Situated between Middlefield, Embarcadero and Newell roads and Channing Avenue, the colorful, open yards and sidewalks shaded by trees in the Community Center neighborhood welcome neighbors to stop and chat with passer-bys.
Within two blocks in each direction, residents have everything they could want in a neighborhood brimming with children.
"It's a great neighborhood for kids," said Meg Clayton, who moved to the Community Center neighborhood in 2002. "You can get to parks, libraries, even the Children's Theatre without having to cross a major road."
"We have access to everything," said Gaynor Brown, a resident who moved in 10 years ago. "Everything is close -- the parks, the swimming pool, all the schools. It's a 20-minute walk into town. You've got the library. You've got the (Junior) Museum. There's a lot going on."
Brown's decision to move to the neighborhood was influenced by the fact she could walk or cycle whenever she wanted to. Her two daughters have followed her model.
"They haven't needed cars," Brown said. "It was really easy for them to walk or bike to school. It's always felt very safe walking around."
Marvin Lee moved to the neighborhood more than 40 years ago with his wife and two children.
"It just looked like an ideal place for us," Lee said. "It was only two blocks from the park in either direction. Rinconada Park is on the one side, Eleanor Pardee Park on the other. Then the library was two blocks in the other direction. And the Children's Theatre and all the children's activities two blocks west."
Not much has changed since Lee moved in.
"It's been a wonderful community," Lee said. "We've pretty much retained the way it was. The community center area remains an extremely desirable area. You can see it in the prices. It deserves people saying, 'I'll pay any price to live there.'"
Carmen Muņoz Chappuis has lived in the Community Center neighborhood since 1999 and her three children have participated in various activities -- Children's Theatre outreach, Girl Scouts, tennis lessons and swimming at Rinconada Park. She said she loves being able to bike with her children to all of these activities, and to walk or bike to the Palo Alto Farmers Market. On date nights, she and her husband often walk downtown and have dinner.
"The location is great, but what I think makes it really special is the people who live here," said Clayton, author of "The Wednesday Sisters." "It's a very friendly neighborhood. People know their neighbors. We have block parties. We have a book group. Everyone is always out walking around."
The block parties began more than 40 years ago, and the book group began in 2004.
"When we moved to Palo Alto, we knew not a soul," Clayton said. "The neighborhood has really drawn together. Before the book group was started I knew a couple people in the neighborhood. Now we have parties outside the book group. We connect in so many ways, even just walking dogs."
Rick Ferguson, president of the Community Center Neighbors' Association, has seen families come and go, but said the dynamic remains unchanged.
"We've had new home development and an influx of younger families," Ferguson said. "There's been a marvelous infusion of new blood and new faces."
Ferguson was impressed by the community's response when a neighbor's home caught fire in 2008.
"There was a wonderful turn-out," Ferguson said. "The neighbors were all there in a matter of minutes and the family's needs were met. The neighbors and neighborhood are there when they need to pull together."
Muņoz Chappuis echoed Ferguson's praise for her neighbors. When she had a medical issue, the book club brought her meals and took care of her pets.
"If I'm out of something, like eggs, I'll ask around instead of running to the store with three kids.
"We wouldn't trade Community Center for any place in Palo Alto," she said.
-- Emily James
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Walter Hays Kids' Club, 1525 Middlefield Road
FIRE STATION: No. 3, 799 Embarcadero Road
LIBRARY: Main Library, 1213 Newell Road, Children's Library, 1276 Harriet St.
LOCATION: bounded by Middlefield Road, Channing Avenue, Newell Road and Embarcadero Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Rick Ferguson, 650-327-3222, firstname.lastname@example.org
PARK: Rinconada Park, 777 Embarcadero Road
POST OFFICE: Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road; Hamilton, 380 Hamilton Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOL: St. Elizabeth Seton School, 1095 Channing Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Walter Hays, Addison or Duveneck elementary schools, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School
SHOPPING: Midtown, Downtown Palo Alto
MEDIAN 2011 HOME PRICE: $2,450,000 ($800,000-$4,908,000)
HOMES SOLD: 17