"People who live in Ladera value it for the sense of community and belonging," says Judith Weber, a resident since 1994. "It's like a small town in the Midwest where the people look out for each other."
Ms. Weber loves when the Ladera Community Association (LCA) publishes a directory listing local kids who will baby sit and pet sit. She also likes the fact that many of the neighborhood children who compete on the swim team, and go to summer or tennis camp at the centrally located Ladera Recreation Center later go on to become lifeguards and camp counselors there when they're older.
"It's a wonderful facility," she says, also giving credit to the Caryotakis family who raised money from neighbors to put in a large playground next to the pool and tennis courts for all to enjoy. Peter Caryotakis grew up in Ladera and is now raising his own family there.
Former LCA President Rob Decker says he sees this happen a lot, where the kids return and maybe even buy their old family home. A resident since 1983, he says once you've lived in Ladera it's hard to find anything that compares.
"One thing that makes the neighborhood special is that there are amenities to which you can walk," he says. A "network of pathways separate from the roads" leading to local restaurants and shopping are among Ladera's draws, he adds.
The neighborhood started out in the 1940s as an experiment in cooperative living, where the goal was to set up "a diverse community of modest homes, not too far apart, with shopping and nature," Mr. Decker says. The plan ran into money trouble and ended up in the hands of developers.
He estimates less than half of the 535 homes date back to the originals, but most are still ranch-style and situated on anywhere from quarter- acre to two-acre lots in the oak-studded hills of unincorporated San Mateo County, surrounded by Stanford University and Portola Valley.
Anna Plume, her husband and their four children have lived in Ladera for 13 years. She chose the neighborhood specifically because of the sense of community she felt there -- even when just looking for a house.
"As a stay-at-home mom, I felt I needed a place where we could connect with other families," she says.
The sense of camaraderie in her neighborhood is wonderful, she adds. Her third child spent time in the hospital when he was a four-week-old; the neighbors fed the family for almost a month. And her older children can play in the cul-de-sac away from their house, without much adult supervision. Ms. Plume says she knows it is safe and that neighbors watch out for them. It is "very much like a neighborhood of the '50s," she says.
The Plume's children make use of the Ladera Recreation Center as members of the swim team in the summer and take tennis lessons at the center. Overall, she couldn't be happier with the choice they made to live in Ladera, she says.
-- Kate Daly and Karen Canty
CHILD CARE & PRESCHOOLS: Ladera Community Church Preschool, 3300 Alpine Road, Portola Valley; Woodland School (also a private elementary school), 360 La Cuesta Drive, Portola Valley
LOCATION: West of Alpine Road and north of Westridge Drive to Lucero Way and La Cuesta Road
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Woodland School, 360 La Cuesta Drive, Portola Valley
Las Lomitas School District -- Las Lomitas School, 299 Alameda de las Pulgas, Atherton; La Entrada School, 2200 Sharon Road, Menlo Park
Sequoia Union High School District -- Menlo Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton
SHOPPING: Ladera Country Shopper
MEDIAN 2012 HOME PRICE: $1,980,000 ($1,075,000-$2,200,000)
HOMES SOLD: 12