Old Palo Alto residents start neighborhood association

Nadia Naik and Camelia Sutorius talk about starting OPANA

Old Palo Alto neighborhood resident Nadia Naik never saw herself as a community activist. But when the issue of high-speed rail emerged -- potentially affecting her Old Palo Alto neighborhood -- she wanted to get involved.

Naik attended a neighborhood meeting in the Southgate neighborhood, just across the Caltrain tracks to the west, at a friend's invitation. She soon realized there was something important missing in her own neck of the woods, she said.

"People asked me, 'Don't you have a neighborhood association?'" she recalled.

Naik and fellow resident Camelia Sutorius are now starting that neighborhood association to make connections with their neighbors, they said.

The Old Palo Alto Neighborhood Association, with the mellifluous acronym OPANA, encompasses the area bordered by Embarcadero Road, Oregon Expressway, Alma Street and Middlefield Road.

Naik, her husband and two young daughters moved to Palo Alto five years ago from Boston, Mass. Her daughters attend Walter Hays Elementary School.

Sutorius grew up in a tiny town on Grosse Ile, an island in Michigan where everyone knew each other, she said. She is a former school nurse.

"Every kid should know if their parents aren't home they can feel safe. They should know who they can go to," she said.

She is married to Scott Sutorius, son of the late former Palo Alto Mayor Jack Sutorius. The couple has four grown sons.

The Sutoriuses returned to Palo Alto after working as nurses in Shaker Heights, Ohio, for 25 years. They returned to help Scott's mother, Marilyn, who wanted to "age in place" in her Palo Alto home, Sutorius said.

Sutorius is working to organize her neighborhood's block-preparedness coordinator program.

Naik and Sutorius sat down last week to talk about what they hope to achieve with the new association for their 72-block neighborhood.

Weekly: What motivated you to start the Old Palo Alto Neighborhood Association?

Naik: I really think we're going to be here a long time. I want to sprout roots in my community.

Weekly: What do you envision?

Naik: First, I want people to get to know their neighbors. There are so many things an organization like a neighborhood association can do. Having worked closely with the city, I've found that ... people pay their taxes and have no idea about the incredible resources there. I've learned that things work if you get engaged.

Sutorius: I grew up in a community where I knew everyone. That was my norm. At our home in Michigan, we hosted a block party for 10 years in our back yard where 400 people showed up. Everyone felt they belonged.

Weekly: What are some neighborhood issues that the association could help with?

Naik: There is a concern about crime. ... You can't have a discussion with your neighbors if you don't know who they are. It's difficult if you can't start with the basics.

Sutorius: Yes, as an example, a neighbor was afraid to bother her neighbors, but she thought there was drug activity going on at a home. She talked to her neighbors and found out that's what was going on. They called the police, and the neighbors called the landlord.

Weekly: What are some surprising things about your neighborhood?

Sutorius: To see how much has changed. All of the big houses. There are big changes in the 25 years since we were here.

Naik: The celebrity neighbors we have. We didn't know how many amazing and interesting people live in our neighborhood. They are quiet and unassuming ... but you can go for a walk and you'll spot the same guy out there picking the gum off his shoe.

Sutorius: That in such an old and established neighborhood that people don't know each other better.

Naik: I know more people randomly than I know in my neighborhood.

Weekly: How many people have joined the (OPANA) e-mail list so far?

Naik: We have 145 members. Not bad for zero advertising.

Weekly: Have you always been an activist?

Naik: No. High-speed rail brought out the accidental activist in me.

Sutorius: I've always been an activist of a different sort. I've primarily focused my energies on the health realm. I've done a lot of teaching in the community.

Weekly: How have you been influenced to be a leader?

Sutorius: It started with my parents. I was the fourth of five children with three older brothers. I had to be a leader.

Naik: We have a sort of an inner core of people who keep volunteering for things. I think I've been inspired by them.

Weekly: Next steps?

Naik: We're having our first general meeting and social on March 30 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the First Baptist Church, 305 N. California Ave. (cross street Bryant). This is a great chance to reunite with friends and meet new neighbors. We'll have light refreshments and some surprise "celebrity" visitors.

Sutorius: I hope we can have a simple-style block party. We're suggesting May 22.

Weekly: How can people join the Old Palo Alto Neighborhood Association?

Naik: They can go to

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Like this comment
Posted by oldtimer
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Mar 20, 2011 at 11:46 am

Why do people persist in calling this area "Old Palo Alto"? Some realtor must have coined it, and it's inaccurate and terribly pretentious. It was never called that --it's the Seale Addition. It's not the old part of town. It's tres nouveau Palo Alto to use the term OPA, and new people can be excused their ignorance but why the Weekly is complicit in this is beyond me. Why not name your group after what it is -- the Seale Addition, and stop perpetuating this nonsense. Be proud of Palo Alto's history.

