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Smartville: On the Move

Drive from Penn Valley, along Highway 20 on the way to Marysville and Yuba City, and, on your right, you will pass by a Gold Rush area known as – well it depends on whether you’re an old timer or a newbie. Natives are passionate that the area should be called “Smartsville” while more recent denizens are accustomed to using the Post Office spelling, and calling it Smartville. Legend has it the Post Office is the culprit in the spelling change.

Adding to the debate fun is that the unincorporated Smartville area skirts Nevada and Yuba counties so it is possible to live in nearby Big Oak Valley, have a Penn Valley 432- phone number prefix but get your mail service from Yuba County.

And if that’s not enough, Smartville at one time was called Unionville and was located on the other side of Highway 20, off of McGonagle Street, says Teresa Treco, a realtor and team leader of ERA Cornerstone Realty Group’s Penn Valley office which services the Smartville to Yuba City area. Unionville burned down during the Gold Rush and a new town was raised in the current location of Smartville, she explains.



Today Smartville suffers from no identity crisis, as nearby Beale Air Force Base and growing housing demand in Nevada County have combined to make the Highway 20 corridor an active real estate market. “At one point Smartville was not a desirable area. Four to five years ago, it was not happening. Now, because everything is booming, the housing market is great,” says Treco.

Smartville itself, whose population was recorded as 945 people in the 2000 census, has many rural ranchette style parcels, larger land parcels and a country living atmosphere. The surrounding area, including Big Oak Valley, offers a wide variety of housing and land investment. “It is the last bastion of affordability in Nevada County,” says Treco.



Real estate buyers in the Smartville area have choices ranging from large acre parcels at $2.5 million to a manufactured home on 2.5 acres for $198,000. If you’re wanting to break into the rapidly escalating Nevada County housing market, Smartville and surrounding areas offer a chance to find starter properties. Smartville families also have the advantage of sending their children to good schools. A school bus picks up students at Mooney Flat Road and Highway 20. They can attend Pleasant Valley Elementary and Nevada Union High School.

The proximity of Beale Air Force has also the impacted Smartville-Big Oak Valley area, as those who do not want to live on base seek attractive off site housing. As a result, one of the most popular sites is the Gold Village subdivision off of Smartville- Hammonton Road. According to Treco, you can find nearly new homes in the $309,000 to $350,000 price range, with 1,200-square feet on average, three bedrooms, two baths and two car garages. “These are nice homes built around the year 2000, which qualify for government mortgage financing,” says Treco.

Sacramento’s job market is also impacting the Highway 20 corridor as employees look for affordable housing. There are Smartville residents that commute to Sacramento to work, says Treco. Just below Smartville a major new planned development is coming in. The River Highlands project will encompass a 34-square mile parcel and will include residences, schools, commercial and industrial parcels and open space. River Highlands is on final approval status before the Yuba County government, according to Treco, who is a member of the Yuba County Economic Resource Council Real Estate Committee.

“River Highlands will create a bypass from Smartville-Hammonton Road around Wheatland to Highway 65 which will open up Smartville to Roseville commuters,” says Treco.

When not working or studying, Smartville area residents have the advantage of Engelbright Lake Dam, off of Mooney Flat Road. Operated by the State of California, it is a very popular spot for houseboats, fishing, boating and just plain enjoying the water as the summer heat sets in. The Smartville area can get as much as ten degree warmer than Nevada City in the summer, says Treco. In the winter it is rare to get snow since it is lower in elevation than Penn Valley.

History lovers can see what’s left of Smartville’s downtown from its Gold Rush heyday. Some local residents would like to see it restored and become a tourist destination. They are raising money to renovate the Smartville Church, located downtown and one of the oldest churches in the area. On Timbuctoo Road, the Smartville Cemetery is a great place to see old headstones harkening back to the Gold Rush days.

Smartville and surrounding areas have a colorful Gold Rush past but the area is clearly designated for modern living as the Sacramento-Roseville corridor, nearby Beale Air Force and Nevada County’s growing population combine to make it an attractive real estate investment market.


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