"When we looked at Southgate," Irina Gorelik said, "we thought 'oh my God, this is it.'" Gorelik and her husband Alex were attracted to the neighborhood's quiet and charm — qualities residents feel make the area special.
Having moved from Fremont in 2007 with their four children, the Goreliks are pleased with their choice. The streets are quiet and safe, they said, and neighbors know each other. And with its prime location, there's always plenty to do.
In fact, location was one factor drawing the Goreliks to the neighborhood. Southgate, bordered by the Caltrain tracks, Churchill Avenue, El Camino Real and Park Boulevard, is just walking distance from Stanford and shopping at Town & Country and along California Avenue.
"We wanted to be in the middle of all the activities," Gorelik said.
For John Monrose, a Southgate resident since 1973, the neighborhood's location couldn't be better.
"Southgate is very convenient. It's the best place in Palo Alto," he said. "We couldn't find a better location for our lifestyle, comfort and convenience."
Just bordering Southgate is Peers Park where children play and families picnic. "It's a lovely park and a wonderful asset to the neighborhood," Monrose said. For a long time, Southgate residents were older folks although today there is a mix of elderly residents and young families.
Southgate's narrow, tree-line streets are accessible only from El Camino and Churchill, discouraging any through traffic and making the neighborhood's contained environment peaceful and safe. A circular street setup includes pedestrian walkways, giving residents easy access to the park, Stanford and main streets.
The neighborhood land was previously owned by the Stanfords. The property was subdivided in the 1920s, and was named Southgate because it bordered the southern side of Stanford University. Original homes included a few constructed by Glenn "Pop" Warner of Pop Warner football who coached Stanford football in the 1920s and '30s.
But most were classic California Bungalows, varying in about six different floor plans, said John's wife Meg Monrose, a retired Palo Alto city planner.
With the variety of rebuilding and remodeling done over the years, Southgate today hosts an eclectic assortment of homes, including a "castle-theme" residence and a converted grocery store and body shop.
The trend in the '80s was to add second stories to older homes but in the '90s that changed. Southgate homes were often demolished and rebuilt with full basements to make the most of space. And while the trend towards building huge houses on small lots seems to have died out, construction activity in Southgate is high.
"We've never been this busy from a construction point of view," Monrose said.
Southgate's community feel is a defining element of the neighborhood, residents said. And while there is no neighborhood association, Jim McFall, a Southgate resident since 1985, maintains an active e-mail list for the neighborhood watch and Southgate news.
Get-togethers are common and annual events include National Night Out and a neighborhood block party on Memorial Day weekend, he said.
"New families are really appreciative of the effort to become part of the neighborhood and get to know each other," he said.
The friendliness of the neighborhood is what makes it so special, said Realtor Karen McKay, a Southgate resident for 40 years. "It's a great neighborhood," she said, "neighbors help each other."
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (NEARBY): Casa dei Bambini, 457 College Ave.; Escondido Kids' Club, 890 Escondido Road; Walter Hays Kids' Club, 1525 Middlefield Road
FIRE STATION: No. 6, 711 Serra St. on the Stanford Campus
LIBRARIES: Main Library, 1213 Newell Road; and College Terrace branch, 2300 Wellesley St.
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Jim McFall, firstname.lastname@example.org, 650-327-4428
PARK: Alexander Peers Park, 1899 Park Blvd.
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Escondido and Walter Hays elementary schools, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School.
SHOPPING: Town & Country Village; California Avenue
MEDIAN 2008 HOME PRICE: $1,689,000 ($1,457,000-$2,150,000)
HOMES SOLD: 3