Like this comment
Posted by palo alto mom
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Mar 20, 2011 at 12:23 pm

People call the area "Old Palo Alto" because that is what everyone (almost everyone) knows it as. Right or wrong, no one is going to start calling it the Seale addition. I've lived here for 15 years, so I'm really not a "new person" and I've never heard the phrase before. If there intention is to gather a group of neighbors from a common area, they should use the most commonly used name to refer to the neighborhood...

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Posted by PA Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 20, 2011 at 1:09 pm

I have lived her for 30 years. Agree that the name is here to stay. Announcing "celebrity visitors" is a bit pretentious, but then again, fitting for the people who move to Old Palo Alto. Those celebrities are modest people who can afford large homes and would most likely prefer no such announcement.

I don't understand why this is even being published as news. Many neighborhoods have run their associations for years. Check here, under "Who We Are": Web Link

Like this comment
Posted by Midtown mom
a resident of Midtown
on Mar 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

Cudos to Nadia, I wish we had an activist like her in Midtown too. Palo Alto lost the sense of community long time ago, just like many other towns in Bay Area. There is still some of it left in Los Gatos, Willow Glen and Los Altos. I suggest we start small, perhaps with "Meet your neihbors" street barbecues or similar events. The events in Japan highlighted the need to know your neighbors, that could come especially useful in case of emergencies.

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Posted by ODB
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 20, 2011 at 7:29 pm

We moved to that area in 1961 and I never heard it called "Old Palo Alto" until I read it on Palo Alto Online. It never really had a name that I was aware of. "Old Palo Alto" seems better suited to downtown or Professorville. We also knew the Sutorius family when they lived at 195 Santa Rita and Emerson; I went to school with Scott's sister Pam.

Like this comment
Posted by member
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2011 at 12:05 pm

I moved here in 1971, and the term "Old Palo Alto" was used then and ever since. I remember thinking it was odd, since we lived in Crescent Park and I thought the homes there had been purchased first. I never heard the term "Seale Addition".

Like this comment
Posted by Seriously?
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2011 at 1:09 pm

Even the Weekly's "select your neighborhood" drop down list has Old Palo Alto - so it is really commonly used.

It's great that they're trying to foster a greater sense of community.

Criticizing the name chosen by volunteers to help bring people together is lame.

Kudos to them for taking the initiative and doing something helpful for the neighborhood. Who cares what the name is - I'm just happy they're doing it.

Like this comment
Posted by odd
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 21, 2011 at 1:12 pm

I think it's ironic that Nadia gives credit to Southgate for her first exposure to a "Neighborhood" meeting, when, as far as I know, Southgate doesn't have a Neighborhood Association. I heard that someone tried to start one a decade ago, but got so much opposition that s/he gave up. Maybe HSR has gotten some Southgate neighbors motivated; maybe they'll finally form a neighborhood association.

Like this comment
Posted by Left my heart in Old Palo Alto
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 21, 2011 at 1:15 pm

I moved to "Old Palo Alto" 46 years ago. The only place you will find the "Seale Addition" is on your deed. We have bigger neighborhood issues facing us than what to call it. Save your energy for saving the neighborhood from having the High Speed Rail roaring through it. Nadia Naik deserves all your support for her contribution to our community, not nitpicking.

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Posted by anciana
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2011 at 1:32 pm

When we signed the deed for our house on Seale Avenue in 1961, we learned from that deed that we would be living in the Seale Addition, and that if we were going to construct a home anywhere in the addition, it had to be worth at least $6,000. :-) At that time, the area was known in the community as Old Palo Alto. Hey, I'm used to it. It works for me. But every now and again I think of Henry Seale, who, from what I learned in a book about Juana Briones by Jeanne McDonnell, was a dedicated horseman and perhaps a bit of a gambler. He bought his ranch, the Robles-Seale Ranch, which was contiguous to Briones' ranch. I'm not sure Seale Avenue is actually a part of that former ranch, but the street was surely named for the Seale family.

Like this comment
Posted by bill
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2011 at 1:43 pm

Midtown Mom. Paste into your browser to the Palo Alto Neighborhood (PAN) web site. It gives detailed information on neighborhood associations - including the Midtown one - as well as links to Emergency Preparation, etc.

PS Note there is only one "n" in the link.

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Posted by PA Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 21, 2011 at 2:19 pm

@Bill, Midtown Mom and Odd:

Here's the list of neighborhood associations. Midtown and Southgate do have leaders: Web Link Go to the Who We Are section after pressing the web link.

