Residents of this secluded Portola Valley enclave know they could be on their own for a while when The Big One eventually rocks the Peninsula, but they expect to be ready.
People live here precisely because it's up in the woods a bit, away from the hustle and bustle of Silicon Valley -- no sidewalks, no streetlights -- and they like it that way. But their community is also tightly knit because they've worked to be prepared for emergencies and to help each through.
Their system was put to the test earlier this year when a house caught fire. One of the people on the emergency preparedness committee "kicked in the system and calls went out," said Linda Nightingale, who produces a bimonthly newsletter for the area's neighborhood associations.
Every house has a set of walkie-talkies, so word quickly went out and the house was salvaged but for water and smoke damage. Only the garage was destroyed.
The residents of the house stayed with people in the neighborhood for a few days until they could secure longer-term housing while their house is repaired. Other neighbors pitched in to loan them clothes and feed them while they dealt with the fire's aftermath, said Rob Kalman, president of the Vista Verde neighborhood association.
"People help each other out in a way that I haven't experienced living in Silicon Valley," Kalman said.
The Vista Verde and Los Trancos Woods neighborhoods are adjacent and very similar, but have kept separate associations over the years, according to Kalman. Vista Verde is newer, he said. But you wouldn't know by driving the streets where one begins and the other ends, he said. More and more, the associations are banding together for events and information sharing.
Each year there are at least two parties: a "spring fling" and a summer picnic, Kalman said.
The neighborhoods share the Los Trancos County Water District, which has not only contributed to the safety but the community feel of the neighborhood.
The water district has helped residents address the results of the feast-or-famine nature of our climate: wildfires and landslides, explains David Smernoff, a resident of Los Trancos Wood for 15 years and a member of the water board for 8 years. The board educates people about defensible space guidelines to reduce fire risk. The district also sponsors studies on assessing the risks of landslides and mitigating them, Kalman said.
Kalman agrees that the Los Trancos Woods and Vista Verde neighborhoods occupy a special place. "We're very appreciative that we live in a unique and beautiful area," he said. "People often stay for decades and get to know each other."
Smernoff said that over the years new families have moved in, too. More than 50 kids trick-or-treated in the neighborhood this year.
"People are very friendly," he said. "You know everybody and everybody watches out for each other."
-- Kathy Schrenk
FIRE STATION: 135 Portola Road, Portola Valley
LOCATION: between Page Mill and Alpine roads and Los Trancos Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Los Trancos Woods Community Association, www.lostrancoswoods.org; Vista Verde Community Association, www.vistaverdeca.org.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: (Eligibility depends on the resident's address)
Palo Alto Unified School District -- Lucille M. Nixon School, 1711 Stanford Ave., Palo Alto; Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School, 480 E. Meadow Drive, Palo Alto; Henry M. Gunn Senior High School, 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto
Portola Valley School District -- Ormondale School, 200 Shawnee Pass Road, Portola Valley; Corte Madera School, 4575 Alpine Road, Portola Valley
Sequoia Union High School District -- Woodside High School, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside
SHOPPING: Portola Road, Valley Center (Portola and Alpine roads)
MEDIAN 2012 HOME PRICE: Los Trancos Woods: $1,040,000 ($700,000-$2,405,000)
NO. OF HOMES SOLD: 8