With cracked and old streets as well as towering oak trees, the Menlo Oaks neighborhood has a certain rustic charm. The central hub of the neighborhood is Peninsula School, an institution that has been active since 1925 and located in the Victorian-style Coleman Mansion.
Surrounded by the City of Menlo Park and the Town of Atherton lies the neighborhood of Menlo Oaks, an area of 106 acres of unincorporated San Mateo County.
When driving through Menlo Oaks, it immediately begins to feel like a neighborhood that is lost in time. The roads are narrow and there are no sidewalks, and almost every house seems to be surrounded by trees, the most common being oaks and pine. The shady lanes offer solitude, magnified by the fact that many houses have generous lots.
In spite of the distance between homes, the neighborhood has a very active association, involved in many decisions.
Rich Collyer, the president of the Menlo Oaks District Association as well as webmaster and editor of its website, is content with the neighborhood's unique identity.
"We don't have to answer to Menlo Park or Atherton," he says, adding that all major decisions or actions such as building permits go through the county. The neighborhood also does not have the services of Menlo Park's police department, instead having county deputy sheriffs.
Because of its very makeup, Menlo Oaks is a private and tranquil place to live.
The neighborhood "is generally affluent and close-knit, with events that bring us all together," Mr. Collyer says, citing the annual picnic held at Peninsula School as a unifying occasion for the residents.
Another resident, Kay Hitch, who is secretary of the Menlo Oaks District Association, explains that the presence of Peninsula School within Menlo Oaks, as well as Laurel School and Menlo-Atherton High School nestled next to the neighborhood, essentially ensures that people of all ages comprise its residents, calling the neighborhood "really family-oriented."
Ms. Hitch compared living in Menlo Oaks to living in the country, except it is ironically in the middle of a metropolis.
"I've been here since 1985. ... A lot of people have been here for many generations. They don't leave," she says.
Because of the unincorporated nature of the neighborhood, residents make decisions together regarding things like traffic and the removal of trees. Ms. Hitch describes the community as a sort of "task force" with the goal of keeping Menlo Oaks the way it always has been, even if that means refusing services like bike lanes or gutters for rainwater drainage.
"People used to ride horses through this whole area," says Ms. Hitch, illustrating the more traditional identity that the residents are always fighting to retain.
It is clear that the residents of Menlo Oaks are proud of the old-fashioned and special atmosphere that they have maintained through the years. With so much participation from the neighborhood in keeping Menlo Oaks as it always has been, it is easy to feel the sense of community that has been fostered among neighbors.
"People who live here care about quality of life, the environment and are very down to earth," Ms. Hitch says.
CHILD CARE & PRESCHOOLS: Peninsula School, 920 Peninsula Way, Menlo Park; The Roberts School, 641 Coleman Ave., Menlo Park
FIRE STATION: 300 Middlefield Road, Menlo Park
LOCATION: Ringwood Avenue to Berkeley Avenue, adjacent to the Veterans Administration Medical Center; Bay Road to Arlington Way
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Menlo Oaks District Association, menlo-oaks.org
PARKS: Flood Park, 215 Bay Road, Menlo Park; Seminary Oaks Park, Santa Monica Avenue near Middlefield Road, Menlo Park; Willow Oaks Park, Willow Road near Gilbert Avenue, Menlo Park
PRIVATE SCHOOLS: Peninsula School, 920 Peninsula Way, Menlo Park
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Menlo Park City School District -- Encinal School, 195 Encinal Ave., Menlo Park; Laurel School, 95 Edge Road, Atherton; Hillview Middle School, 1100 Elder Ave., Menlo Park. Sequoia Union High School District -- Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton
SHOPPING: Downtown Menlo Park