One of the best ways to describe the Los Trancos Woods neighborhood in Portola Valley is as a "wildlife corridor."
Twenty-year resident David Smernoff, who works as a volunteer for Grassroots Ecology, a habitat restoration nonprofit, said there are often coyotes walking down his street, and the herd of deer is such a fixture that he recognizes some of the members. Hooting owls in a dark night is the background ambiance for this no-streetlight hilly place.
Mr. Smernoff has been heavily involved in working with San Mateo County to renovate a 1920s-era storm drain system built when Los Trancos was simply a hodge podge of cabins for summering San Franciscans.
"Some of the original cabins are still here but now they're on sewer (they used to be on septic systems)," he said. Often now, when a 400-square-foot cabin sells, it commonly gets torn down in favor of a 5,000-square-foot home on steep slope complete with carefully engineered retaining walls.
The community is tightly knit because they've worked to be prepared for emergencies and to help each other through.
"People help each other out in a way that I haven't experienced living in Silicon Valley," said Rob Kalman, a resident of adjacenty Vista Verde.
The Vista Verde and Los Trancos Woods neighborhoods are adjacent and very similar, but have kept separate associations over the years, according to Mr. Kalman. Vista Verde is newer, he says. But you wouldn't know by driving the streets where one begins and the other ends, he says. More and more, the associations are banding together for events and information sharing.
Each year there are at least two parties: a "spring fling" and a summer picnic, Mr. Kalman says.
He also says that the Los Trancos Woods and Vista Verde neighborhoods occupy a special place.
"We're very appreciative that we live in a unique and beautiful area," he says. "People often stay for decades and get to know each other."
Mr. Smernoff said Los Trancos has an annual picnic that rotates locations among homeowners, with music by the local band "Los Tranquilizers."
His wife discovered Los Trancos when she worked at Stanford and made a delivery in the neighborhood in 1995. She moved there the next weekend. Many successful Silicon Valley entrepreneurs have made Los Trancos their home, along with Stanford graduate students who can still find small cabins to rent.
"We have such great access to open space. I can bike to the ocean," Mr. Smernoff said, "mostly on dirt trails."
While it might take six minutes to get to Interstate 280 or Robert's or Bianchini markets, Mr. Smernoff said he doesn't mind the 15-minute drive to Stanford for a sporting event. He did note that the steepness of Los Trancos Road coupled with increasing traffic means "you can't really be a bike commuter from here. Riding up and down Los Trancos is a challenge."
There are a lot of "dog people" in the neighborhood, he said, who enjoy the town and open-space trails. A good day, he said, is when he doesn't have to go east of 280.
Elizabeth Lorenz, 2018 and Kathy Schrenk
LOCATION: between Page Mill and Alpine roads and Los Trancos Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATIONS: Los Trancos Woods Community Association, lostrancoswoods.org; Vista Verde Community Association, vistaverdepv.org
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: (Eligibility depends on the resident's address) Palo Alto Unified School District -- Lucille M. Nixon School, 1711 Stanford Ave., Palo Alto; JLS Middle School, 480 E. Meadow Drive, Palo Alto; Gunn High School, 780 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto. Portola Valley School District -- Ormondale School (K-3), 200 Shawnee Pass Road, Portola Valley; Corte Madera School (4-8), 4575 Alpine Road, Portola Valley. Sequoia Union High School District -- Woodside High School, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside