Upon entering the West of Alameda neighborhood in Atherton, visitors find themselves transported to a bucolic realm. Apart from the cacophony of trains, the traffic jams that plague El Camino Real and Alma Street, and the airline super highways that frazzle the Peninsula, the neighborhood is marked by a soothing calm.
The profusion of aged, mostly native landscaping includes oak, pine, bigleaf maple, madrone, laurel and sycamore trees -- with the occasional oranges and reds of Eastern varieties. Heavily laden with berries, Pyracantha bushes bend into arcs over the earth. The sounds of splashing fountains can be heard behind wrought-iron gates and vine-covered stone walls. The full plantings and wide green spaces serve as fitting frames for the palatial, immaculately designed homes.
West of Alameda is part of Atherton's 94027, which Forbes Magazine recently declared the most expensive ZIP code for the third year in a row, with a median home price of $10.6 million during the summer of 2015. According to data provided by Taylor Properties, real estate in West of Alameda also seems to be on the rise, with median home prices of $4,672,500 in 2013, $5,875,000 in 2014 and $6,800,000 in 2015.
But the quality of life in the neighborhood runs deeper than the handsomeness of its resplendent mansions. Katy Klaus, a resident for 10 years, was enthusiastic about the family-friendly community.
"It is a great neighborhood!" Mrs. Klaus says. "I love the schools where the parent participation is amazing and kids can be walked to school and then play together in each other's yards. The neighbors support each other and watch out for each other."
Realtor Denise Villeneuve, a West of Alameda inhabitant for 20 years, offers a perspective that captures the neighborhood's evolution over the long term. She describes the area as peaceful when she arrived.
"The neighborhood was comprised of physicians and attorneys who worked in the city and came on weekends to take a deep breath and relax in the calm, quiet landscape with ranch homes," she says.
She explained though that the neighborhood's location nearby to Sand Hill Road soon made it attractive to venture capitalists in the high-tech industry, who replaced the ranch homes with "mega mansions."
"People's lives changed," she says. "Professionals can no longer afford the neighborhood. Capital gains tax consequences make it difficult for elderly residents to leave the neighborhood, even though they may require smaller spaces. Formerly open with frequent dinner parties among neighboring friends, technology executives now create private compounds."
But with her all-year garden, chickens, and orchard of figs, lemons and pomegranates, Ms. Villeneuve says West of Alameda is still "the Garden of Eden." Her daughter, Nicole, echoed that sentiment, affirming the beauty the place they call home.
-- Bette Kiernan
FIRE STATION: 3322 Alameda de las Pulgas, Menlo Park
LOCATION: Alameda de las Pulgas to Interstate 280; Menlo Park city border near Walsh Road to the Redwood City border near Fletcher Drive
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Las Lomitas School District -- Las Lomitas School, 299 Alameda de las Pulgas, Atherton; La Entrada Middle School, 2200 Sharon Road, Menlo Park
Sequoia Union High School District -- Menlo-Atherton High School, 555 Middlefield Road, Atherton
SHOPPING: Woodside Road, Woodside