Atherton is a town in San Mateo County, California, United States. It lies two miles southeast of Redwood City and 18 miles northwest of San Jose. The town is considered to be part of the San Francisco metropolitan area. Atherton has a Caltrain station with service only on weekends.

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.

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, one of the first property owners in the south peninsula, by naming the town for him. F.D. Atherton, originally from Massachusetts, had spent several years as a trader in tallow, hides, and merchandise. After a friend and business associate wrote to tell him that “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 for ten dollars an acre 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.

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. A few of the large land holdings were subdivided during the 1920s and 1930s. In the 1940s and 1950s over eighty subdivisions were recorded, and with the minimum size of one acre, the era of the large estates was over.

Edward E. Eyre reigned as the first mayor and in 1928, the residents voted to build a Town Hall, which is still in use today.

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 of town. Atherton’s current land use goal is “To preserve the town’s character as a scenic, rural, thickly-wooded residential area with abundant open space.” Ms. Olive Holbrook-Palmer left Holbrook-Palmer Park, a 22 acre park, to the town in 1958. It is an open, tree-covered park, which offers recreational programs and has facilities for functions.

Atherton’s population is around 7,000 according to the 2011 census, with approximately 2,500 households. The median age is 48.2 years. Atherton is one of the wealthiest cities in the United States. 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, it moved to #1 on the list, where it remained for 2014 and 2015. In context, Beverly Hills was placed at #14 in 2015.

Silicon Valley Drug Addiction

Many of the wealthy landowners in Atherton found their way to this illustrious zip code through Silicon Valley success. Unfortunately, there is a dark side to this bright trend of new wealth.

As reported in The Mercury News, drug abuse in the tech industry is growing against the backdrop of a national surge in heroin and prescription pain-pill abuse. Treatment specialists say the over-prescribing of painkillers, like the opioid hydrocodone, has spawned a new crop of addicts — working professionals with college degrees, a description that fits many of the thousands of workers in corporate Silicon Valley.

Increasingly, experts see painkillers as the gateway drug for addicts, and they are in abundance. “There are 1.4 million prescriptions … in the Bay Area for hydrocodone,” says Alice Gleghorn with the San Francisco Department of Public Health. “That’s a lot of pills out there.”

Patients prescribed opioids for back pain or injuries can easily become addicted; others get opioids on a thriving black market, or easier yet, from the medicine cabinet of a family member or friend. The nationwide trend of opiate addiction leading to heroin addiction is manifest.

Fortunately, there are many options for those seeking help with substance abuse and addiction. A number of reputable treatment facilities, both outpatient and residential, offer hope for those with the courage to reach out and seek it.