Tucked into a small nook behind the Cubberley Community Center there's a small picture-book community replete with tree-lined cul-de-sacs and Fourth of July parades. Even the architecture is a throwback to a time when families ate evening meals together and kids biked to neighborhood schools.
Greenmeadow is a collection of 270 homes built by Joseph Eichler, running between Creekside Drive and Ferne Avenue to the north and south and Nelson Drive and Ben Lomond Drive on the east and west. Originally completed in 1953, it was built as a cohesive, almost autonomous neighborhood, with houses receding back into cul-de-sacs off a few main drags.
In 2005, the neighborhood was endowed with a place on the National Register of Historic Places and, with that, the restriction to remain true to the "Eichler-look." The city had already placed a moratorium on second stories.
The inclusion of a two-car garage on the broad facade of the houses belies the rather spacious interiors of these homes. They are geometric and unusual inside; the architects were able to notch out living space in unexpected places.
Eichler's celebration of the outdoors is reflected in the community as a whole. With Bay Area landscape designer Thomas Church, they centered the community around a neighborhood park, pool and community center.
Lisa Knox and her family moved onto Ben Lomond Drive in 2006 from a suburb of Pittsburgh.
"If I was going to move, I wanted a community that really felt like a community," she said.
By luck, almost, she, her husband and two teenage girls landed smack dab in the center of one of the most community-minded neighborhoods in the area.
"I can't think of a community that's closer, with more activities," she said. "Everyone is very involved. There was a garden tour, a wine-and-cheese gathering, a meeting for the library bond measure."
Genevieve Berwald and her husband John are "original owners," one of the few remaining families who bought their homes directly from Eichler. They had four young children at the time and were excited about the pool and park.
Today the homeowners' association, called the Greenmeadow Community Association, or GMCA, has committees and sub-committees that organize social events, manage the area and welcome new residents.
"People come here and immediately get involved," Knox said.
That level of involvement creates a closely knit neighborhood and a safety net.
"We moved into an empty house in a strange place and neighbors immediately came to the rescue with pots, pans and sheets," Knox said.
A recent influx of youth has livened up some of the neighborhood events, including the Labor Day picnic, the Halloween party and the Fourth of July parade.
"The Labor Day picnic is such a tradition that people just know to come together," Knox said. "We all bring our own stuff and get together in the park."
Fourth of July is slightly more formal.
"I couldn't believe it the first time," Knox said. "It starts with a 5K race in the morning and goes way into the evening.
"Right in the middle of Silicon Valley, we have this intimate, small-town feel; I love it."
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (NEARBY): Montessori School of Los Altos, 303 Parkside Drive; Palo Alto Infant Toddler Center, 4111 Alma St.; Peninsula Day Care Center, 525 San Antonio Road; Redwood Enrichment Center, 445 E. Charleston Road
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: 650-494-3157, www.greenmeadow.org; Jim Pinsky, president, Greenmeadow Community Association, 650-856-6511
PARKS: Greenmeadow Park (private); Mitchell Park (nearby), 600 East Meadow Drive
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS (NEARBY): Palo Alto Prep School, 4000 Middlefield Road; Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, 450 and 470 San Antonio Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Fairmeadow Elementary School, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: Charleston Center, San Antonio Shopping Center
MEDIAN 2008 HOME PRICE: $1,478,500 ($1,455,000-$1,657,000)
HOMES SOLD: 4