Palo Alto's Walnut Grove stands out for its signature Eichler and Burke and Wyatt homes and its hallmark single-story structures, but the tiny neighborhood frequently finds itself lumped in with nearby Greenmeadow.
"It's a small little neighborhood and often overlooked," said Ron Pyszka, who moved into his home on East Charleston Road in 1974. "It's a pleasant little nook of Palo Alto with some very nice people."
Initially, Pyszka said his family's decision to purchase the house came from a limited housing market, but they were drawn to the area because of the schools; however, over the past 40 years, he has seen plenty of changes in the neighborhood, bounded by East Charleston Road, Alma Street and Adobe Creek.
"We happen to be on Charleston, which is a lot busier than it was 40 years ago, but a few years ago, the city reduced it from four lanes to two, which was really important to calming traffic and in the next month or two, they're going to put in permanent landscaping. It's a school corridor, and the idea is to make it a pedestrian and bicycle-friendly street. We're really happy (the Palo Alto City) Council has supported us all of these years in doing that."
Samir Mittal, who moved to Walnut Grove with his family five years ago, also wanted to reside in Palo Alto for the schools. At the time he bought his home, he found Walnut Grove to be a somewhat more affordable area.
"We are very blessed to live in this part of Palo Alto," he said, noting he hopes someday his daughter, who is entering ninth grade at Gunn High School, will choose to live nearby. "It's a beautiful neighborhood very quaint and quiet."
Mittal said he loves the walkability of Walnut Grove and its proximity to public transportation as well as the Charleston Shopping Center, Mitchell Park, the YMCA and the Palo Alto Library.
"Walnut Grove is very kid-friendly," Mittal said. "My daughter bikes to school every day, and all the after-school activities such as music, tennis, swimming and classes take place in a 1-mile radius around Walnut Grove. There's a great store nearby Piazza's Fine Foods. You can walk there, get your groceries and come home to make dinner."
And, while many areas of Palo Alto are seeing newer residents purchase homes to rebuild larger ones on their lots, Walnut Grove residents have put measures in place including a single-story overlay enacted in 1992 to ensure the neighborhood retains its charm.
"Our neighborhood has, for the most part, managed to retain its character," Pyszka said. "Some neighborhoods have lost some of that character with massive two-story homes being built."
Both residents noted block parties often bring the neighborhood together and they enjoy the mix of longtime older residents and newer residents, including young families.
"When we first moved in there were a lot of young families," Pyszka said. "Most people stayed and it became increasingly older and now there are a lot of retirees, but in the last few years there have been an increasing number of young children and families with young children. It's becoming more of a mix."
"The neighborhood is only about three blocks deep," he continued. "It's very small; it's very nice. There are no real big neighborhood controversies or issues. There's not an awful lot of turnover. We are fortunate with our neighbors."
Melissa McKenzie is a freelance writer for the Palo Alto Weekly. She can be emailed at email@example.com.
CHILD CARE AND PRESCHOOLS Crescent Park Child Development Center (Peekaboo), 4161 Alma St.; Montessori School of Los Altos, 303 Parkside Drive; Palo Alto Infant Toddler Center, 4111 Alma St.
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road (at Mitchell Park)
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 4050 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: Bounded by East Charleston Road, Alma Street and Adobe Creek.
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCATION: Walnut Grove Homeowners' Association, Vipul Vyas, firstname.lastname@example.org
PARKS: Greenmeadow Park (private); Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Drive
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS Palo Alto Prep School, 2462 Wyandotte St.; Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, 450 San Antonio Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS Fairmeadow Elementary School, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: Charleston Plaza, San Antonio Shopping Center