With the fast-paced, instantaneous lifestyle people have come to associate with Silicon Valley, it's rare to find a place where people take the time to get to know their neighbors. Having a sense of community has become a lost art. That is, unless you live in a neighborhood like Palo Alto's Charleston Gardens.
Bounded by main thoroughfares Charleston, Middlefield and San Antonio roads, Charleston Gardens is located just off the Bayshore Freeway, near Cubberley Community Center, Charleston Shopping Center and the Oshman Family JCC. Yet in spite of those busy boundaries, the neighborhood feels isolated from the traffic.
"It wasn't until we moved into our house and started exploring our Charleston Gardens neighborhood that we discovered the endearing characteristics that have made this place our home and our community," said resident Naomi Wang.
Wang said neighbors genuinely care about each other, often waving to each other during evening strolls. Her kids, she said, "love the vibe."
"They started playing with neighborhood kids when everyone was just wee tall," she said. "They spent idyllic summers circling around the block when they were learning to ride bikes on our tree-lined streets and later gained enough practice to venture to the local park or library by themselves."
She said neighbors buy Girl Scout cookies from her daughter every February and freshly squeezed lemonade is quickly sold out during the long summer days.
"Last October, we had over 100 kids coming by to trick-or-treat," Wang added. "Of course, there was one particularly adorable child who apparently enjoyed our Halloween treats so much that he became a loyal and frequent customer every 10 minutes. It was hilariously adorable."
Adding to the sense of community is the generosity of Charleston Gardens residents. Wang said one of her neighbors shares homegrown vegetables and another brings "delightful treats" to neighborhood events. Residents flock together for outdoor movie nights, potlucks and an annual block party held every year in late September. Now in its 20th year, the block party is not only an event welcoming new residents to the neighborhood, but it gives residents a chance to reconnect with friends and build camaraderie.
Neighborhood Preparedness Coordinator Scott Fullam moved to Charleston Gardens in 2004, and echoes Wang's sentiments.
"The neighbors are great," he said. "On any particular evening while walking around the neighborhood, I bump into at least one neighbor and spend time catching up. Most everyone is familiar and friendly."
Fullam said the location of Charleston Gardens is one of its most appealing characteristics, with its "high quality" local market, proximity to the library, walkability to Herbert Hoover and Fairmeadow elementary schools and Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School and direct route to Gunn High School. Palo Alto's and Mountain View's downtowns are just a 10-minute drive from the neighborhood, the San Antonio Caltrain station is a 20-minute walk.
Both residents rave about the close-knit community and said the neighborhood is a good mix of retired original residents, baby boomers and families living in ranch-style, Eichler and newer-construction homes.
"Despite its convenience to everything, our Charleston Gardens neighborhood maintains a decidedly tranquil and peaceful quality of life," Wang said. "So, would I recommend moving to this prime real estate location? You betcha."
Melissa McKenzie, 2018
CHILD CARE AND PRESCHOOLS (nearby): Children's Pre-School Center, 4000 Middlefield Road, T-1; Good Neighbor Montessori, 4000 Middlefield Road, K4; Young Fives and Preschool Family, 4120 Middlefield Road; T'enna Preschool (OFJCC), 3921 Fabian Way
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: bounded by Middlefield Road, East Charleston Road, Montrose Avenue, Sutherland Drive
PARK: Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Drive
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.; Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Challenger School, 3880 Middlefield Road; Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, 450 San Antonio Road; Kehillah Jewish High School, 3900 Fabian Way; Palo Alto Prep School, 4000 Middlefield Road, H-2
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Fairmeadow or Hoover elementary schools, Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: Charleston Center, San Antonio Shopping Center