When the Bernards decided to leave their longtime neighborhood in Menlo Park and move into a larger Craftsman-style home just three miles away in Woodside Heights, they gained more than some additional bedrooms and extra yard space.
"We found the best of both worlds here," Michele Bernard says. "This neighborhood is a quiet oasis close to downtown."
Tucked in the hills between Woodside Road, Alameda de las Pulgas, Interstate 280 and West Atherton, Woodside Heights provides a rural retreat from the otherwise hectic Peninsula.
The residential neighborhood was once part of the sprawling country estate that belonged to Walter Buck, vice president of the American Distilling Company. Buck's 52-room Gothic mansion, built in 1929, still stands on 5 acres of the original estate, but the rest of the property has been since subdivided into roughly 100 parcels measuring anywhere from half an acre to 5 acres.
Because the neighborhood still feels like a secluded country getaway with winding roads, abundant wildlife, homes hidden behind mature trees and an occasional vineyard, it has become an attractive place for those seeking privacy and tranquility.
"We had to wait two years to find a home here," says Mrs. Bernard, who moved to Woodside Heights in 2013.
Helen Ungerman says the neighborhood's unique character has turned her into "neighborhood lifer."
Mrs. Ungerman recently purchased her childhood home from her parents so she could raise her two children in the neighborhood.
"This is a great place to raise a family. It gives you a good break from the day-to-day hustle and bustle," Mrs. Ungerman says. "There's just a different feel when you're up here in the hills. Kids have access to nature and all that wonderful stuff outside that keeps them away from TV and video games."
Besides more cut-through traffic, Mrs. Ungerman says little has changed in the neighborhood. Many of the same families, or the next generation of those families, still live in the neighborhood, she notes. Strict building restrictions have prevented homes from being torn down and replaced by bigger ones, she added.
"I think that has helped the neighborhood keep that secluded feel," she says.
Mrs. Ungerman is quick to add, however, that seclusion doesn't mean living in isolation.
"A lot of people want privacy, and you can have that when you want it," she says. "But neighbors are right there when you need them. We're really close knit."
Neighborhood get-togethers have been a longtime tradition in Woodside Heights. One family hosted a party for all the neighborhood children every Halloween for 17 years straight, Mrs. Ungerman said. Just down the street, that late Shirley Temple Black would make a point to personally greet every trick-or-treater who came to her front door. And during Christmas, neighbor Louise Davies, for whom the San Francisco symphony hall is named, would invite Mrs. Ungerman's school choir to perform in her home.
Mrs. Ungerman hopes to preserve this tradition of community. As president of the Woodside Heights Neighborhood Association, she organizes three neighborhood events a year, including this year's Batman-themed Halloween party at Wayne Manor (aka the Buck Estate) that attracted about 150 residents.
"People here just genuinely want to hang out with their neighbors," she says.
— Linda Taaffe
CHILD CARE & PRESCHOOLS: Woodside Parents' Nursery School, 3154 Woodside Road, Woodside; Woodside Preschool, 3195 Woodside Road, Woodside
LOCATION: south of Woodside Road and Alameda de las Pulgas adjacent to Woodside High School to Stockbridge Avenue and Eleanor Drive
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Woodside Heights Neighborhood Association: Helen Ungerman, president; woodsideheights.org
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Las Lomitas Elementary School District — Las Lomitas Elementary School, 299 Alameda de las Pulgas, Atherton; La Entrada Middle School, 2200 Sharon Road, Menlo Park
Redwood City School District — Selby Lane Elementary School, 170 Selby Lane, Atherton; Kennedy Middle School, 2521 Goodwin Ave., Redwood City
Sequoia Union High School District — Woodside High School, 199 Churchill Ave., Woodside