Hidden away on the edge of the old valley, near where Alpine and Los Trancos roads intersect and Portola Road ends, lies the planned community known as Portola Valley Ranch. The houses, their natural wood exteriors and earthy colors are visually harmonious, in keeping with developer Joe Whelan's award-winning 1975 design plan.
An active homeowner's association administers the lush common areas and shared recreational facilities, including a community ranch house capable of holding more than 100 people, two swimming pools, three tennis courts, a wine producing vineyard, vegetable gardens and dedicated hiking trails.
Longtime PV Ranch resident Sheldon Breiner is an avid hiker (he describes himself as "peripatetic") and values the site's natural setting and the totally natural landscape plan -- all foliage, both existing and newly planted, are restricted to native plants, despite changes in ownership. "It's a good sign that both Joe Whelan and his son Mike still live right here on the Ranch," he says.
Dr. Breiner, a sort of hi-tech Renaissance man who's a writer, amateur explorer, as well as successful Silicon Valley inventor/entrepreneur -- Geometrics is one of his better-known startups -- says there's a rewarding visual continuity from the forested open space to the design of the residential clusters.
"But I couldn't resist using my Stanford geophysics skills in adding earthquake stability elements to the mandatory house plan when my wife Mimi and I moved here in 1978," he says.
He also has written about Portola Valley history. "Part of the old Bovet Ranch, the forerunner of PV Ranch, is still here, hidden away; the old stable is there too. To safeguard it, I can't tell you exactly where."
Dr. Breiner's friends and neighbors Denise and Hal Schectman live across the hill on Sandstone Road.
"We've lived on the Ranch for over 20 years. ... We raised both of our children here," Mrs. Schectman says. "Now that one son is off to college we hope to downsize, but stay in the area, which we love."
For several years Mrs. Schectman has been secretary of Portola Valley's highly regarded Ormondale School, which she says sponsors numerous community projects. "Every spring we put on a popular gardening project ... and other local get-togethers. This is a wonderful place to live."
-- Phyllis Butler
CHILD CARE & PRESCHOOLS: Windmill Preschool, 4141 Alpine Road, Portola Valley; Ladera Community Church Preschool, 3300 Alpine Road, Portola Valley; Carillon Preschool at Christ Church, 815 Portola Road, Portola Valley; New Horizons (after school care), 200 Shawnee Pass, Portola Valley
FIRE STATION: Woodside Fire Protection District, Portola Valley Station, 135 Portola Road, Portola Valley
LOCATION: South and east of Alpine Road and west of Los Trancos Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Portola Valley Ranch Association, Garth McCune, president, 650-851-0186
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Portola Valley School District --
Ormondale School (K-3), 200 Shawnee Pass, Portola Valley; Corte Madera School (4-8), 4575 Alpine Road, Portola Valley
Sequoia Union High School District --
Woodside High School, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside
SHOPPING: Nathhorst Triangle, Portola Road at Alpine Road; Village Square, 884 Portola Road; Ladera Shopping Center, 3130 Alpine Road, Portola Valley
MEDIAN 2009 HOME PRICE: $1,810,000 ($1,550,000-$2,150,000)
HOMES SOLD: 5