Scattered with parks, tennis courts and even a children's library and zoo, Palo Alto's Community Center neighborhood has it all.
"Everything you pay extra for living in Palo Alto is across the street," said Peter Allen, the neighborhood association president. "It's a very walkable neighborhood and as such, one gets to know a lot of your fantastic neighbors."
The Lucie Stern Community Center, Palo Alto Junior Museum and Zoo, a performing arts theater and the Rinconada Pool are all in the relatively small neighborhood that's home to about 2,000 people. A new and improved zoo will open in 2020, as the Palo Alto City Council recently approved a plan to rebuild and expand it.
These amenities drew more families to the neighborhood in recent years, said Allen, who lives on Hopkins Avenue across from the 19-acre Rinconada Park. The park is Palo Alto's second oldest park, having been established in 1922.
When Allen first moved to the neighborhood in 1990 there were not many children.
"Soon there were 10 per block," he said. "Who can blame families?" The neighborhood's Walter Hays Elementary School is consistently ranked near the top of California's about 5,000 elementary schools.
For shopping, The Market in Edgewood Plaza opened this past winter and is supplying neighbors with a closer spot to pick up groceries.
Real estate-wise, home styles are all over the map, said Julie O'Grady, who lives Walter Hays Drive. O'Grady grew up in Palo Alto. She said her neighborhood has Victorians, Mission-style homes and more.
Many of the neighborhood's small bungalow homes that were built as second homes for early-20th-century San Franciscans escaping the summer fog have made way for bigger homes.
Allen's neighbor, Lois Hall, said her husband called the change years ago when they built their newer, larger house.
"We were the first new house in many years," said Hall, 93, who moved to the neighborhood in 1969. "Everyone was delighted to see a new house being built ... It was quite an event."
The bungalows are almost all gone now, she said.
"The whole neighborhood has grown up that way," said Hall, who enjoys twice-daily walks in the park. She describes the tree-lined neighborhood as very pleasant, with a lot of very friendly people.
The neighborhood, along with Palo Alto, has changed wealth-wise, O'Grady said. The average home in Community Center is worth about $4.3 million, according to online real estate database company Zillow.
"When we grew up in Palo Alto, you wouldn't know who was wealthy and who wasn't," she said. "You can definitely see the wealth (now)."
Despite the changes, the neighborhood still has the feeling of old Palo Alto, said O'Grady. Neighbors are low key and environmentally conscious, with many of them known to drive Priuses and recycle, she said.
"You don't have to be dressed to the nines," she said.
To add to the community feel, the neighborhood has a longtime annual Labor Day block party. There are also summer concerts in the park, art festivals and more.
CHILD CARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Walter Hays Kids' Club, 1525 Middlefield Road
FIRE STATION: No. 3, 799 Embarcadero Road
LIBRARY: Rinconada Library, 1213 Newell Road; Children's Library, 1276 Harriet St.
LOCATION: bounded by Middlefield Road, Channing Avenue, Newell Road and Embarcadero Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Peter Allen, [email protected]
PARK: Rinconada Park, 777 Embarcadero Road
POST OFFICE: Main, 2085 E. Bayshore Road; Hamilton, 380 Hamilton Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOL:B St. Elizabeth Seton School, 1095 Channing Ave.
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Addison, Duveneck and Walter Hays elementary schools, Greene Middle School, Palo Alto High School
SHOPPING: Midtown, Downtown Palo Alto, Embarcadero Center.
Angela Swartz is a staff writer for The Almanac.