Rebecca Sanders and Scott Van Duyne moved to Ventura in 2001 because it seemed like a friendly neighborhood. The affordable housing, convenient location, cultural diversity and great schools didn't hurt, either.
Less-expensive homes make Ventura an appealing entry point for families. When a friend told Sanders that a house had opened up in Ventura, she saw it as a great opportunity for her kids.
"Both our kids had a great experience at Terman," she said, "and one just graduated from Gunn. I feel my daughter is fully prepared for college because of Gunn's academic standards."
Gunn is close enough for her son, Tom, to bike to school — a greener alternative — even though he has access to a car.
While Ventura Elementary School closed down in 1978, it is now home to a police department information facility, day-care centers and various neighborhood organizations.
Ventura's location is within walking distance of California Avenue and El Camino Real, giving its residents easy access to Palo Alto's shops and restaurants.
Ventura's residents are a heterogeneous mix of culture and race. Susan Gere, a Ventura resident since 1989, acknowledges part of the reason she moved into the neighborhood was its diversity. Included are Hispanic, Korean, Chinese, African American and Japanese American residents, as well as a few Orthodox Jews who have added to the mix. That diversity is part of its appeal, Sanders said.
Most of the houses in Ventura were originally built after World War II with low interest rates thanks to the GI Bill. A generation or so later, as more families move in, the architecture of the neighborhood is changing.
"We're seeing some two-story houses now," said Caleb Hauser, who moved to Ventura in 1985.
In the past few years, some of the families have demolished the previous houses and started anew. In an area with mostly one-story houses, some residents said the larger houses stand out.
Gere, who remodeled her house to two stories in 2004, said there is a different standard of living needed for today's family. She recalled that her old kitchen was the size of a closet.
Aside from houses being remodeled, Ventura's primary characteristics have sustained over the years. "You see people instead of just cars going into and out of their garages," she said.
Her neighbor, John Alderete, moved into the Ventura neighborhood in 2004. He has been in and out of the Palo Alto area for the past 20 years because of his father's work at Stanford University.
But what led him to permanently settle in Palo Alto, after he and his wife had moved nine times in eight years, was his concern for his 5-year-old son.
"One of the things that I felt surprisingly shocking, in a good way, is the commitment of the community to the schools. When I went to my son's parent-teacher conference I was shocked at the curriculum and involvement of the teachers and the parents. ... I feel very grateful," he said.
"There are lots of interesting people here, which makes it better for myself and my family," said the former bio-tech entrepreneur, who recently launched his own beer business from his Ventura garage, called Mayfield Brewing Company.
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: ChildrenFirst, Inc., 3000 El Camino Real; Country Day Little School, 3990 Ventura Court; Heffalump Cooperative Nursery, 3990 Ventura Court; Sojourner Truth Child Development Center, 3990 Ventura Court
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
PARK: Boulware Park, 390 Fernando Ave.; Ventura Community Center, 3990 Ventura Court
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Barron Park and Juana Briones elementary schools, Terman Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: Charleston Center, San Antonio Shopping Center, California Avenue
MEDIAN 2008 HOME PRICE: $900,000 ($825,000-$1,285,000)
HOMES SOLD: 6