|Palo Alto Weekly 25th Anniversary
Karla Kirkegaard and Peter Sarnow
Average, everyday people
by Alexandria Rocha
Eight years ago, Karla Kirkegaard and Peter Sarnow were recruited
to work in Stanford University's microbiology department.
The married couple were then doing similar jobs in Boulder, Colo.,
and were busy raising their 1-year-old son, Lukas.
While German-born Sarnow's desire to work at Stanford fueled his
interest to give California a whirl, Kirkegaard, who grew up in
Fresno, was hesitant to return to the Golden State.
I told him," Kirkegaard said, "everybody in California
talks about money."
The family has now lived on the 800 block of Hamilton Avenue for
about eight years. In that time, the couple admits to talking about
money, not "all the time," as Kirkegaard told her husband,
but "more than we used to."
The couple bought their home for $670,000 in 1996.
A good deal, they said. Kirkegaard said the previous owners had
lived in the
house for 30 years, letting its décor become a bit outdated.
After moving in, they pulled up the green shag carpet and ripped
off the green wallpaper. The house now has hardwood floors and
simple white walls. They also took out the popcorn ceiling, because
of asbestos, and remodeled the kitchen and the master bathroom.
Hamilton Avenue attracted the couple because of its relatively
quiet streets, the mixed architecture of the homes, and the street's
proximity to downtown.
The couple finds their neighborhood friendly. Everyone opens their
doors on Halloween, offering haunted houses and decadent treats
for the little ones. Kirkegaard said the neighbors "come to
our parties and we go to their's." Passersby always stop to
pay Lukas $1 for a cup of lemonade at his occasional stand, even
though his price is 25 cents.
However, unlike other areas in Palo Alto, where the neighbors water
each other's lawns and feed vacationers' animals, Hamilton Avenue's
residents are happy with the initial welcome and the occasional
I find people are a little bit exclusionary," Kirkegaard said.
Though the quietness of the neighborhood initially
attracted them, the street's traffic does pipe up around 9 a.m.
and 5 p.m., when
everyone's driving "to and from Stanford," Sarnow said.
Unlike some Palo Alto residents who are disgruntled over the traffic
situation, Kirkegaard said the flow of cars is reassuring.
When I was single and lived alone, I liked people being around," she
They enjoy walking and biking downtown, but the couple wishes University
Avenue was a pedestrian zone like downtowns in Boulder or Burlington,
In Boulder, the couple enjoyed how families could dine in a restaurant
downtown while the children played in the enclosed thoroughfare
speckled with benches, trees and vendor carts.
The couple also wishes Palo Alto was more affordable. "I think
it's sad if you're a policeman in a town and you can't live in
it," Kirkegaard said.
BOX: Biography Age: Karla Kirkegaard and Peter Sarnow,
in their 40s Income: N/a Kids: Lukas, 9 Years in home: 8Price of
$670,000 Community Involvement: Both volunteer at Lukas's school,
and at the Peninsula Youth Theater Where'd you grow up?: Karla
grew up in Fresno; Peter in Kanstanz, Germany Profession: Both
professors of microbiology at Stanford University Do you consider
yourself rich?: "How could you not living in our society?" Karla
said. Mortgage payment: N/a Property taxes: N/a
25th Anniversary • 1979-2004