Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - September 3, 2010

Southgate

A walkable, well-defined neighborhood

by Georgia Wells

The former orchard that is Southgate was owned by the Stanfords until the 1920s, when they sold and subdivided it. Lucile Lauren has lived in Southgate so long she still has the 1923 documents that banned alcohol and poultry from the neighborhood, as well as "any person of African, Japanese or Chinese descent."

The neighborhood has changed.

Southgate, bordered by El Camino Real, Park Boulevard, the Caltrain tracks and Churchill Avenue, has dense leafy foliage, little gas-lamp-style streetlights and a "hidden" walkway that connects Sequoia Avenue and El Camino Real. The little houses — increasingly bigger — are laid out in cul-de-sac-esque geography that deters commuting drivers, and attracts bicyclists and walkers.

Besides adding to its pedestrian feel, Southgate's geographically defined boundary adds to its neighborhood identity. "There's no question about who lives in Southgate," legal consultant and Southgate resident since 2006 Martha Klein said.

With Stanford, Palo Alto High School, the Caltrain, California Avenue, University Avenue, and Town & Country Village all within walking-distance, residents love the location. "For teens, it's perfect," Irina Gorelik, a mother of four and Southgate resident since 2007, said.

Southgate reminds Klein of the North Carolina of her childhood, when kids played in the street after dinner. Of course in the 1960s Southgate kids also played in the park after dinner. Lauren, who's lived in Southgate since 1945, remembers telling her kids she'd meet them in the park when she finished eating.

"I see a daily procession of people with dogs, women with babies, fathers taking the twins to Peers Park, and of course lots of bikers," Klein said, lifting a snoozing cat from her couch. "This cat isn't mine — probably a neighbor's. This is how cozy Southgate is," Klein said.

Stuart Sailer, father of two, moved to Southgate in 2005. He fell in love with the sense of community — the number of people walking on the street and the small scale of the neighborhood. "It was even more friendly than we'd expected."

The neighborhood holds annual Memorial Day block parties and toy drives. Individual blocks sometimes organize parties and picnics. Neighbors arrange folding chairs in the middle of the street, and spend the evening eating and talking.

Southgate has seen a lot of construction in the last two years. Gorelik estimated that since she moved in at least five or six former cottages have become sizeable homes with added second floors. When she arrived in Southgate, Gorelik knew her house was too small for her family, but the location was too perfect to pass up. She is now working on expanding her own home as well.

Palo Alto High School teacher and Southgate resident since 1996 Kate McKenzie also noticed the trend to make over small houses. "I don't want to criticize people who build bigger houses, but it has changed the face of the neighborhood," McKenzie said.

The proposed high-speed rail that would link San Diego to San Francisco has become the biggest issue in the community. "We all wanted it, but it's a bummer to have it go through your neighborhood. It could possibly rip up a whole street of houses. It is going to make a pastoral neighborhood louder," McKenzie said.

Lauren worried that the high-speed rail may take out her garage. The rail project, however, could take more than a decade to organize and construct, Lauren said. Her house's inheritors will likely have to deal with the high-speed rail, "but at my age, I'm not too worried that it will impact me."

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FACTS:

CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (NEARBY): Casa dei Bambini, 457 College Ave.; Escondido Kids' Club, 890 Escondido Road; Walter Hays Kids' Club, 1525 Middlefield Road

FIRE STATION: No. 6, 711 Serra St. on the Stanford Campus

LIBRARIES: Main Library, 1213 Newell Road; and College Terrace branch, 2300 Wellesley St.

LOCATION: bounded by El Camino Real, Park Boulevard, the railroad tracks and Churchill Avenue

NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Jim McFall, wmjmcfall@yahoo.com, 650-327-4428

PARK: Alexander Peers Park, 1899 Park Blvd.

POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.

PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Escondido and Walter Hays elementary schools, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School.

SHOPPING: Town & Country Village; California Avenue

Editorial Intern Georgia Wells can be reached at gwells@embarcaderopublishing.com.

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