When Bill and Hollie Halpin decided to leave their home in San Jose for Palo Alto, they searched meticulously for a community where they could settle down permanently and raise their three young children. After scouting local neighborhoods, interviewing residents, and looking at school statistics, they settled on Monroe Park.
"We wanted a place where the kids could play and meet neighbors, and Monroe circle is perfect for that," Hollie Halpin said. "The goal was to get into a neighborhood, a school district, a community, and bring the kids all the way through."
Having moved into their two-story, four-bedroom home in 2010, the Halpins already feel part of the community.
The park itself, a small, gently sloping plot marked by a swing-set and a pair of benches, serves as a centerpiece for the neighborhood and is the popular destination of many a late-afternoon and evening stroll. The Halpins, who live nearby, have taken to going there often, encountering and chatting with neighbors.
Framed by Adobe Creek to the west, El Camino Real to the south, Del Medio Avenue to the east and railroad tracks to the north, Monroe Park is divided along a zigzagging northeast-southwest axis that distinguishes Palo Alto residents from their Mountain View neighbors. A resident since 1974, Linnea Wickstrom calls Monroe Park "a border state."
Wickstrom estimates that approximately 250 houses occupy Monroe Park, with 110 on the Palo Alto side. Small lots typically go for $800,000 to $900,000, while bigger houses often sell for $1.6 million to $1.8 million, said Wickstrom, who is president of the local homeowners' association.
Asked to describe the character of their neighborhood, the word residents most often invoke is "eclectic."
A stroll around the Monroe Drive loop reveals quaint bungalows nestled beside towering two-story Mission-style homes, in a subdued, earthy palette of greens, browns, beiges and teals. Small details, like wood-paneled garage doors, bright window frames and rustic roof shingles, lend each home a distinct and quietly surprising air.
Nancy and Randy Popp moved to the neighborhood from Mountain View in 1994, expecting to only stay for five years -- but the neighborhood charmed them, the couple said. They decided to stay and raise their three young children in Monroe Park.
"There's a mix of new and old, it's not cookie cutter," Nancy said of the neighborhood's juxtaposition of housing models.
"The neighborhood's great, people are friendly," said Randy, adding, "The park is a really good neighbor. ... It's a catalyst for social interaction."
He recalled an event that, in his mind, typifies the character of the neighborhood -- the day his children teamed up with friends to sell lemonade by the road, stopping bikers, drivers and pedestrians alike, who indulged their entrepreneurial urges.
"It's a kind of old Americana. It's been very nice for me," he said.
-- Aimee Miles
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (nearby): Children's Corner, 97 Hillview Ave., Los Altos; Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, 450 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto; Growing Tree Montessori Preschool, 450 W. Charleston Road, Palo Alto
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road (after summer 2012)
LOCATION: bounded by Adobe Creek, El Camino Real and Mountain View borders (near Silva Avenue)
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Monroe Park Neighborhood Association, Linnea Wickstrom, president, email@example.com
PARKS: Monroe Mini Park, Monroe Drive and Miller Avenue
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Los Altos School District -- Santa Rita School, Egan Junior High School; == I Mtn. View-Los Altos Union High School District== -- Los Altos High School
SHOPPING: San Antonio Shopping Center
MEDIAN 2012 HOME PRICE: $1,350,000 ($1,251,000-$1,380,000)
HOMES SOLD: 3
MEDIAN 2012 CONDO PRICE: $613.767 ($460,000-$749,000)
CONDOS SOLD: 4