The oak and magnolia trees that line the streets in what may look like one neighborhood to those unfamiliar with the area is really three micro-neighborhoods: Embarcadero Oaks, Leland Manor, Garland Drive, each with unique characteristics and mix of new and longtime residents.
Embarcadero Oaks, a triangular neighborhood between Embarcadero Road, Seale Avenue and Middlefield Road, is an easy walk to the Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo and Rinconada Park. Resident Michelle Zhang, who moved to the area from the East Coast in 2013, said she was drawn to the neighborhood's family-oriented, friendly makeup.
"For me, it is a very vibrant neighborhood as we are close to one elementary and one middle school," said Zhang, whose two children go to Walter Hays Elementary School. "The community center, art center and two libraries are all within walking distance. We feel fortunate to live in such a community that is full of great resources."
Zhang said the neighborhood, lined with large oak trees, has a mix of young families, baby boomers and empty nesters that adds to its diversity, and she feels safe living there. Additionally, Zhang feels there are plenty of events that not only bring the Embarcadero Oaks neighborhood, but the entire community, together.
"We love the events, such as summer concerts," she said. "The library is a great place to be, with some interesting family activities."
Directly adjacent to Embarcadero Oaks is Leland Manor, a rectangular segment between Louis Road, California Avenue, Middlefield Road and Seale Avenue bisected by Newell road.
Midwest transplant Kevin Carlson and his family moved into the quiet neighborhood three years ago.
"I actually moved into our current home sight unseen, as my wife was the one who had been primarily traveling back and forth between Chicago and Palo Alto to look at homes," he said. The neighborhood's "phenomenal location" next to Walter Hays Elementary and Jordan Middle schools and his wife's office at Palo Alto Square was a huge selling point, he said.
"Neighbors are proud of, and consequently supportive of, the neighborhood schools," he said. "Neighbors are friendly and outgoing. Since we're a younger family, we use the community facilities regularly. There are great parks in almost every direction, and we're a stone's throw from the Palo Alto Art Center, Rinconada Library, the Children's Theatre, the Rinconada Pool and the Children's Library, all of which are staffed by exceptional people."
Although moving to a suburban neighborhood was an adjustment from living in downtown Chicago, with the biggest change being that Leland Manor doesn't have the same walkability to bars and restaurants, Carlson said the accessibility of safe bike routes makes it an even trade.
Longtime resident David Slone said his street, Barbara Drive, is just over a mile away from a Caltrain station and the entire neighborhood is only two miles from downtown Palo Alto.
When Slone and his family moved into the neighborhood 28 years ago, it was initially because they found a home that fit into their price range, but he said he's happy living there, despite an increase in traffic over the years, and recommends the neighborhood to new home buyers, because of its proximity to amenities, as well as the plethora of relatively large lots.
Leland Manor is "relatively quiet but near to main arteries so (you) can get to Bayshore Freeway and downtown fairly quickly," he said.
One of Leland Manor's most distinguishing characteristics is its underground utilities, Slone said, which means that wires and telephone poles are out of the picture. Although the neighborhood is mostly made up of Baby Boomers and retirees, there has been a slight influx of younger families moving in recently.
Magnolia trees and an unusually curvy street in a flat part of Palo Alto are two of the defining characteristics of Garland Drive, the third segment of the three neighborhoods. Most of the homes were built in the late 1940s and early 1950s and although many have been updated over the years, residents have done so thoughtfully to retain the neighborhood's character.
Roy Levin has lived on the street for nearly 35 years. He said at the time of his arrival, his family was seeking a kid-friendly area close to schools, but over time he has gotten to know his neighbors who have all resided on Garland Drive for years and said the street holds an annual Fourth of July barbeque.
"Garland has gone through several cycles as families with kids have moved in, then the kids have grown up and moved on," Levin said. "At the time we moved here, families with young kids, like ours, were moving in. About a decade ago, most of the kids had grown up, but now the cycle is beginning again."
Levin said turnover of homes is low and neighborhood residents are close. Prior to this year, residents often complained of the street's disintegrating asphalt but the city recently rebuilt the street and replaced the water and gas mains. The neighborhood also is near VTA bus routes on Middlefield and Louis roads and a mile away from a Caltrain station, making it an ideal location for public transportation-minded people who desire a more suburban lifestyle.
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (nearby): First Congregational Church Nursery School, 1985 Louis Road; Parents Nursery School, 2328 Louis Road; Walter Hays Kids' Club, 1525 Middlefield Road
FIRE STATION: No. 3, 799 Embarcadero Road
LOCATION: Leland Manor: between Middlefield and Louis roads, Seale and North California avenues; Embarcadero Oaks: triangle formed by Embarcadero Road, Seale Avenue and Middlefield Road; Garland Drive: between Middlefield and Louis roads
LIBRARY: Rinconada Library, 1213 Newell Road
PARK (nearby): Rinconada Park, 777 Embarcadero Road
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOL: Hwa Shin Bilingual Chinese School, 750 N. California Ave.; Stratford School, 870 N. California Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Walter Hays Elementary School, Jordan Middle School, Palo Alto High School