Silicon Valley Property Tax Rolls Reach Record High

Silicon Valley properties have never been worth more, according to Santa Clara County Assessor Larry Stone, who says the assessment roll ticked up for the second consecutive record-breaking year.

It's welcome news for property owners, but also public schools and other local government agencies that depend on property tax revenue.

The county assessment roll jumped 6.8 percent, by $22.8 billion, to $357 billion—a snapshot of property values as of Jan. 1. That makes for a two-year jump of $50 billion.

“Silicon Valley has been experiencing a very robust economic recovery for more than two years,” Stone said in his announcement Friday.

Rising property values reflects recovery in the regional job market, Stone added. A month-to-month drop in jobless figures have fueled a building boom in apartments, retail and office space unseen since before the Great Recession. Unemployment dipped from a high of 11.6 percent in 2009 to 5.3 percent in March.

“The result has been the emergence of Silicon Valley’s new bird, the construction crane,” Stone said. “These mechanical birds are crowding the skies from San Jose to Palo Alto in the rush to build new office buildings and apartments.”

In the past few years, developers added 4,800 new apartment units in San Jose and another 5,000 in the broader South Bar. The market for single-family homes and condos took off, too. Median condo prices jumped 17 percent in San Jose between 2012 and ’13—quickly closing in on the all-time high set in March 2007.

Property values surged the most in areas hardest-hit by the recession, including Gilroy, Milpitas, east San Jose and Morgan Hill. Development in northern parts of the county and north San Jose certainly helps.

“The good news is that there is more in the pipeline next year with the completion of two major sports stadiums, multiple high-rise apartment and office buildings, plus Apple’s new world headquarters currently under construction,” he remarked.

A low California Consumer Price Index (CCPI), however, has tempered that recovery, despite overall market improvement. Prop. 13, a law passed by voters in 1978, caps annual increases in assessed property value at 2 percent or the CCPI, whichever is less. This year that was the CCPI, with a rate of 0.454 percent, the second lowest on record and the eighth time it’s hovered below 2 percent in the 35 years the law’s been in place.

In the week to come, 483,210 property owners will start receiving their annual notice from Stone informing them of their 2014-15 assessed value, the basis for the property tax bill sent out in the fall.

This year also marks the launch of several new online services by the assessor, including many previously available only by visiting the customer service counter at the county offices. For information about how to opt in, click here.

Jennifer Wadsworth is the former news editor for San Jose Inside and Metro Silicon Valley. Follow her on Twitter at @jennwadsworth.

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