Conceived as an enclave of affordable housing for the working class when built during the Great Depression, the Belle Haven neighborhood, separated from the rest of Menlo Park by Highway 101, now houses the most diverse community in the city.
A 540-acre triangle on the south side of Highway 101, the neighborhood's boundaries are marked by the Peninsula Corridor Joint Powers Board Railroad to the north and Willow Road on the east end.
The mostly residential neighborhood home to single-family residences, apartments and duplexes was first diversified by African Americans in the 1950s, with Hispanic and Pacific Islanders moving in the 1980s. The neighborhood remains diversified in the 2010s with many children raised in the neighborhood returning as adults, and young workers from nearby Facebook moving in.
"Everyone loves this neighborhood that we live in," Whitney Pine Hoermann says. After spending two years as a Teach for America corps member at Belle Haven Elementary School, she moved to the community and says she has had former students live on her street. Ms. Pine Hoermann added square footage to her Terminal Avenue home after purchasing it in 2007.
Many in Belle Haven, a designated redevelopment zone, are remodeling and improving their properties despite what some say is an unfriendly city building permit process.
Building-savvy residents have been steadily upgrading their properties, says resident Matthew Harris. Raised in the neighborhood, he returned to Belle Haven upon his retirement in 1995 and is currently president of the Belle Haven Neighborhood Association.
The community, residents say, is a neighborhood on the upswing.
"I've seen a real change for the better," 21-year resident Ms. Escobedo says. "New families are moving in, houses are being well-kept, and there is more eagerness to get involved in the community."
Neighborhood amenities include two parks, schools, a Boys and Girls Club, a senior center and the Onetta Harris Community Center, where residents say students enjoy art and cooking programs.
"This community has the real potential to upgrade and uplift itself," says Mr. Harris, adding that the community's top priority is education.
The library available to residents is a joint city-school run library located at the Belle Haven Elementary School property and lacks resources for teens, college students, and adults, some residents say. Near and dear to the hearts of many residents is a proposal to build a city library in the neighborhood, spearheaded by Mr. Harris.
"This library is the next step to update our community," he says. "It's something we absolutely need. Kids need it, and adults need it."
Residents express a desire to work with the city to select a concept and location and see the proposal to fruition.
"This year the Bell Haven community has renewed hope that the city council will be able to help us with the new library," Ms. Escobedo says. "It's an investment in things that go beyond the monetary. In character development, in information and in so much else."
"The library is an investment that will pay long-term dividends," she adds.
-- Sarah Trauben
CHILD CARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Belle Haven Child Development Center, 410 Ivy Drive, Menlo Park; Belle Haven After-school Program, 415 Ivy Drive, Menlo Park; Family Connections, 415 Ivy Drive, #14, Menlo Park
FIRE STATION: 1467 Chilco St., Menlo Park
LOCATION: East of U.S. Highway 101 between Willow Road and Southern Pacific Railroad tracks, near Terminal Avenue
PARKS: Kelly Park, Terminal Avenue near Del Norte Avenue, Menlo Park; Market Place Park, Ivy Drive and Market Place, Menlo Park
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Beechwood School, 50 Terminal Ave., Menlo Park
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Ravenswood City School District -- Belle Haven Elementary School, 415 Ivy Drive, Menlo Park
Sequoia Union High School District -- Menlo Atherton, Carlmont or Woodside High School
SHOPPING: Corner of Willow Road and Hamilton Avenue
MEDIAN 2012 HOME PRICE: $359,050 ($200,000-$600,000)
NO. OF HOMES SOLD: 38