"I live in Palo Alto's little oasis," said longtime Greater Miranda resident Lillian Haning.
Haning, 80, has lived in the close-knit Palo Alto neighborhood for more than 40 years.
She moved to Greater Miranda with her family in 1968 because she wanted more open space than her previous Midtown tract home allowed.
"I saw a real estate ad for a big lot by the creek and when I set foot on this land, I knew this was the place to be," Haning said. She said she only paid $60,000 for the land back in 1968. Now, many of the homes in the neighborhood sell for more than a million.
"It was the best investment we ever made," Haning said.
Haning said the neighborhood hasn't changed much over the years.
"It's still a nice, quiet and beautiful place to live. There are a lot of younger families who have joined the neighborhood in recent years and older ones who have left," Haning said. "It's nice because it shows this is a living place."
Barbara Leighton moved to Miranda Green in 1975 and also said there hasn't been a large turnover.
"I have been good friends with many of my neighbors for over 30 years," Leighton said.
Leighton's favorite part about the neighborhood is that it's great for those who like to walk.
"I walk everywhere with my dog Cami. The neighborhood is calm and great for walking around. I meet neighbors along the way and stop and chat," she said.
The Greater Miranda oasis is tucked between Foothill Expressway, Adobe Creek and Alta Mesa Memorial Park, which create a peaceful and sheltered atmosphere. Residents say they have the best of both worlds. The three cul-de-sacs that make up the neighborhood are close to nature but also close to all the amenities.
Miranda Avenue connects Arroyo Court, Miranda Green and Moana Court. Miranda Avenue has one entrance, so the traffic on the street is fairly light. Most of the homes are set back from the avenue and the sound of cars rushing by on Foothill is almost nonexistent.
The neighborhood's history dates back to the 1850s, when Mexican-American pioneer Dona Juana Briones de Miranda originally purchased the land for $300. The City of Palo Alto eventually annexed the neighborhood in 1959.
Greater Miranda residents can still find bits and pieces of history in their own backyards. When Haning's two sons were searching for bottles in the creek years ago, they found a chunk of mosaic that Haning said was a piece of the original Stanford Memorial Church.
"The church was destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and many of the remains were dumped in the creek. We seem to have a piece that shows the face of a shepherd," Haning said.
Adobe Creek is not only a source of hidden artifacts; many Greater Miranda residents share their backyards with the foxes, deer, hawks and other wildlife that make the creek's watershed their home.
"There are a pair of hawks that nest near the creek every year. We love to watch them raise their hatchlings and can hear the babies crying out when they are hungry," said Amy Smiley, a Greater Miranda resident who has lived on Moana Court for 23 years.
Smiley said her favorite part about the neighborhood is the people.
"Because the neighborhood is so small, everyone is friendly and goes for walks together or chats on the street," Smiley said.
Leighton said it's the type of neighborhood "where people pull together and help each other out whenever its needed."
Don Neilson, Greater Miranda's neighborhood association president, sends residents emails when he needs to let them know about city matters.
Otherwise, as Haning explained, a lot of the communication takes place "over the fence," especially when planning neighborhood events. Haning and 11 other women meet every month for a lunch potluck.
"People love it. Some even take the day off work to come to the group," Haning said.
Another neighborhood tradition is the jelly bean olympics, a Fourth of July block party where the kids compete in fun games for jelly beans.
"My kids loved it when they were younger," said Smiley, whose children are now college-age.
"It's a great place to raise kids. You are close to great schools, the kids have a lot of things to do, and it is safe because of the cul-de-sacs," Smiley said.
Leighton said the thinks the neighborhood is a "deeper and more real" place than the rest of Palo Alto.
Haning agrees. "We live in a rose-colored bubble," she explained. "It's not like the rest of Palo Alto and I wouldn't change a thing. I love this neighborhood."
-- Angela Johnston
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (nearby): Whistle Stop Child Development Center, 3801 Miranda Ave., No. T6B
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road (after summer 2012)
LOCATION: Miranda Avenue, Arroyo Court, Miranda Green and Moana Court
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Don Nielson, 650-941-2429
PARKS (nearby): Terman Park, 655 Arastradero Road
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.; 3801 Miranda Ave. (inside VA hospital)
PRIVATE SCHOOL: Bowman International School, 4000 Terman Drive
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Juana Briones Elementary School, Terman Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: El Camino Real, San Antonio Shopping Center
MEDIAN 2012 HOME PRICE: $1,250,000
HOMES SOLD: 1