Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - June 4, 2010

Leland Manor/Garland/Embarcadero Oaks

Well-located micro-neighborhoods with sense of community

by Katia Savchuk

Leland Manor, Garland Drive and Embarcadero Oaks may be small, but their sense of community runs large. The idyllic mini-neighborhoods nestle in a parallelogram in eastern Palo Alto, bounded by the Oregon Expressway, Middlefield Road, Embarcadero Road and Louis Road.

Residents say you cannot beat the location, with shops and eateries within walking distance at Midtown, California Avenue, University Avenue and Stanford University. Sought-after schools and a nearby community center, children's theater and library keep local children busy. Several of the area's serene streets come to life for annual holiday festivities.

Leland Manor

Many Leland Manor families have lived there since the area developed 70 years ago, but the last decade has seen an influx of newcomers. Recent transplant Heidi Schwenk found her dream house on quiet Northampton Drive in 2006. She has since discovered that it was the first in the neighborhood and designed by renowned Palo Alto architect Birge Clark.

Another piece of history is up the road: A brick house at Newell Road was a prototypical "modern house" in San Francisco's 1939 World's Fair exposition.

Most homes in the area are single-story California ranchers spread out on 10-12,000 square-foot lots, with some contemporary exceptions. Leland Manor's rolled curbs and wireless skies (electric and telephone lines are underground) give the still streets an expansive feel.

Swing sets and roses decorate front yards, along with the occasional palm, birch or Japanese maple. Some residents tend vegetable gardens and even chicken coops.

Defined by a central ring of streets encircling twin cul-de-sacs, Leland Manor receives little traffic. Residents say this seclusion contributes to their strong sense of community.

A Fourth of July parade brings neighbors together annually, a community corkboard displays signs for dog walkers and missing rabbits, and resident Kathleen Hughes is organizing volunteers for emergency preparedness. Longtime resident Lorraine Berry drops recommended books in neighbors' mailboxes and runs Easter egg hunts.

"People really look out for each other," Schwenk said.

Garland Drive

Winding Garland Drive is mostly a tranquil community, but it has catapulted many residents into civic affairs. Frances Dias and Robert Cooley served on the City Council in the 1960s. Most recently, Dick Rosenbaum, a resident of almost four decades, served two terms over 12 years.

Residents have also been active around local issues. Neighbors successfully lobbied the City to close a youth hangout in the 1960s and add stop signs in the 1970s.

Recent issues center on local schools. Some residents voiced concern about noise and traffic following a planned reopening and expansion of Garland Elementary School, currently leased to private Stratford School. The City postponed the plan in 2009 after enrollment slowed.

At adjacent Jordan Middle School, the City responded to residents' complaints against a "nightmare of noise, traffic and trash" resulting from public use of the school's soccer field, according to neighborhood activist Faith Braf.

In general, residents agree that magnolia-lined Garland Drive is "just a good neighborhood to bring up children," Rosenbaum said. Most of the children had grown up and moved away until 15 years ago, when new families trickled in.

Nearly all of Garland Drive's 90 houses are original, single-story post-war constructions. One of the area's four cul-de-sacs has a well-established Fourth of July party, and many residents belong to a Yahoo group.

"It's a block where people stay," said Braf, whose daughter lives on the same street. "People tend to know each other."

Embarcadero Oaks

Lights and tinsel transform Fulton Street into a winter wonderland every year, drawing thousands of visitors to "Christmas Tree Lane." Residents have kept the tradition alive since 1940, and new arrivals inherit decorations from previous owners. Before the lights go on, neighbors have coffee together.

"It's a real neighborhood," said Mike Klum, who has lived in a house Herbert Hoover built as Stanford University president since 1974.

Lined with tall sycamores and houses that date back to the 1930s, including some designs by Birge Clark, Fulton Street also stands out during the rest of the year. It was once the eastern edge of a neighborhood that extended past Middlefield and has architecture in Tudor Revival and Monterey Colonial styles. Several ancient oaks lend the area its name.

The rest of the neighborhood's California-style homes went up after World War II, on streets of descending length branching off Seale Avenue.

A resurgence of families with young children has re-defined the well-kept neighborhood. Caroline Steene, a Swedish citizen who has rented a house in the area for two years, rides her bicycle around with two kids in tow. She appreciates local schools, diversity and — of course — Christmas Tree Lane.

"We don't do it like that in Sweden."

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FACTS

CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (NEARBY): First Congregational Church Nursery School, 1985 Louis Road; Parents Nursery School, 2328 Louis Road; Walter Hays Kids' Club, 1525 Middlefield Road

FIRE STATION: No. 3, 799 Embarcadero Road

LOCATION: Leland Manor: between Middlefield and Louis roads, Seale and North California avenues; Embarcadero Oaks: triangle formed by Embarcadero Road, Seale Avenue and Middlefield Road; Garland Drive: between Middlefield and Louis roads

LIBRARY: Main Library, 1213 Newell Road

PARK (NEARBY): Rinconada Park, 777 Embarcadero Road

POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.

PRIVATE SCHOOL: Hwa Chin School, 750 N. California Ave.; Stratford School, 870 N. California Ave.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Walter Hays Elementary School, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School

SHOPPING: Midtown

Editorial Intern Katia Savchuk can be e-mailed at ksavchuck@paweekly.com.

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