"The tree died," Hartog joked, referring to a recently removed pine that had long made its home in Robles Park. But the neighborhood's iconic architecture, and even some of its residents, have been there since the neighborhood's mid-century development, Hartog said.
A stroll through the neighborhood's generous streets yields peeks at a vintage Palo Alto. The neighborhood has maintained its wood-framed style with laws outlined by the Architectural Control Committee (ACC) that prevent renovations from straying too far from a home's original architecture. In some yards, lush landscapes protect large glass windows in a form that stays true to the original Eichler sentiment of fluid indoor and outdoor spaces.
And Charleston Meadows has plenty of outdoor space, including the aforementioned Robles Park. Hartog sees the park as a neighborhood resource that, though perhaps underused by many Palo Altans, serves as a gathering beacon for the residents of Charleston Meadows. The park is the site of the neighborhood's annual community party, where last year the CMA held a dessert potluck and enjoyed coffee donated from a local Starbucks.
"Everyone here has the same mentality of family and outreach," she said. The community members use online forums to communicate with each other, as when sharing babysitter and landscaper recommendations.
But, like many a coveted Palo Alto neighborhood, the calm of Charleston Meadows can be disturbed by the increased traffic and bustle of industrialization. Hartog pointed to Charleston Road, a four-lane street prone to speeding cars and limited crosswalks.
"I'll always be an advocate of safer crossing," she said.
Despite Charleston Road's shortcomings, Hartog noted its accessibility to El Camino Real, Alma Street and Highway 101, and the neighborhood's resulting proximity to shopping. Whole Foods, Safeway, Trader Joe's, the Milk Pail Market and the recently opened Grocery Outlet are among the many nearby places to shop.
Janaki Ramachandran, who moved to Charleston Meadows in late 2012 with her husband and their two children, loves the neighborhood's easy access to California Avenue.
"The kids take piano classes near California Avenue," she said. "So it's very convenient."
Ramachandran and her family all love to bike, so when they moved to Palo Alto from Mountain View they were looking for a neighborhood that suited this lifestyle.
"We don't have to rely on cars," Ramachandran said. "And our family can use the bus system when they visit."
Hartog also mentioned the nearby Ventura Community Center as another family-friendly charm. Owned by the city and managed by Palo Alto Community Child Care, the space houses child care facilities as its primary business. But the center also has a broad area with a field and playground that is open to the public.
"You wouldn't even know it's there," Hartog said.
Though a small neighborhood, Charleston Meadows has a number of cul-de-sacs that form pockets of neighborly goodwill, Hartog explained. Some of the neighborhood's lots look to the tree-lined Adobe Creek on its southeast side, which can be traversed by a bike bridge that gives easy access to Mountain View.
Thinking fondly of her fellow residents, Hartog remembered a Charleston Meadows couple with plans to retire soon in the East Bay and made a mental note to stop by their house.
"When people leave, we're sad," Hartog said. Still, she always looks forward to welcoming new families to Charleston Meadows. "Everyone here is interested in keeping in touch with each other."
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CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Growing Tree Preschool, 450 W. Charleston Road; Ventura Community Center, 3990 Ventura Court
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road; No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: bounded by West Meadow Drive, Alma Street, Adobe Creek and El Camino Real
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Ellen Hartog, president, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.charlestonmeadows.org
PARKS: Don Secundino Robles Park, 4116 Park Blvd.; Monroe Mini Park (nearby), Monroe Drive and Miller Avenue; Ventura Community Center Park and Playground, 3990 Ventura Court
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Juana Briones Elementary School, Terman Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: The Village at San Antonio, Piazza's Shopping Center, Alma Village