The Walnut Grove neighborhood looks a little different this week. White ghosts haunt the bushes of an Eichler home. Tombstones protrude from front yards while pumpkins populate doorsteps. It's the residents who are most out of character, but it's only because it's almost Halloween.
This weekend, the quiet, winding streets will fill with young trick-or-treaters and their parents, such as Vipul and Kristan Vyas and their son, Arjun. As the couple walks through the neighborhood with their Paw Patrol-clad 5-year-old, Vipul said they expect to see fog machines, lights, pumpkins and hay bales.
The Halloween decorating includes the Vyases, though Vipul admitted that his wife really does most of that work. Their home of five years, a 1953 Burke and Wyatt/Eichler, features a ghostly welcome and a scattering of tombstones behind a little graveyard fence.
Down the road, and even across the street, the houses look different, architecturally so. The neighborhood, which was once a walnut grove, started in the 1950s and today is about half midcentury modern homes (Eichler or Burke and Wyatt) and half ranch style. Another architectural piece to note is the number of one-story homes, stemming from the single-story overlay that was put in place more than 25 years ago.
"The push for the overlay is actually why the neighborhood association got started," Vipul said.
Today, the Walnut Grove Homeowners Association continues to unite residents to discuss city happenings, such as the Charleston-Arastradero corridor traffic and changes, and to socialize at their block parties. Vipul said the potlucks that bring out 50 to 75 people are a great chance to meet one another. In addition, as head of the association, Vipul likes to bring in city experts to encourage people to come out and learn more about the community.
The gatherings include a mix of ages, from retired homeowners and empty nesters to renters and families with kids. Vipul estimates that about 30 to 40 percent of the families have children, including his own.
Tom Crystal, who moved to Palo Alto in 1965 for school, is now one of the retired members of the neighborhood and has been living in Walnut Grove for more than 30 years. During this time, he has watched the trees get bigger but the development stay small.
"The neighborhood has not changed an awful lot in 50 years," he said. "You won't see any monster homes happening in our neighborhood. There is not a lot of pressure to develop. The only way to go is up, and we have already said no to that."
The absence of development has kept the area calm, making it good for retirees, like himself, and children. Other nearby benefits used by all include the libraries, schools and community center. Even though the area lacks development, the association members like to track projects happening nearby, such as the traffic calming along the Charleston-Arastradero corridor.
"People have been calling for the calming of the school corridor," Crystal said. "There are so many students running up the corridor that safety comes as a high priority for people who live here."
Crystal said people who move here for the schools will also find that it has easy access to just about everything they need at a price that is "as close as you can get to affordable housing."
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (nearby): Crescent Park Child Development Center (Peekaboo), 4161 Alma St.; Montessori School of Los Altos, 303 Parkside Drive; Palo Alto Infant Toddler Center, 4111 Alma St.
FIRE STATION: No. 4, 3600 Middlefield Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: between East Charleston Road, Alma Street and Adobe Creek
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Walnut Grove Homeowners Association, Vipul Vyas, email@example.com
PARKS: Greenmeadow Park (private); Mitchell Park, 600 E. Meadow Drive
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOLS (nearby): Palo Alto Prep School, 2462 Wyandotte St.; Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, 450 San Antonio Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Fairmeadow Elementary School, JLS Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: San Antonio Shopping Center, The Village at San Antonio