Nestled snugly in the cash-riddled crevices of San Mateo County, California, sits the town of Atherton – a place so loaded with opulence and exclusivity, it makes Beverly Hills look like a flea market. With a whopping population of 6,915 (or should we say, 6,915 oil tycoons, software magnates, and silver spooners) as of 2021, Atherton’s zip code (94027) is the reigning champion in the Cost of Living Olympics.
With an average annual income of over $500,000 and an average home value of about $7,500,000, those who’ve called Atherton home include Sheryl Sandberg, Eric Schmidt, and Meg Whitman.
Named after the 19th-century tycoon Faxon Dean Atherton, the town is notorious for its housing regulations that make Fort Knox look lax. Here, each family is entitled to a whole acre of land for a single home, with no pesky sidewalks to obstruct the view of your emerald-green lawns or the Bugatti in your driveway. Naturally, it’s a hotspot for a who’s who of tech elite, famous faces, and those with bank balances that make Scrooge McDuck’s vault look like a piggy bank.
The history of Atherton reads like a Game of Thrones plot, dating back to its genesis as part of the Rancho de las Pulgas, a Spanish land grant that sounds like a Hogwarts spell. Originally known as Fair Oaks (probably until they realized ‘fair’ was an understatement), it sprouted into an incorporated town in 1923. Atherton’s repertoire of historical sites includes the Menlo Circus Club (which presumably doesn’t host any clown conventions), the Holbrook-Palmer Park, and the Atherton Library. There’s no shortage of festivities in this town, from the Atherton Arts Foundation Showcase (a must-attend for any culture vulture) to the Atherton Dames Garden Tour (a horticulturalist’s heaven).
For all its swanky living, Atherton is quite the eye candy with landscapes that could make even Bob Ross envious. It’s dotted with tranquil parks and trails such as the Arizona Cactus Garden and Holbrook-Palmer Park. Plus, there are the reputed schools like Encinal Elementary School and Menlo-Atherton High School, which we’re guessing don’t have a shortage of iPads or astronomy observatories. The peace is maintained by the Atherton Police Department, probably the only force in the country where the cops drive Teslas.
Situated a stone’s throw away from Palo Alto and San Francisco, Atherton offers its affluent denizens the convenience of city life served by Caltrain and SamTrans, all while lounging in the lap of luxury. A town where the past rubs shoulders with the future, where verdant nature intertwines with decadence, and where community coexists with diversity. Atherton, a veritable diamond in the rough-and-tumble of Silicon Valley, remains a testament to the fact that money can’t buy happiness… but it can certainly rent it for a long time.