With its Eichlers and meandering circular cul-de-sacs, Fairmeadow is an easy neighborhood to get lost in, in a good way.
The circles, originally designed to slow traffic, ended up giving Fairmeadow its nickname: "The Circles." A photo of the neighborhood's circles were even showcased on the cover of Fortune Magazine in 1955.
"There's something iconographic about being on the Fortune cover," said Tim Perkins, a resident of Carlson Circle since 2007. Perkins said the neighborhood was particularly appealing since, at the time, it was affordable for Palo Alto standards and came with a long-term upside given its high-quality schools, technology jobs and other benefits.
Ulfar Erlingsson, a resident of Ramona Circle, had lived elsewhere in Palo Alto for a long time, but bought a house in the neighborhood in 2012. Fairmeadow first came to his attention about 20 years ago when he got lost biking through the neighborhood's cul-de-sacs.
"(The layout) tempts you not to take a shortcut," Erlingsson said. "You're never gonna be (taking) a shortcut through here. I remember ... so vividly, totally getting lost bicycling and thinking 'What is this?' 'Who lives here?' It always stuck with me."
"It seems everyone in Palo Alto has at one time or another found themselves lost within the maze of Fairmeadow circles, but we're a friendly bunch, so just ask us for directions," said Len Filppu, a 20-year resident of the neighborhood and lead organizer of the Fairmeadow Neighborhood Association.
The association recently worked with the city on street striping and signs to calm traffic and make it safer for children, bicyclists and pedestrians.
Neighbors describe Fairmeadow as almost having an idyllic '70s feel, with kids playing in streets and not feeling any inhibitions about ringing their friends' doorbells to say "hi" or come hang out.
Maintaining the Eichler style of homes is important to many residents. As a result, many residents invested time in giving input to the city of Palo Alto's Eichler Design Guidelines. The guidelines will include "compatibility criteria for remodels, additions and new construction within the city's Eichler neighborhoods," according to the city's website.
Charlotta Hauksdottir said a lot of homes that are redone are done so in the low-rise modernist Eichler style.
"We've been concerned about the look of the neighborhood changing. When you get a two-story house, it changes the quality of life," she said.
She did note that none of the remodels on her circle, Ramona Circle, have been torn down to build two-story homes. This has been a concern for Perkins as well, who believes two-story homes in the predominately one-story neighborhood can lead to loss of privacy and have compatibility issues.
There's even more that brings the neighborhood together. Every August, Fairmeadow hosts a "Circle Party" that can attract hundreds of people. The event has included games, treats like snow cones, bouncy houses and even featured a roller rink one year.
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 Community Child Care's Infant Toddler Center, 4111 Alma St.
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 4050 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: bordered by East Charleston Road, East Meadow Drive, Alma Street and J.L. Stanford Middle School and Herbert Hoover Elementary School
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Fairmeadow Neighborhood Association, lead organizer, Len Filppu, 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, Jane Lathrop Stanford Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING (nearby): Charleston Center
Angela Swartz is a freelance writer for the Palo Alto Weekly. She can be emailed at [email protected]