The twin neighborhoods of South of Seminary and Vintage Oaks, though enclosed by the northern intersection of the busy thoroughfares of Willow Road and Middlefield, maintain a quiet, residential flavor.
Mature redwoods, oaks, walnut and liquid ambar trees shade the streets in South of Seminary for locals strolling on curb-less sidewalks and sparse street traffic along the mostly one-story homes on modest lots.
"It's not a quaint neighborhood, but it is very comfortable," says Sally Mendiola, who was raised in South of Seminary on property bought by her grandfather on Nash Street in the 1920s. She returned to a home on built in 1949 by her father, developer J. W. Fryckman, in 2003 to raise her daughter.
Bordered by Santa Monica Road and Seminary Oaks Park, South of Seminary is named for its proximity to St. Patrick's Seminary, which occupied 85 acres donated to the Catholic Church by Kate Johnson and was dedicated in l898. The neighborhood's residences were built in the post-war period and into the 1950s, but many have been rebuilt or remodeled. Modest apartment complexes dot the neighborhood's edges on Coleman and Willow.
A sense of community feeling runs high, residents say, with Fourth of July festivities bringing neighbors together and the annual Nash Bash closing a block of Nash Avenue an afternoon each September. The potluck and barbecue, planned by Nash residents over an email list, attracts a large turnout of local families.
Residents also deploy the email list when a pet goes missing or when they'd like to schedule a shared garage sale, residents say.
"We look out for each other in this neighborhood," Ms. Mendiola says.
Jeanne DePrau, who lived on Santa Margarita Avenue for 33 years, says South of Seminary attracts a range of residents, from younger families to more established homeowners. The quiet neighborhood's proximity to area shopping is a draw.
"I can get to both downtown Menlo Park and downtown Palo Alto easily," she says, adding that the library, recreation center, Willow Market and area schools are also within biking distance.
Neighborliness draws young residents outdoors on three culs-de-sac on the southern side of Santa Monica, and chalk-drawn pictures and games like hopscotch are a common sight.
"On most weekend afternoons, everyone convenes outside and plays until the sun goes down," especially in the summer months, says Lexy Eaton, a resident since 2008.
Opposite Santa Monica Avenue lies a younger neighborhood development, built in the 1990s and named for its fully-grown foliage: Vintage Oaks. A 46-acre area with 131 larger homes and 14 townhouses, the development was built on fields formerly belonging to the seminary it surrounds.
The subdivision houses a mixture of city workers, older residents and families with children who enjoy easy access to neighboring schools and public transit, as well as local restaurants.
"We can bike and take the train everywhere," says Armando Castellano, who moved to Vintage Oaks with his wife and sons in 2007.
Both South of Seminary and Vintage Oaks have a reputation for safety. Neighborhood children enjoy access to Seminary Oaks Park at its center on Santa Monica Avenue. Mr. Castellano's young sons Andries and Wim play there often.
"It's really quiet here," Andries says.
CHILD CARE & PRESCHOOLS: Footsteps Preschool, 490 Willow Road, Menlo Park; The Roberts School, 641 Coleman Ave., Menlo Park
FIRE STATION: 300 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park
LOCATION: Middlefield Road and Coleman Avenue; Willow Road to Ringwood Avenue and Arlington Way
PARK: Seminary Oaks Park, Santa Monica Avenue, near Middlefield Road, Menlo Park
Menlo Park City School District -- Laurel School, 95 Edge Road, Atherton; Encinal School, 195 Encinal Avenue, Atherton; Hillview Middle School, 1100 Elder Avenue, Menlo Park
Sequoia Union High School District -- Menlo Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton
SHOPPING: Downtown Menlo Park
MEDIAN 2012 HOME PRICE: South of Seminary/Vintage Oaks: $1,295,000 ($976,000-$3,995,000)
HOMES SOLD: 26
MEDIAN 2012 CONDOMINIUM PRICE: South of Seminary: $527,500 ($525,000-$529,000)
CONDOMINIUMS SOLD: South of Seminary: 2