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LAH leaders, residents surprised by 'richest' ranking

La Vida Real mansion
Courtesy of DeLeon Realty
Los Altos Hills’ current real estate sales inventory includes this 20,982-square-foot La Vida Real manse on 8 acres recently listed at $55 million.

Take that, Atherton.

A new survey of U.S. Census data ranks Los Altos Hills as the “richest” town in California, making it also the most affluent town in the country.

The designation, announced just months after a certain San Mateo County town earned top honors in a similar but separate survey, generated some buzz last week among Hills residents.

“To find that we’re now on top of the stack blows my socks off,” City Councilman Gary Waldeck said.

Online financial news company 24/7 Wall St. published its findings May 24. The rankings are based on median household incomes gleaned from five-year estimates of U.S. Census data between 2012 and 2016. Los Altos Hills’ median household income, including benefits, is $243,701, nearly four times the statewide median income of $63,783, according to 24/7 Wall St. The publication also considered education, poverty rates and median home values when making its findings.

Los Altos Hills residents discussed the rankings during the May 5 Senior Walk event, said Sarah Robustelli, the town’s community services supervisor. Robustelli, a Mountain View resident, grew up in Los Altos Hills. She credited the town’s accessibility and promise of privacy for netting wealthy families.

“It feels far away while being close to tech,” Robustelli said. “The large lots and the semirural feel are attractive to those who can afford it.”

Tony town

Los Altos Hills is also one of only five American towns where more than half of all homes are worth at least $2 million, 24/7 Wall St. noted. That’s not surprising considering the current local real estate sales inventory, which includes an 8,912-square-foot Elena Road home on 48 acres listed at $30 million; the 11,633-square-foot, 49-acre Moody Road property known as the Adobe Creek Lodge listed at $25 million; and a 20,982-square-foot La Vida Real manse on 8 acres recently listed at $55 million.

Former Planning Commissioner Jim Abraham, a Hills resident for 60 years, expressed some skepticism about the new rankings and questioned whether the incomes of a few uber-wealthy residents like Russian billionaire Yuri Milner and Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai could somehow skew the data.

“I would want to really understand how they weighted this study,” Abraham said. “There’s an old saying, ‘Figures (don’t) lie and liars figure.’”

Atherton probably has a greater concentration of wealthy people, Abraham guessed.

In fact, a Bloomberg report published in March named Atherton the nation’s richest town, but that publication’s rankings were based on average household income recorded by the U.S. Census in a single year, 2016. Atherton’s average household income was approximately $443,400 in 2016, according to Bloomberg. Los Altos Hills, with an average household income of approximately $373,800, came in fourth.

Could all these accolades attract criminals as well as multimillionaires and billionaires? Waldeck shrugged off concerns the rankings might make Los Altos Hills an increasingly tempting target for burglars. The town’s layout, with its narrow, winding roads, makes it difficult for criminals to access, he said, and he noted the town has plans to increase Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office deputy patrol hours in the coming year.

“We still have the lowest crime rate in the San Francisco Bay Area,” Waldeck said. “I’m not overly worried about it.”

To review the U.S. Census American Community Survey data 24/7 Wall St. used to rank the richest towns, visit census.gov/acs/www/data/data-tables-and-tools/data-profiles/2016.

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