Even sidewalks are too formulaic for the Martens-Carmelita neighborhood, an insular Mountain View community that paves over traditional expectations.
"It's a neighborhood that has a lot of character," resident Jenna Valentine said. This coming January 2014 marks the second year that Valentine and her family will have lived in their charming, blue-hued, two-story house on Carmelita Drive. While originally the location of their real estate was a draw, with its immediate access to Huff Elementary School and the Grant Park shopping plaza, as well as proximity to downtown, ultimately what sold them on the area was the diversity of its residents and structures.
Colorful barely describes the expansive palette of tastes reflected in the neighborhood's architecture. One house is mint-green with a matching well out front; across the street is a home built in the style of a log cabin.
Many homes in the neighborhood still maintain the original California ranch design with which they were built in the 1930s-1950s, with wide verandas and modern profiles. However, the neighborhood is not immune to change: Resident Christine Crimaldi estimates that in the past decade, 30 percent of the homes in the area have been rebuilt or remodeled. Like Valentine's family did two years ago, when Crimaldi and her husband moved into the neighborhood in 1989, they decided to rebuild from the ground up, constructing a two-story home that occupies more of their spacious lot.
Both Crimaldi and Valentine agree that the variety of homes available for sale or rent in the neighborhood also attracts a diversity of personalities. Valentine says that her neighborhood is comprised of people from all different backgrounds, ages and lifestyles. She jokes, "I think some of the houses are still on septic."
Morning and afternoon traffic generated by Huff school presents an issue for the neighborhood, as Martens Avenue is the only outlet. However, residents are more concerned about talks of developing a property at the base of Martens, which could lead to an opening up of that end. Plans for what residents of the Martens-Carmelita and the parallel Sleeper neighborhood as the "Hidachi property" involve the installation of 13 single-family homes and the construction of a through-road that would allow new residents passage. But neighbors on both sides of the property want their border to remain unchanged.
"The fact that it's a self-enclosed community makes it safer, or at least psychologically," Crimaldi said. "We don't want it to open up and for it to become a thoroughfare."
As for today's traffic situation, Crimaldi, a mother of two Huff students, believes the caliber of her daughters' education is worth the gridlock.
"Huff is an incredibly progressive and forward-thinking school," Crimaldi said, mentalities she sees reflected in her neighbors. "The people here have very high expectations. We don't live in an area where people can get away with whistling at women. The tolerance level for crime or bad behavior is very low. We expect people to be really well behaved and courteous."
At this point, any development is too far in the future to distract Crimaldi from her top project, which is the preservation of the urban forest. Mountain View city code requires homeowners constructing two-story remodels to plant street trees on their property and protect trees designated with heritage status. However, Martens-Carmelita is one of the few areas in the city that was never amended with sidewalks, and therefore lacks the parking strip between the sidewalk and curb where trees are usually planted. Crimaldi and a small group of neighbors have been working with the city parks department for years to fight illegal deforestation and have saved three heritage trees.
It's this commitment and vitality that attracts families like Valentine's to this community. "We still feel really lucky that we're here," she said, "and that we get to be a part of it."
-- Elize Manoukian
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Baby World, 1715 Grant Road; Montecito Preschool, 1468 Grant Road; St. Timothy's Preschool, 2094 Grant Road; YMCA -- Huff Kids' Place, 253 Martens Ave.
FIRE STATION: No. 2, 160 Cuesta Drive
LOCATION: Martens Avenue and Carmelita Drive and nearby streets
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Martens-Carmelita Neighborhood Association, Robin Iwai, 650-961-8257, email@example.com
PARKS: Huff Park, Martens Avenue
POST OFFICE: Blossom Valley, 1768 Miramonte Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS (nearby): St. Simon Catholic School, 1840 Grant Road, Los Altos
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Mtn. View-Whisman School District -- Huff Elementary School, Graham Middle School; Mtn. View-Los Altos Union High School District -- Mountain View High School
SHOPPING: Grant Park Plaza, Grant Road at El Camino Real; Mountain View Shopping Center, El Camino at Grant Road
MEDIAN 2014 HOME PRICE: $2,268,000 ($1,550,000-$2,700,000)
HOMES SOLD: 7
MEDIAN 2013 CONDO PRICE: $1,100,000 ($1,000,000-$1,200,000)
CONDOS SOLD (nearby): none in 2014