Palo Alto Weekly

Real Estate - August 3, 2012

Mayfield

A neighborhood with a sense of history

by Lauren-Marie Sliter

One of Joe Villareal's favorite places to eat is Palo Alto Baking Company on California Avenue because it is individually owned and run.

"The person who owns it usually works here," he said. "You'll find a lot of businesses like that on California Avenue."

Despite containing one of the biggest commercial districts in Palo Alto, the Mayfield neighborhood is often forgotten or grouped together with one of the surrounding neighborhoods, said Villareal, a resident for 32 years. It's left off of neighborhood maps and many of its own residents are not aware of its historical significance.

"It has a very distinct history," he said.

Mayfield, Calif., was its own town founded in 1855, even before Palo Alto's beginnings in 1894, said Palo Alto Historical Association's historian Steven Staiger. Though Leland Stanford originally wanted to build his university in Mayfield, the town refused his one request: that the town, which was known for its 13 bars, go "dry."

Eventually, Palo Alto outgrew Mayfield and in 1925, the two cities became one, with Palo Alto annexing Mayfield.

Today, the blocks bounded by El Camino Real, Park Boulevard, Cambridge Avenue and Oregon Expressway house one of Palo Alto's most popular shopping districts and a slew of residents.

One of the biggest differences between Mayfield and the surrounding neighborhoods is the kind of housing it provides. While Evergreen is filled with single-family homes, flowering front yards and picket fences, the majority of housing in Mayfield is multi-family residences, such as apartments and condos.

"There are two types of people here," Villareal said. "There are people who rent and are here for a few years and people who have condos and are more active in the community."

Though there is not an official neighborhood association, several Mayfield residents, including Villareal, are part of Palo Alto Neighborhoods, an independent organization that aims to help each neighborhood in the area communicate its needs to the city.

"It's sort of loose," Villareal said of Mayfield's version of a neighborhood association. "It's more like a confederacy."

Mayfield's inclusion of California Avenue is both a selling point for the neighborhood and one of its banes.

Joe Belion, who has lived in Mayfield for 13 years, said one of the main reasons he enjoys his home there is that there are a myriad restaurants within walking distance from his apartment.

"I like that I'm by a lot of places I can eat," he said.

While living near Palo Alto's second downtown is certainly a plus for many Mayfield residents, it's also clear that parking near home is a challenge.

Sarah Li moved to the Mayfield neighborhood just a few months ago because of Palo Alto's renowned school district, but she is already experiencing parking anxiety.

"We only have one parking garage for our community," she said. "If we have friends over there's not enough space for them to park."

Villareal said a lot of the parking problems have come with the overdevelopment of California and Cambridge avenues. Because much of the business zoning in Mayfield is pedestrian and transit zoning, many businesses have had to sacrifice parking spaces, he said.

Though there is a Caltrain station within the neighborhood, Villareal said most people still drive to and from work and to shop, causing even more parking problems.

And, while the neighborhood does not have the 13 boisterous bars it once did, Mayfield still has several cafes and bars, such as Antonio's Nut House and Caffe Riace, and Sarah Wallis Park in the center of its residential zone.

"(Sarah Wallis Park) is one of my favorite places to go and read and meet and talk to people," Villareal said.

Because Mayfield is zoned primarily for multi-family residents, Villareal said the community boasts a lot of diversity.

"This area has a big mixture of population, from age, ethnicity, income levels," he said.

FACTS

CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (nearby): Casa dei Bambini Montessori School, 463 & 457 College Ave.; Escondido Kids' Club, 890 Escondido Road

FIRE STATION: No. 2, 2675 Hanover St.

LOCATION: between Oregon Expressway, Park Boulevard, El Camino Real and Cambridge Avenue

NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Palo Alto Neighborhoods members: Joe Villareal, 650-326-7519

PARKS: Sarah Wallis Park, 202 Grant Ave.

POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.

PRIVATE SCHOOL: The Living Wisdom School, 456 College Ave.

SHOPPING: California Avenue

Editorial Intern Lauren-Marie Sliter can be reached at lsliter@paweekly.com.

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