The front yards of the South of Midtown neighborhood are littered with Razor scooters and half-sized dirt bikes.
"It's an Ozzie-and-Harriet type of place," Rusty Jacobi said as he washed his car on a crisp, autumn morning. "You can't have Palo Alto anywhere else," he said.
Jacobi has lived all over the western United States, but he and his wife moved back to the neighborhood where they grew up.
South of Midtown is the type of place where the biggest problem is what to call the neighborhood. Longtime resident Jean Griffiths says that the area is named "Barron Creek," and Sheri Furman, chair of the Midtown Residents Association says that "South of Midtown" is nothing more than "a real estate marketing designation."
Whatever you want to call it, the neighborhood is bordered by Middlefield Road, Alma Street, Loma Verde Avenue and East Meadow Drive.
Griffiths has been a resident since 1966 and remembers that when the neighborhood first got started many residents were World War II veterans. "The success of the Silicon Valley brought about the biggest changes, with housing prices soaring and pricing out of the market our previous neighbors," she said.
There are similar remodels to those seen around the valley, but the cottage feel of the neighborhood is still intact. Griffiths sees the remodels as an improvement South of Midtown needs. She said the houses were cheap rush jobs when they were built in the '50s and could benefit from some green retrofitting.
Mary Saxton moved in 2000 "because the Palo Alto public schools were better than Menlo's."
"I generally feel safe here. ... It's a pleasant quiet neighborhood," she said.
She likes the amenities such as the library, grocery and nearby Mitchell Park.
"There are quite a few events at the park. They have concerts and a Fourth of July picnic," she said.
According to Jacobi, the whole neighborhood gets into the act for the annual block party. "We've got singers and a band. There's a cabaret singer down the street. Of course there are professors. One made ice cream out of air. The kids loved it."
Residents have high standards for their neighborhood and are always looking for ways to improve it.
Jacobi doesn't want Middlefield Road and Alma Street turned into thoroughfares and worries that the shuttle that goes downtown might get cut from the city budget.
According to Griffiths, "the Safeway on Middlefield is, I believe, the smallest one in Northern California." The Griffiths waited years for a grocery store in Alma Plaza, and this past October, Miki's Farm Fresh Market opened its doors.
Though there are always ways the neighborhood can be improved, residents are happy with the way their safe, quiet neighborhood is run.
"It's two steps above everywhere else. That's what makes Palo Alto Palo Alto," Jacobi said.
-- John Squire
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (nearby): Besse Bolton Kids' Club, 500 E. Meadow Drive; Milestones Preschool, 3864 Middlefield Road; Covenant Children's Center, 670 E. Meadow Drive; El Carmelo Kids' Club, 3024 Bryant St.; Grace Lutheran Preschool, 3149 Waverley St.
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: bounded by Loma Verde Avenue, East Meadow Drive, Middlefield Road and Alma Street
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: part of Midtown Residents Association, Sheri Furman, 650-856-0869,
PARKS: Mitchell Park, 600 E. Meadow Drive; Hoover Park 2901 Cowper St.
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS (nearby): International School of the Peninsula, 3233 Cowper St.; Challenger School, 3880 Middlefield Road; Keys School Lower Campus, 2890 Middlefield Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: El Carmelo and Fairmeadow elementary schools, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: Midtown Shopping Center, Middlefield Road and Colorado Avenue; Charleston Center
MEDIAN 2012 HOME PRICE: $1,779,000 ($1,050,000-$3,150,000)
HOMES SOLD: 24