With its leafy picturesque streets, eclectic mix of architecture and addresses of some of the most famous icons in the tech world, the Old Palo Alto neighborhood is an attractive draw for tourists and and residents alike.
Old Palo Alto is bordered by Alma Street (which parallels the railroad tracks), Embarcadero and Middlefield roads and Oregon Expressway.
Tennyson Avenue resident Patty Fisher, who moved to the neighborhood from Redwood City with her husband, Bob Ryan, in 1985, said she was attracted to the area because each street has a different vibe.
"The neighborhood, with the street grid and the old houses and the big trees, reminded us of home," said Fisher, referring to the couple's East Coast and Midwest roots. "It's a wonderful place to walk. Big, old trees, interesting homes. You always see people walking, and they always say 'hello.'"
At the time the duo moved into the neighborhood 33 years ago, the couple didn't have children, and "bought a fixer upper that was a mess," Fisher said. "We didn't realize kids could walk to school (from our house). We didn't even think about schools," she said. "We were the young people on our street. All of our neighbors had children who were in college or grown."
Fisher was a journalist for the San Jose Mercury News until she retired, while her husband was an executive with the newspaper's parent company, Knight Ridder.
Fisher said the need for a neighborhood association wasn't as important when she first moved into Old Palo Alto when residents like Apple founder Steve Jobs and San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young lived there.
"Some of it was, we kind of have influential people living here (so) we didn't really need a neighborhood association," she said. These influencers could simply call the city directly to get something taken care of.
Now, with the possibility of a high-speed rail project going by the edge of the neighborhood, Fisher said there's been more formal activism in the neighborhood and residents have formed a neighborhood association.
Another thing that's changed, Fisher said, is trick-or-treating on Halloween.
"We used to get hundreds of kids. Now, on Waverley and Santa Rita, they have a huge street party. They set up port-a-potties, decorations, a carnival. It's gotten bigger and bigger. Thousands of people come," she said.
Fisher's neighbor, Joan Hancock, said the Halloween party is definitely an event for the neighborhood.
Having lived in Old Palo Alto since 1963, Hancock has seen her share of trick-or-treaters, most of whom she described as "polite children" who come to the door, take one candy and say "thank you very much."
She and her husband, Bill, who was on the faculty of Stanford Medical School, chose their Tennyson Avenue home -- which they bought for $60,000 in 1970 -- for its large yard and proximity to schools, Town & Country Village, California Avenue and Gamble Garden.
"It was a comfortable area," said Hancock, who raised the couple's three sons there.
She marvels at how her neighborhood has changed.
"The thing that people complain about (in Old Palo Alto) is this," she said of investors who buy homes but choose to leave them vacant or rent them out. Hancock suggested that the city should consider an ordinance requiring a home be occupied at least six months of the year.
"One thing I don't like is empty houses around the neighborhood bought as an investment from absentee owners and left unoccupied. It makes holes in the neighborhood," she said, noting the home next door to her has been vacant for two years.
Waverley Street resident Margo Ogus echoes Hancock's concern about some of what is changing in Old Palo Alto.
"Probably my least favorite change has been the proliferation of (vacant) 'ghost' homes ... and the consolidation of multiple lots into one large property. Both changes have reduced the feeling of community and neighborliness."
Ogus, who has lived in the neighborhood with her husband since 1980, said she feels connected on other levels. "My neighbors are terrific and our block has come together for welcomes to new neighbors."
And in spite of lots of new construction, she said, "I still love that there is no uniform architectural style."
Elizabeth Lorenz is the Home and Real Estate Editor at the Weekly. She can be emailed at [email protected]
CHILD CARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Addison Kids' Club, 650 Addison Ave.; Neighborhood Infant-Toddler Center, 311 N. California Ave.; Walter hays Kids' Club, 1525 Middlefield Road
FIRE STATION: No. 3, 799 Embarcadero Road
LIBRARY: Rinconada Library, 1213 Newell Road
LOCATION: Between Embarcadero Road and Oregon Expressway, Alma Street and Middlefield Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Old Palo Alto Neighborhood Association, Nadia Naik, [email protected] or to join go to groups.google.com/group/opana_news.
PARK: Bowden Park, Alma Street and California Ave.; Bowling Green Park, 474 Embarcadero Road; Kellogg Park, next to Bowling Green; Gamble Garden, 1431 Waverley Street
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Addison and Walter Hays elementary schools; Greene Middle School; Palo Alto High School
SHOPPING: Town and Country Village; Midtown; California Avenue.