If you move to this planned community, you may have serendipitous encounters with wild turkeys.
But to most residents, the rural setting and interactions with wildlife is what attracted residents, including Anna Busse, to Portola Valley Ranch.
"We liked the almost rural setting, the way the houses blend into the environment, and the views of the hills around us," Busse said.
The local elementary schools were a plus as well, and she and her family "love that we can go hiking for hours just straight out the door, without driving someplace."
The hilly, tree-lined neighborhood is made up of multiple cul-de-sacs, studded with live oaks, bay laurel trees and manzanita. The development has a private community center, with two pools, tennis courts and a fitness center.
Busse said many of the neighbors are older, but "there's a huge wave of younger families moving in."
Even after three decades, Nancy Thompson can find no fault with the way of life that Portola Valley Ranch offers residents.
"We're living in clean air; we're communing with all the animals that were here before us. ... It's just a little enclave of, I think, protection in the Town of Portola Valley," she said.
When the first Portola Valley Ranch houses were built in 1975, strict rules were put in place to minimize impact on the environment. Developer Joe Whelan's vision for Portola Valley Ranch was to "take 453 acres of open land, and to preserve over 75 percent of it in open space," Ms. Thompson said. Houses were built on half-acre parcels, and "each individual house was sited so that it would take advantage of ... unique, special and wonderful views."
Whelan ensured that the houses were designed to "blend into the natural environment."
Most Portola Valley Ranch houses are painted in shades of green, brown and gray and aren't set conspicuously on ridges or hilltops where they might disrupt the flow of the landscape. What's more, the houses are clustered together, meaning the community requires few paved roads. Whelan insisted that only native plants be in landscapes around the houses -- though other species of flowers could be grown in planter boxes or pots.
Mike and Suzy Housman chose to move to Portola Valley Ranch after their youngest child went to college. "When you move to a new place, you meet people usually through your children and their activities. Without that, it's harder to meet people. ... The groups and committees and the ability to have an instant community ... that's really what attracted us," Mike Housman said.
The Ranch meeting space is a monthly gathering spot for residents, Anna Busse said, and a place to connect over food and wine. "The neighbors in general are super friendly and kind. There's a real sense of watching out for each other here. We have emergency preparedness, fire safety ... committees, all of whom work together to make sure this fairly remote neighborhood is safe."
Elizabeth Lorenz, 2018, and Emma Marsano
CHILD CARE & PRESCHOOLS: Windmill Preschool, 4141 Alpine Road, Portola Valley; Ladera Community Church Preschool, 3300 Alpine Road, Portola Valley; Carillon Preschool at Christ Church, 815 Portola Road, Portola Valley; New Horizons (after-school care), 200 Shawnee Pass, Portola Valley
FIRE STATION: Woodside Fire Protection District, Portola Valley Station, 135 Portola Road, Portola Valley
LOCATION: south and east of Alpine Road and west of Los Trancos Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Portola Valley Ranch Association, pvranch.org
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Portola Valley School District -- Ormondale School (K-3), 200 Shawnee Pass, Portola Valley; Corte Madera School (4-8), 4575 Alpine Road, Portola Valley
Sequoia Union High School District -- Woodside High School, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside
SHOPPING: Nathhorst Triangle, Portola Road at Alpine Road; Village Square, 884 Portola Road; Ladera Shopping Center, 3130 Alpine Road, Portola Valley