Vivid sunsets paint the skies of the Esther Clark Park neighborhood at dusk and stars shine brightly, uninterrupted by city lights in the night skies. Lush vegetation contrasts with the structured landscaping of each uniquely designed mansion near the small, open-space park.
Three streets — Old Adobe Road, Old Trace Road and Manuela Avenue — wind southward toward cul-de-sacs in the tranquil southern Palo Alto hills neighborhood, with a typical daily soundtrack of birds chirping and calming, northern California breezes. The streets come one after another off Arastradero Road, across the Foothill Expressway intersection from Gunn High School.
Residents make use of Esther Clark Park, an open 21-acre plot of land given to the city of Palo Alto by Esther Clark, a pediatrician and founder of the Palo Alto Medical Clinic and the Children's Health Council.
Avid gardener Melanie Cross, a resident since 1998, lives in a Mediterranean-style home next to the park. The plants in her yard provide habitat for insects and birds from this area. "I would love to see more natives growing in the open space," she said.
The park is part of the distant landscape of her backyard, and she often visits with her two goats. When at the park, she sees her neighbors there with their animals.
"Neighbors walk their dogs and ride their horses," Cross said.
Diane Master, who has lived at the end of Old Trace Road since 1991, makes use of the park for walking and hiking. She also enjoys the wildlife she sees in the park and in her own backyard.
"We have foxes, turkey vultures and blue herons," she said. "I love to watch the hawks when they ride on the air currents around here."
Many of the original owners from the 1960s are starting to sell and families are coming back to the neighborhood, said Master.
In addition to its rural-feel, residents were drawn to the neighborhood because of its close proximity to shopping and Palo Alto public schools. Esther Park Clark residents enjoy the convenience of downtown Los Altos, which is closer than most shopping within the city limits of Palo Alto.
Esther Clark Park was first developed in the 1950s, when streets such as Old Adobe Road were part of a ranch-style subdivision. Most of the early building finished in the 1970s with some ranch-style houses.
In the early 1990s, further development took place, with many choosing to build their dream houses, creating an architecturally eclectic grouping of homes.
Master's "totally funky" home beyond the cul-de-sac end of Old Trace Road was originally built in 1939 by actress and painter Marjorie Eaton; Master and her husband chose to add on to the original adobe house using contemporary design.
On the top of the highest hill in the neighborhood on Old Adobe Road, Tzipi and Sam Tramiel's large, modern home, surrounded by a minimalist landscape of tall palm trees, stands boldly between a subtler Mediterranean villa and a sprawling California-style ranch. The palm trees of this property sprout upwards toward the sky over the slatted, wooden fence beyond the goat stables in Cross' backyard.
Even though there are no official block parties or social gatherings, residents of Esther Clark Park know one another, often meeting when walking their dogs in the park or around the neighborhood.
"I know a lot of people. If there was ever a need for any help, I know someone would be there," Tramiel said. "It's not a close neighborhood, but it's a friendly neighborhood."
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
PARK: Esther Clark Park, Old Trace Road
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Nixon Elementary School, Terman Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: El Camino Real, Downtown Los Altos
MEDIAN 2008 HOME PRICE: $2,673,000
HOMES SOLD: 1