Bumpy, cracked roads in obvious need of repair might draw grumbles from residents in many neighborhoods.
But when San Mateo County offered to repave roads in Menlo Oaks, residents said thanks, but no thanks.
"We just wanted them patched," said longtime resident Elizabeth Gheleta. "And that's to keep the neighborhood from becoming a thoroughfare."
Flanked by the comparatively busy Ringwood Avenue and Bay Road, streets within Menlo Oaks are often shaded by trees and narrow enough that cars must slow down to a crawl to pass each other. Yards with vegetation running wild and the lack of street lights adds to the area's atmosphere.
"We liked the trees, we liked the big lots, we liked the rural feel," said Michael Johnston, explaining his decision to move to the area with his wife in 2003.
Johnston is president of the Menlo Oaks District Association, an organization for residents of the 106-acre island of unincorporated county land surrounded by Menlo Park and Atherton.
The association publishes a tri-annual online newsletter and holds a yearly community meeting.
It also puts on an annual summer picnic at the Peninsula School, located in the heart of the neighborhood. The private, progressive K-8 school was founded in 1925 and is the site of the historic Coleman Mansion.
For the last couple years, the association has also helped coordinate Halloween activities, creating maps marking which houses are handing out candy and also pit stops for parents that provide "adult beverages."
Residents said an influx of new families has enlivened the area.
"There was a period when there were hardly and young children around ... and then there was a resurgence in the last 10 years," said Gheleta, who lives in the single-single story ranch house her husband helped build in 1960.
When Gheleta arrived with her three young children, her neighbors included not only people but horses, sheep, chickens and rabbits. Land owned by neighboring St. Patrick's Seminary was not yet developed.
Gheleta said her children used the area as their private playground.
"One day my son came home with a 4-foot gopher snake around his neck," she said.
Today, her daughter runs a plant nursery and one of her sons practices environmental law, careers Gheleta said are connected to their childhood experiences.
Despite the lack of sidewalks, residents of Menlo Oaks and surrounding communities regularly stroll the narrow roads.
"The streets are fun to walk in, and there's not a lot of traffic," said Flood Park resident Michael Geary as he walked his two dogs.
Menlo Oaks resident Diane Klein Kavey usually takes daily walks, but sometimes her multiple sclerosis prevents her from doing so. When this happens, she said her neighbors notice her absence from the streets and check in on her.
"There's a lot of neighborly attention," said Kavey, a retired estate planner who's lived in the area since 1996.
There is a downside to the rural feel that residents praised: spotty cell phone reception.
Kavey said her husband's phone recently cut out during a business teleconference.
"My husbands a big tech guy, and no one can believe he can't get get good cell coverage," she said.
-- Bryce Druzin
CHILD CARE & PRESCHOOLS: Peninsula School, 920 Peninsula Way, Menlo Park; The Roberts School, 641 Coleman Ave., Menlo Park
FIRE STATION: 300 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park
LOCATION: Ringwood Avenue to Berkeley Avenue, adjacent to the Veterans Administration Medical Center; Bay Road to Arlington Way
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Menlo Oaks District Association, Michael Johnson, president, 650-533-5102. E-mail: email@example.com
PARKS:Flood Park, 215 Bay Road, Menlo Park; Seminary Oaks Park, Santa Monica Avenue near Middlefield Road, Menlo Park; Willow Oaks Park, Willow Road near Gilbert Avenue, Menlo Park
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Peninsula School, Peninsula Way, Menlo Park
Menlo Park City Elementary School District -- Laurel School, 95 Edge Road, Atherton; Encinal School, 195 Encinal Ave., Menlo Park; Hillview Middle School, 1100 Elder Ave., Menlo Park
Sequoia Union High School District --
Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton
SHOPPING: Downtown Menlo Park
MEDIAN 2012 HOME PRICE: $2,135,000 ($1,775,000-$3,900,000)
HOMES SOLD: 9