When Greg Tanaka moved in to the College Terrace neighborhood in 2004, he noticed something different about the place — "the strong sense of community."
After receiving a gracious gift from the next-door neighbor, Tanaka and his family were invited to a barbecue so they would be able to meet people. Now serving his second term as president of the College Terrace Residents' Association, Tanaka describes the diverse residents as "one big happy family."
It is a neighborhood of both homeowners and renters, sandwiched between California Avenue and Stanford's Escondido Village, just west of El Camino Real. Four mini-parks are evenly placed throughout the neighborhood and make for great places to bring children and pets. Several have play structures and one has a tennis court. When Werry Park was renovated neighbors celebrated its reopening with an ice-cream social.
Neighbors often bump into each other at the local branch of the library, or at the family-owned JJ&F Market on College Avenue.
Besides informal meetings, neighbors hold picnics on Labor Day and near Easter, open to all residents. Events include barbecued food, art, live music and games for kids. Neighborhood-wide celebrations on Halloween or other occasions are not uncommon.
The College Terrace Residents' Association makes an effort to be inclusive, welcoming residents, keeping them informed and encouraging civic participation through its Web site and quarterly newsletters.
The very walkability of the neighborhood encourages casual neighborly contacts. Streets feature sidewalks, separated from the streets by planted medians. Trees are important to the streetscape. In fact, the nonprofit organization, Canopy, was born in leafy College Terrace.
Residents also value the neighborhood's eclectic homes. Enchanted by their charm, many neighbors are fond of the small cottages that are scattered throughout the neighborhood. To some people's dismay, a number of these dwellings have been and are being replaced with larger houses. Others are circumspect.
Tanaka sees the conversions as a natural consequence of the small lots in College Terrace. "It's really about building the house that fits the lot and neighborhood," he said, noting that for some recent remodels, "They built it and they built it right. I look forward to people revitalizing the neighborhood."
Brent Barker has lived in College Terrace since 1978 with his wife, raising two girls. Despite planning to live in the neighborhood for only two years, the family grew to love the convenient location and diverse architecture.
It is his hope that College Terrace maintain its character, which he said has not changed much since he and his family moved in. He also looks forward to the neighborhood and Stanford University maintaining a good long-term, compatible relationship, dealing with issues of housing, traffic and parking.
Regardless of the demolition of charming houses, Tanaka said, "What really makes the neighborhood special is the residents."
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: College Terrace Children's Center, 2300 Wellesley Ave.; Bing Nursery School, 850 Escondido Road; Escondido Kids' Club, 890 Escondido Road; Pepper Tree After School Program, 859 Escondido Road
FIRE STATION: No. 2, 2675 Hanover St. and No. 6, 711 Serra St. on the Stanford campus
LIBRARY: College Terrace, 2300 Wellesley St.
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: College Terrace Residents' Association, Greg Tanaka, president, www.ctra.org.
PARKS: Donaldina Cameron Park, 2100 Wellesley St.; Mayfield Park, 2300 Wellesley St.; Weisshaar Park, 2300 Dartmouth St.; Werry Park, 2100 Dartmouth St.
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Escondido Elementary School, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School
SHOPPING: California Avenue
MEDIAN 2008 HOME PRICE: $1,360,000 ($892,000-$2,778,000)
HOMES SOLD: 9