"Gee, I would love to live here," Margie Hornbeck used to say while driving through the Eichler and rancher-filled neighborhood, prior to moving to Charleston Gardens in 1966, with her husband Doug.
Drawn to the wide and safe streets, the Hornbecks found Charleston Gardens an area ideal for raising young children.
Although surrounded by three busy streets, Charleston, Middlefield and San Antonio roads, Charleston Gardens is a serene area. On a mid-day stroll around the tree-shaded neighborhood the loudest sound heard is birds chirping, and the streets are nearly free of cars. Portable basketball hoops are common, with children often seen playing on late afternoons.
"The houses are well-maintained, lawns are neat and there are a lot of flowers in the neighborhood," said Helen Feng, a resident since 2000, adding "the houses aren't too close together or too far apart."
There is a nice mix of people, according to Feng, ranging from families with young children to older folk still around since the development of the neighborhood in the 1950s, which attracted many war veterans.
The affordability of houses initially drew Feng, but the kindness neighbors share with each other is what got her hooked. While looking at the neighborhood two months prior to their move, a resident approached Feng and her family, striking up conversations and making the newcomers feel right at home.
That kindness among the neighbors, according to Feng, extends to watching each other's houses when the owners are away and taking care of each other when sick.
"Neighbors really care for each other and it shows," Feng said.
Residents stay connected with e-mails on news concerning the neighborhood and the annual block party, which includes a barbecue and games. The block party is also a fun way many neighbors share their cultural backgrounds by preparing ethnic foods, Feng said.
"Usually you just see people and wave as they drive by, but this is a good way to interact with them and get to know them personally," she said.
The Hornbecks were also drawn to the nearby schools and local amenities, many located on San Antonio or Middlefield Road. Doug, who taught at Cubberley High School on Middlefield Road before it closed and became a community center, loved that his work was so close. They also don't have to go far to find a church, since there are many along Middlefield Road.
The new Campus for Jewish Life, which is under construction on the corner of San Antonio and Charleston roads, is of concern to some residents who fear potential traffic. "You just have to keep an open mind and hope they planned everything well," Feng said.
"It's pretty centralized to everything you need," said Richard Twoy, who moved to the neighborhood in late 2007. "Piazza's is just a block away and Highway 101, which I take to work each day, is close by."
Twoy and his family are looking forward to the block party at the end of the year. "We can see who's around and get to know other people," Twoy said.
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (NEARBY): Children's Pre-School Center, 4000 Middlefield Road, T1; Good Neighbor Montessori, 4000 Middlefield Road, K-4; Young Fives and Pre-school Family, 4120 Middlefield Road; Palo Alto JCC — After School Enrichment Program (ASEP), 4000 Middlefield Road; Ta'Enna Preschool (JCC), 4000 Middlefield Road
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
PARK: Mitchell Park, 600 East Meadow Drive
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.; Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Challenger School, 3880 Middlefield Road; Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, 450 San Antonio Road; Kehillah Jewish High School, 3900 Fabian Way; Palo Alto Prep School, 4000 Middlefield Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Fairmeadow or Hoover elementary schools, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: Charleston Center
MEDIAN 2008 HOME PRICE: $1,040,000
HOMES SOLD: 1
MEDIAN 2008 CONDO PRICE: $890,000 ($801,000-$980,000)
CONDOS SOLD: 2