Carlson Circle's quiet on a sunny day is punctuated by the gentle sound of children playing and the notes of a saxophone in the far-off distance. Spacious streets and protected niches are attributes that render Fairmeadow attractive to families with young children.
Resident Kathryn Macqueen finds the circular streets of Fairmeadow, such as Carlson Circle with its little thoroughfare traffic, safe for her busy boys to run around in and play.
"People say the circular streets are confusing, but it's great because it cuts traffic since people are afraid to drive through here," Macqueen said, accurately perceiving the reasoning behind Joseph Eichler's early 1950s design of concentric streets.
Macqueen's neighbor, Susan Ruspini, who has been living on Carlson Circle since 1982, also appreciates the design because of the added safety.
Previously residing in Los Angeles, Ruspini rarely left her children unsupervised. "After we moved to Fairmeadow, we let our children roam freely with friends or even bike to school by themselves," she said.
Biking to Fairmeadow Elementary School or Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School is simple and quick, Ruspini said, adding that one can ride along Waverley Street or follow a more scenic path through Mitchell Park.
Fairmeadow is bounded by East Charleston Road, Alma Street and East Meadow Drive, and backs up on local schools.
"Fairmeadow is especially family-friendly," Len Filppu, lead organizer of the Fairmeadow Neighborhood Association, said.
"The new library, Little League ball park and YMCA are all conveniently located nearby," he said.
The children's play area in Mitchell Park is frequented by Fairmeadow residents Erland Patterson and his son. The park boasts bountiful green spaces, Patterson said, with picnic areas and music concerts during the summer. For swimming lessons, however, Patterson said he travels further away to Rinconada Park, which has a municipal swimming pool and children's pool.
Southeast of Mitchell Park is the Cubberley Community Center where residents can enroll in an array of courses offered by the City of Palo Alto, including art, jewelry-making, public speaking and bicycle safety.
There is plenty to keep one occupied in Fairmeadow, which was what Macqueen imagined would be in short supply when she first moved to the area in June 2010.
"After living 15 years in Chicago, I was wary of the transition from big city to quiet suburbia, but surprisingly we aren't too far away from everything!" Macqueen said, noting the accessibility of the small shopping area along East Charleston Road that offers fine foods on-the-go.
"My family and I walk or ride our bikes to Piazza's, to Peet's Coffee or to Rick's for an ice cream. There's also a good deli restaurant if you want to stop and have lunch," she said.
Meeting her neighbors has also been easy. Maqueen's family was heartily welcomed by the residents of Fairmeadow at their annual block party on Ramona Circle.
"It was wonderful for introductions among adults and children," she said, mentioning that it was especially fun for children who were engaged in face painting, water balloon and bike-riding contests.
"The block party was also a great way to exchange information among neighbors. Our family was looking for a baby-sitter and we found a potential one there," she said. In the past year, Macqueen's family has been one among many that have moved to Fairmeadow.
"There has been an increasing trend in Fairmeadow for the past 10 years. Lots of families are settling here for the quality of Palo Alto Unified School District," Filppu said.
"An old timer once told me a few years ago that she has not seen so many children in Fairmeadow since the baby boom after World War II," Filppu said.
Ruspini, who moved to Carlson Circle 20 years ago with her husband and four kids, said she came for the schools.
"My kids first went to Fairmeadow Elementary then Jane Stanford Middle, but back then, it was called Wilbur. Teens from Jane Stanford usually go on to Gunn High School. My kids did," said Ruspini.
Macqueen relocated to the Peninsula for her husband's job, with the reputation of schools in Palo Alto figuring significantly in concretizing her final decision to move to Fairmeadow. "We have 6-year-old twin boys and we wanted them to go to good schools. We were worried that they wouldn't get into the local school since there are sometimes student overflows."
Luckily, her children were able to enroll in Fairmeadow Elementary.
Erland Patterson, who is formerly from Mountain View, said he returned to his childhood home on South Court in Fairmeadow so his children can attend high school in Palo Alto.
"My teens are finishing up their year at a private school in Mountain View and they'll be attending public school here in Palo Alto, which is just as good," he said.
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (NEARBY): Besse Bolton Kids' Club, 500 E. Meadow Drive; Covenant Children's Center, 670 E. Meadow Drive; Ellen Thacher Children's Center, 505 E. Charleston Road; Hoover Kids' Club; 445 E. Charleston Road; Palo Alto Infant Toddler Center, 4111 Alma St.
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 4050 Middlefield Road (temporary location during construction)
LOCATION: bordered by East Charleston Road, East Meadow Drive, Alma Street and Mitchell Park
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Len Filppu, lead organizer, 650-857-1031
PARK: Mitchell Park, 600 E. Meadow Drive
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOL: Challenger School, 3880 Middlefield Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Fairmeadow and Hoover elementary schools, J.L. Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING (NEARBY): Charleston Center