When Bob Grimm moved to the Rancho neighborhood of Los Altos in 1962, he found a safe, inviting community. Since then, he said, it really hasn't changed all that much.
"It's been a friendly neighborhood all these years," Grimm said. "My kids grew up here and there are new families with kids the same age as mine when they lived here. The cycle keeps on repeating."
Rancho fits that throwback description, its broad residential streets framed by a creek on Springer Road and anchored by the Rancho Shopping Center. On the corner where Springer meets Covington, a wooden sign with yellow, painted letters reads "Welcome to Rancho, Los Altos."
The shopping center has been around since the early 1950s when Christian Wilder developed the area. It still serves as the neighborhood hub with bakeries, grocery stores and the very popular Brian's Restaurant often full of local patrons.
The shopping center has made room for some changes while protecting its classic look and feel. It now has a Starbucks, but its signage conforms to the faded-wood style that all of the other businesses have, so that "one doesn't outdo the other," Grimm said.
"It's a nice style of construction, the same as it was built many years ago," he said.
The shopping center has also started hosting a farmers market on Saturday mornings in front of the Andronico's market from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Melanie Hoffman is a big supporter, she said, partly because it features many of the same local vendors featured in the downtown Los Altos farmers market that she's been attending for years.
"We walk by and it's just lovely," she said.
After growing up in Los Altos herself, Hoffman moved to Rancho in 1992 when her daughter entered the second grade. She loves the community feel of Rancho, she said.
It's the type of place where neighbors know each other, said Eleanor Besson, who moved there in 1961. She meets her neighbors on Riverside Drive three or four times during the summer for gatherings, she said, and looks forward to the annual community picnic on Labor Day.
When her five daughters lived with her in Rancho, Besson said, they could walk to school by themselves. With Loyola Elementary and Blach Intermediate so close by, she said, it's a neighborhood with plenty of young children.
The popularity of the schools may have something to do with the housing prices, said Grimm, which are about the only thing in the neighborhood he's seen significantly change. In the years he's lived here, they've gone up exponentially.
The high-priced homes might also have something to do with Rancho's location, which is "great overall," he said. "It's close to everything you need."
Rancho also benefits from several parks, including a new one that was just opened on Rosita Avenue.
Locals can be found at McKenzie Park walking their dogs and taking advantage of its tennis courts. Hoffman also enjoys attending an aerobics class on its lawn once a week, she said.
The abundance of green space and trees lining the streets is fitting for a place once called "The Crown of the Peninsula" when it was still orchards and ranches.
"It's a fine neighborhood and we have fine people who live here," Grimm said.
-- Cyrus Hedayati
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (nearby): Children's Center of Los Altos, 770 Berry Ave.; Los Altos Christian Preschool, 625 Magdalena Ave.; Los Altos Parents Preschool, 201 Covington Road; Los Altos United Methodist Children's Center, 655 Magdalena Ave.
FIRE STATION: No. 16, 765 Fremont Ave.
LIBRARY: Los Altos, 13 S. San Antonio Road
LOCATION: bordered by Foothill Expressway, Parma Way, Riverside Drive and Springer Road
PARKS: Rosita Park, 401 Rosita Ave.; McKenzie Park, 707 Fremont Ave.
POST OFFICE: Loyola Corners, 1525 Miramonte Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS (nearby): Pinewood School, 327 & 477 Fremont Ave.; Los Altos Christian School, 625 Magdalena Ave.; Canterbury Christian School, 101 N. El Monte Ave.; Saint Francis Catholic High School, 1885 Miramonte Ave., Mtn. View
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Los Altos School District -- Loyola or Springer elementary schools, Blach Intermediate School; Mtn. View-Los Altos Union High School District -- Los Altos or Mountain View High School
SHOPPING: Rancho Shopping Center, Loyola Corners, Downtown Los Altos
MEDIAN 2013 HOME PRICE: $1,364,000 ($1,328,000-$1,400,000)
HOMES SOLD: 2