Like this comment
Posted by 39 yr PA resident
a resident of Barron Park
on Mar 21, 2011 at 3:44 pm

re "The Old Palo Alto Neighborhood Association, with the mellifluous acronym OPANA..."
Hey, it rhymes with Ohana - "family" in Hawaiian.
That's an excellent name.

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Posted by roger
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 21, 2011 at 10:07 pm

way to go----thank you for your effort

Like this comment
Posted by odd
a resident of College Terrace
on Mar 22, 2011 at 1:51 am

Southgate has a "contact person" listed on the PANeighborhoods website. I'm pretty certain that that person does not represent a neighborhood association. It is someone in Southgate who is willing to be contacted about Southgate issues.

Like this comment
Posted by Peter
a resident of Palo Alto Orchards
on Mar 22, 2011 at 7:51 am

Where does PAN - Palo Alto Neighboorhoods fit in?
Isn't the area this new organization wants to cover, already covered under a subset of PAN?

Like this comment
Posted by Sherry
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 22, 2011 at 10:20 am

I'm in!
Thank you Nadia and Camelia for taking the initiative.

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Posted by Garden Gnome
a resident of Crescent Park
on Mar 22, 2011 at 10:55 am

Best of success to Nadia in her endeavor.

I notice that my neighborhood, the Boyce Addition, is not listed in the Neighborhood or School Community dropdown.

But I suppose Crescent Park sounds most upscale...

Like this comment
Posted by Ann Marie
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm

It would be nice if we had an association for downtown area. The only association we have is the business association and that one has nothing to address the needs and concerns of the residents.

Like this comment
Posted by PA Native
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Mar 22, 2011 at 2:59 pm

Ann Marie: there IS a downtown association. Check here under "Who We Are": Web Link

Don't you people read the comments before you post?!

Like this comment
Posted by Stef
a resident of Menlo Park
on Mar 22, 2011 at 6:26 pm

I lived in Midtown for about 20 years before we all had computers in our homes. It is nice to hear how the communities in PA are coming together. I now live in Sharon Heights which has an inactive neighborhood association which is sad. If you want to be anonymouos, move to Sharon Heights. Unless you have children, you will not be noticed. Ladera is a true community. How does a person get an association going? I am not sure this 65 year old woman is up to taking charge!

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Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2011 at 8:20 pm

WoW! What an ageist comment! Most 65 year olds can run rings around me, in my 40s. 60s, 70s, 80s- Palo Alto is full of vital people who contribute to our community. I laugh when the Weekly identifies someone in a story as 'elderly' and they are 65. Hurray to my parents' generation- and my parents, who do live in Old Palo Alto, which has ALWAYS been called Old Palo Alto, although I too questioned that- for being some of the most active volunteers in our community. I am sure Nadia can handle this beautifully!

Like this comment
Posted by Anne
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 22, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Nadia IS not 65.... and I am still sure she will do an excellent job!

Like this comment
Posted by carlito waysman
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 23, 2011 at 12:16 pm

I wonder what is the percentage of Palo Altans that really know the issues regarding High Speed Rail, so they have an informed reason why to oppose it.

I would believe that mostly all the naysayers are the ones living near the rail tracks. Their rethoric is on par with the conservatives and Teabaggers that have prevented another states from implementing HSR.

This is California and HSR is going to be built, and the decision to allow a station in Palo ALto does not rest in the few crybabies but with the Federal and State Agencies involved, and they never hesitate to use Eminent Domain, when they see is needed.

To the East coast transplant(5 years)that wants to be involved in community activism; here is a better idea for you to get your feet wet: make the city fix the streets, then I can see that you are not trying to capitalize on a wedge issue.

Like this comment
Posted by Ann Marie
a resident of Downtown North
on Mar 23, 2011 at 8:52 pm

PA Native, I found the website from the Downtown Association, but apparently there is nothing happening there. The last agenda meeting was from 2003. Does anyone know if this association is still running? Here is their website: Web Link

About Nadia, she is a fine woman, and she is not 65. But even if she was 65, she would be just fine running the association or doing anything else.

Like this comment
Posted by Impressed
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Mar 31, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Over 175 people showed up for the inaugural meeting! Wow!

Like this comment
Posted by Herbert Kanner
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 25, 2014 at 11:27 pm

Our indoor cat, an eleven year old Tonkinese got out Saturday morning, April 19. He is off-white with blue eyes and dark points like a Siamese. You can see his picture here:

Web Link

If anyone reading this knows of his whereabouts, we are offering a $100 reward for his return.

Like this comment
Posted by Herbert Kanner
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Apr 26, 2014 at 12:07 am

Re: Missing Tonkinese Cat---

I was so excited at finding a neighborhood mailing list that I forgot to give any contact information.

Herbert Kanner
211 Washington Ave.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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