COMMUNITY PROFILE: Alamo
Alamo, while not an incorporated city is considered a "census designated place" and has a dedicated post office. Police and administrative services are provided directly by Contra Costa County, including a Sherriff's substation. Per census data, Alamo is one of the wealthier communities in the nation. In addition to offering upscale suburban living, the community provides a semi-rural atmosphere.
Alamo is the most northern community of the San Ramon Valley, which runs from southern Walnut Creek south to include San Ramon. This area is also part of the Tri Valley area, which also includes north eastern Alameda County. There is a close relationship between Alamo and the larger Town of Danville to the south, though Alamo residents remain fiercely independent and proud of their unique rural ambience.
Life in Alamo has a focus on family and a sense of security, while not being isolated either physically or culturally. This location is convenient to job opportunities and urban culture to the south and west; it is midway between San Francisco and San Jose, with easy access to the Bay Area core by nearby BART stations in Walnut Creek, Lafayette, and Dublin. Alamo is historically considered a suburb of the Bay Area; however, many people commute to the Silicon Valley from here.
While independent in many ways, Alamo shares schools and a broader sense of community with Danville. Alamo offers a premier country club and has a thriving shopping and commercial center near the freeway. While each has independent attributes, many home buyers tend to evaluate Alamo, Danville, Blackhawk, and Diablo as a whole, but distinct from Walnut Creek and San Ramon. That being said, Alamo shares a considerable border with Walnut Creek, but it would be safe to say the areas within Walnut Creek that border Alamo more reflect the culture of the latter than vice versa; however a few western Alamo neighborhoods attend Walnut Creek schools.
The quality of education is a paramount factor in the strong values of Alamo properties. Most Alamo addresses are within the boundaries of highly ranked Monte Vista High School. In the last several decades Monte Vista has catapulted itself to the top ranks of East Bay high schools in premiere communities; it now ranks above the schools serving Piedmont and Lafayette and just below those for Orinda and Moraga.
When you join that level of excellence, the distinctions become split hairs. The quality of education is roughly homogenous throughout Alamo elementary schools, and from a pricing standpoint, values are relatively consistent throughout the neighborhoods, with value decisions more driven by amenities and attributes of the home and site, than the location in this community.
When the Spanish influence arrived in Alamo in the late 1790s, the Native Americans had been there for over 5,000 years. This land, part of what Spaniards called Yngerto Canada, initially was grazing range for cattle from Mission San Jose. Then during the Mexican period, as part of Rancho San Ramon, ownership shifted to the Castro and Pacheco families in 1833. In 1843 the land passed to the Romero brothers, but they lost title to their Rancho Romero in American courts in 1857. As with much of Central Contra Costa, clever manipulators and blatant squatters were able to establish ownership.
Pioneers Mary Ann and John Jones passed through Alamo in 1847; she described the area, “On every side, the valley and surrounding hills were covered with thick, velvety clover, and with wild oats standing waist high waving and rippling in the summer breeze …” The Jones family returned to settle in Alamo in 1851; John founded the first Post Office in the San Ramon Valley at Alamo in 1852, and became the first postmaster. Mary Ann taught school and helped found the Cumberland Presbyterian church.
The area became known as Alamo, derived from the Spanish word álamo, meaning "poplar" or "cottonwood." Because of its location and climate, Alamo grew quickly in the 1850s, outpacing nearby Lafayette. Alamo was the midway point for travel between Martinez and San Jose. An early road through Tice Valley and Alamo brought redwood lumber and travellers from Moraga to San Ramon Valley. David Glass established the first trading post just north of Alamo to take advantage of the traffic on the road; this was the first store in the county outside of Martinez. It was followed soon by George Englemeyer’s store and Captain Wall’s boarding house, just 1-1/2 miles south of Walnut Creek.
The entire San Ramon Valley was typically described as “Alamo” in the early days. In 1856, when Bret Harte wrote letters from the Tassajara Valley, where he was a tutor, he headed the letters with the date and “Alamo.” The census of 1860 included the valley in Township 2, which was grouped as the “Lafayette and Alamo Post Offices.”
Eventually orchards of almonds, walnuts, pears, grapes thrived in the temperate climate. The Hemme, Bollinger, Jones and Stone ranches began grazing cattle and raising wheat and other grains. In 1891 the Hemme train station was built near today's Hemme Avenue; later it was renamed the Alamo Station. Not much changed from the turn of the century to WWII; slow growth accompanied agricultural prosperity, and the automobile brought city folk east for vacations at seasonal homes and ranches.
During World War II, an Alamo air watch tower was built by the community and was active throughout the war. Volunteers watched for Japanese war planes round the clock from 1942 to 1945.
Efforts over many years forestalled the inevitable development. The Alamo Improvement Association began in 1955. For 60 years it has helped preserve Alamo as a semi-rural residential area. Rapid valley growth fueled controversies over schools and the pace of building. This led to several votes on cityhood, spearheaded by residents wanting to retain local control. Alamo-Danville incorporation election in 1964 lost 2,086 to 1,958 with "loss of identity for Alamo" a main concern. Though Danville eventually incorporated, Alamo did not participate, and remains independent and under county jurisdiction.
Eventually, but with the character of the community well established, development in the last 50 years has focused on larger homes and larger lots, compared to neighboring areas. Round Hill Country Club opened in 1960, and many homes surround the golf course. In 1964, Interstate 680 was completed through San Ramon Valley, which encouraged even more growth, but significant development and tract housing projects skipped over Alamo and occurred in Danville and San Ramon.
Alamo schools are considered to be excellent with some slightly more distinguished than others. As with many communities the homes served by the higher rated schools are typically higher priced.
Most public schools serving Alamo are part of the San Ramon Valley Unified School District, which also serves San Ramon, Alamo, Blackhawk, Diablo, and all unincorporated areas from Alamo south to the Alameda County border. This is one of the largest districts in California but is considered to be well run and financially sound. The District is among the few in Northern California with a strong track record for providing special education programs for autistic, developmentally disabled, and special needs kids.
A few neighborhoods on the western end of Alamo are served by K- 8 schools in the Walnut Creek School District, but these are also excellent schools. For high school, these kids go to the academically strong Las Lomas High in Walnut Creek, part of the Acalanes High School District.
Twenty years ago, people looking for the best schools settled in Lamorinda* or Piedmont, but the schools in Alamo now have spectacular test scores and innovative programs making them competitive with the finest public schools in Northern California.
All of the school scores are good. Above 900 reflects excellence, and scores above that level tend to fluctuate from year to year. At that point the opportunities are there for dedicated students, and outside opportunities and influences may be individually more critical.
San Ramon School District
Green Valley Elementary School - API 915
Rancho Romero Elementary School - API 938
Alamo Elementary School - API 915
Stone Valley Middle School - API 905
Los Cerros Middle School - API 913
Monte Vista High School - API 913
San Ramon Valley High School - API 884
Walnut Creek School District
Murwood Elementary - API 880
Walnut Creek Intermediate - API 906
Acalanes High School District
Las Lomas High School - API 875
High Schools Map - Shows State API Score by Location
(Above 900 is excellent - Under 700 is scary)
*Lamorinda is an amalgamation of Lafayette, Moraga, and Orinda, three similar towns to the west of Walnut Creek. Though some prefer the term More-in-dette to describe the cost of ownership.