Lush, fragrant vegetation and lazily oscillating rope swings characterize Southgate, where life is quiet and relaxing.
Birds are audible and so are the happy sounds of play in adjacent Alexander Peers Park. Trees provide ample shade and, when the season is right, fruit.
Residents David and Anne Kramer have lived in Southgate with their son for the past nine years.
"Life in Southgate is vibrant," Anne said. "There is a vitality to the neighborhood because of the changing demographic, with younger families moving in."
Longtime resident Jim Cornett shares similar feelings.
"Southgate renews itself," he said. "Our children are grown, but there are lots of young children now."
Renewal is visible in the ongoing construction work, which includes both renovations and the building of new homes. The oldest Southgate homes date to the 1920s and many still possess distinctive historical details. The architectural style of the neighborhood is varied and includes new, modern homes; Spanish-style homes with stucco exteriors and terra cotta roofs; Craftsman homes like the Kramers' and cottage-style houses. Residents say they take pride in their homes.
"I learned how to do stucco work to be able to work on my own home," Cornett said.
Nidhi Pai moved to Southgate from Cupertino with her family in November 2012. Pai said she prioritized leaving her 1927 English cottage-style home as unchanged as possible.
"We had to renovate it, unfortunately," she explained. "I was cooking one day and water came raining down on my head."
She said that an investigation revealed that the home's plumbing as well as electrical needed to be updated. The renovations needed were so extensive, Pai said, that the family had to move into a rental home.
"I'm not changing anything about the outside of my house," she said. "I do not want to change the feel. I just fixed whatever needed to be fixed."
Because her dental practice is located near the California Avenue business district, Pai said she knew for many years that she wanted to settle in Southgate with her family. She recounted how she pursued Southgate homes for 10 years before finally purchasing her beloved cottage-style home.
"I walked in the living room and the first bedroom, and I knew I wanted the house," she said.
Both Pai and the Kramers said they consider their neighborhood to be a tight-knit, family-friendly community. There are block parties twice a year in Southgate, including a Fourth of July celebration.
"All the kids were on bikes, and everyone was dressed up with flags," said Pai of this year's event. "There was a parade with the kids and a potluck event. Someone played drums and the parade went around the neighborhood. My kids loved it."
Pai and Cornett observed that Southgate's layout, with definite neighborhood boundaries, smaller lots, and pathways between neighbor's home, fosters friendships among neighbors.
"People are outside, walking dogs. Kids are outside, and people are gardening," Pai said.
Though life in Southgate is generally laid-back, there remains the potential for changes to the neighborhood from the proposed high-speed railway. Past high-speed rail proposals included the removal of neighborhood homes to make space for an elevated train track.
"High-speed rail is a pall that is cast over Southgate," Anne Kramer said. "It casts a dark cloud that comes and goes, depending on where it is on the radar of California."
She added that property values in Southgate affected by high-speed rail concerns seem to be recovering recently, with the increases in sales prices of homes that would be affected by the rail.
CHILD CARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Casa dei Bambini, 457 College Ave.; Escondido Kids' Club, 890 Escondido Road; Walter Hays Kids' Club, 1525 Middlefield Road
FIRE STATION: No. 6, 711 Serra St. on the Stanford Campus
LIBRARY: Main Library, 1213 Newell Road; and College Terrace branch, 2300 Wellesley St.
LOCATION: bounded by El Camino Real, Park Boulevard, the railroad tracks and Churchill Avenue
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Jim McFall, Neighborhood Watch, firstname.lastname@example.org, 650-327-4428
PARK: Alexander Peers Park, 1899 Park Blvd.
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Escondido and Walter Hays elementary schools, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School
SHOPPING: Town & Country Village; California Avenue
Editorial intern Kimberlee D'Ardenne can be emailed at email@example.com.