average household size was 2.80. There were 1,912 families (82.1% of households); the average family size was 3.03.

The age distribution was 1,543 people (22.3%) under the age of 18, 579 people (8.4%) aged 18 to 24, 966 people (14.0%) aged 25 to 44, 2,264 people (32.7%) aged 45 to 64, and 1,562 people (22.6%) who were 65 or older. The median age was 48.2 years. For every 100 females, there were 96.6 males. For every 100 women age 18 and over, there were 95.3 men.

The median household income was in excess of $250,000, the highest of any place in the United States. The per capita income for the town was $128,816. About 2.9% of families and 5.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 5.6% of those under age 18 and 5.4% of those age 65 or over.

There were 2,530 housing units at an average density of 501.1 per square mile, of the occupied units 2,116 (90.8%) were owner-occupied and 214 (9.2%) were rented. The homeowner vacancy rate was 1.6%; the rental vacancy rate was 3.9%. 5,921 people (85.6% of the population) lived in owner-occupied housing units and 608 people (8.8%) lived in rental housing units.

Forbes ranked Atherton as second on its list of America's Most Expensive ZIP Codes in 2010, listing median house price as over $2,000,000.

Education

Among Atherton's public schools, Encinal, Las Lomitas, and Laurel are elementary schools, while Selby Lane is both an elementary and a middle school. Menlo-Atherton is a high school. Atherton does not have its own public school system. Selby Lane is part of the Redwood City School District, the high school is part of the Sequoia Union High School District, Las Lomitas Elementary School is part of the Las Lomitas Elementary School District, and both Encinal and Laurel are part of the Menlo Park City School District.

Among the town's private schools, Sacred Heart is an elementary, middle and high school, and Menlo School is a middle and high school.

Menlo College is a private four-year college.

Notable people

  • Paul Allen, late Microsoft co-founder.
  • Marc Andreessen, co-founder of Netscape and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Mohamed Atalla, Egyptian-American engineer, inventor of MOSFET transistor, founder of Atalla Corporation
  • Gertrude Atherton, American author
  • Faxon Atherton, namesake of Atherton, California
  • CiCi Bellis, tennis player
  • Lindsey Buckingham, of Fleetwood Mac
  • Cheryl Burke, Dancing with the Stars professional dancer
  • Nick Clegg, Meta Platforms executive and former Deputy Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and his wife, Miriam González Durántez, a lawyer
  • Ty Cobb, Hall of Fame Major League Baseball player
  • Stephen Curry and Ayesha Curry, NBA star and his family moved to Atherton when the Golden State Warriors moved to San Francisco in 2019.
  • Timothy C. Draper, venture capitalist and founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson
  • Clay Dreslough, game designer, raised in Atherton
  • Douglas Engelbart, computer engineer
  • Drew Fuller, actor, known for role on Charmed and Army Wives
  • Bill Gurley, venture capitalist; general partner at Benchmark.
  • Elizabeth Holmes, former biotechnology entrepreneur convicted of fraud.
  • Ben Horowitz, co-founder of Andreessen Horowitz.
  • Ron Johnson, former senior executive at Apple
  • Guy Kawasaki, venture capitalist
  • Bobbie Kelsey, Stanford University women's basketball assistant coach
  • Andy Kessler, author of books on business, technology, and the health field
  • Jan Koum, co-founder of WhatsApp
  • Charlie Kubal, music producer, created 2010's Mashup Album of the Year, the notorious xx, grew up in Atherton
  • Douglas Leone (born 1957), billionaire venture capitalist
  • Andy W. Mattes, CEO of Diebold.
  • Willie Mays, Hall of Fame Major League Baseball player
  • Rajeev Motwani, professor, computer science, Stanford University
  • Farzad Nazem, former chief technology officer of Yahoo! and one of its longest-serving executives, now an angel investor
  • Chamath Palihapitiya, CEO of Social Capital, and board member of the Golden State Warriors.
  • J. B. Pritzker, Governor of Illinois and co-founder of the Pritzker Group
  • Tom Proulx, co-founder of Intuit.
  • Vivek Ranadive, chairman, CEO and Founder of TIBCO Software
  • Jerry Rice, Hall of Fame football player
  • George R. Roberts, co-founder of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts.
  • Ted Robinson, San Francisco 49ers play-by-play announcer
  • Maureen Kennedy Salaman, author and proponent of alternative medicine
  • Sheryl Sandberg, Chief Operating Officer of Meta Platforms.
  • James R. Scapa, co-founder, Chairman and CEO of Altair Engineering
  • Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman and former CEO of Google; 96th-richest person in the world in 2021
  • Charles R. Schwab, founder and CEO of the Charles Schwab Corporation
  • Shirley Temple, child movie star and diplomat
  • Y.A. Tittle, 49ers & Giants QB, NFL HOFer, resident until his death in 2017
  • Bob Weir, of the Grateful Dead and Ratdog, raised in Atherton
  • Steve Westly, former State Controller of California, major Democratic Party fundraiser, and venture capitalist.
  • Meg Whitman, former president and CEO of Hewlett-Packard, former CEO of eBay
  • Dennis Woodside, president of Impossible Foods, former COO of Dropbox

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