When Gary Bacon moved to Crescent Park in 1969, he was charmed by the small-town feel and individuality of the mostly single-story Craftsman bungalows.
Four years later when he needed a larger home, he opted to go just a few blocks.
He still recalls wheeling his piano down Guinda Street while a buddy played boogie woogie and new neighbors cheered.
Relationships were quickly forged over low fences — informal chats that evolved into Labor Day block-party traditions, Halloween costume parties, a wine co-op and backyard movie night with his rear garage as a screen.
In the 35 years since he moved onto Forest Avenue, the now-retired Los Altos High School teacher has seen plenty of changes, from the raising of rooflines and infill of homes on the deeper lots to the demise of those low between-neighbor fences and skyrocketing prices.
Despite the changes, Bacon is still struck by the congeniality of the neighbors. "I'm not going anywhere. I love it here," he said.
Tucked between San Francisquito Creek, Newell Road, Channing Avenue and Middlefield Road, Crescent Park has a quiet, secluded feel despite its proximity to downtown Palo Alto and traffic-laden University Avenue. Children play on the neighborhood's magnolia-lined sidewalks, and neighbors know they can rely on each other for help, advice and friendship.
But the friendly environment isn't the only thing that attracts people to Crescent Park. The area's architectural diversity, with Mediterranean, Early Californian and Victorian homes, appeals to many residents looking for a neighborhood with character.
"People come to Crescent Park who are looking for two-story houses, like in the suburbs around the big cities on the East Coast," said Norm Beamer, president of the Crescent Park Neighborhood Association. "Crescent Park tends to have that kind of architecture: large two-story houses on a traditional, tree-lined street. I think that's one of the unique things about the neighborhood."
Steve Staiger, Palo Alto's historian, notes that Crescent Park was originally part of a 2,200-acre land grant called Rancho Rinconada del Arroyo de San Francisquito. In 1864, Dr. William Newell bought the land, where he planted some of the first eucalyptus trees in America.
For decades, the nearby San Francisquito Creek has caused its share of problems. Heavy El Nino rains wreaked millions of dollars of damage when the creek overflowed in 1998.
"You never would have expected a little creek that is normally dry to flood like that," Beamer said.
Much of Crescent Park is now in a designated flood zone, which means that mortgaged homes need to have flood insurance and that any major renovations require raising the house above the flood level.
Rather than focusing on the flood, most residents talk about the friendly atmosphere, elegant homes and fantastic location.
Beth O'Malley first moved to Crescent Park when she found a "great house" there. But if it's the house that brought her, it's the community that has kept her there for the past 10 years.
"I am surrounded on all sides ... by amazing neighbors, just amazing neighbors," O'Malley said. "I feel like we're all here for each other.
"Our kids all cat-sit and dog-sit and house-sit," O'Malley said. "It's a great way to start them out with a little responsibility from an early age."
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Crescent Park Child Development Center (Peekaboo), 888 Boyce Ave.
FIRE STATION: No. 3, 799 Embarcadero Road
LIBRARY: Main Library, 1213 Newell Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Norman Beamer, 650-327-7071
PARKS: Eleanor Pardee park, 851 Center Drive; Hopkins Creekside Park along Palo Alto Avenue
POST OFFICES: Hamilton, 380 Hamiliton Avenue; Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: St. Elizabeth Seton School, 1095 Channing Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Duveneck Elementary School, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School
SHOPPING (NEARBY): The Willows Market, 60 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park
MEDIAN 2008 HOME PRICE: $2,085,000 ($750,000-$6,900,000)
HOMES SOLD: 28
MEDIAN 2008 CONDO PRICE: $767,500 ($735,000-$800,000)
CONDOS SOLD: 2