Landlocked on three sides with three cul-de-sacs jutting out of Miranda Avenue, the neighborhood known as Greater Miranda is isolated in ways that many other neighborhoods in Palo Alto are not.
The neighborhood has consisted of 55 homes since the 1960s and boundaries are strictly defined by Alta Mesa Memorial Park, Adobe Creek and Foothill Expressway. Miranda Avenue is the only way in and the only way out, limiting foot traffic and often times confusing UPS and Uber drivers. Moana Court, Arroyo Court and Miranda Green form three spokes, or cul-de-sacs, extending east from Miranda Avenue.
The neighborhood's close proximity to Adobe Creek makes the community seem even more remote. Many residents enjoy the dual rural-suburban character of the neighborhood, finding solace in the sounds of the creek while still being a 10-minute drive away from Los Altos and downtown Palo Alto. Wild animals like coyotes and deer also regularly use the creek as their passageway.
"This morning when I was walking, I saw two big male deer walking across Miranda Avenue," resident Carla Matlin said. "It's not what you expect to find in Palo Alto. We're big campers so it's almost like camping year round."
Matlin, a manager for a service agency, moved to Greater Miranda in 2006. Since then, her expectations for the neighborhood have been exceeded in every way, she said. She's been able to raise her children within an enclosed neighborhood, feeling comfortable to let them hop from house to house to play with other neighbors' children.
"I don't worry that the kids go out, because neighbors will let me know if anything is going on or if one of my kids have shown up at their house," Matlin said, "We (neighbors) all look after each other."
Don Nielson, the neighborhood association leader, also recalled comfortably raising his four children in Greater Miranda with his wife, Helen. His children, who have all long since graduated from Gunn High School, often played on swings set up over the creek with the neighborhood's aggregation of kids, using the creek as if it were a playground.
"My wife, one day, kept track of all the kids who ran through the kitchen door through the garage. It would blow your mind. It was like 100 in and out during the day," Nielson said. "(My children) all cherish (their childhood) to this day. They liked the notion of growing up here," he said.
A resident of Greater Miranda since 1973, Nielson has closely documented the history of the neighborhood for over 18 years, reporting everything from the region's origins as a water source for Ohlone Indians to its annual Fourth of July celebration and Jelly Bean Olympics.
He recalled different times when problems have arisen and the neighborhood has banded together to solve them. One issue that brought neighbors together was the push to make Miranda Avenue safer. Alta Mesa Memorial Park owned a portion of the roadway that ran through the middle of the cemetery. In 2002, the cemetery put in a chain-link fence along the road to keep people out of the graveyard, making the pathway very narrow for foot and bicycle traffic. After the neighborhood convinced the cemetery to take down the fence, part of the path was replaced. Neighbors pushed for an even safer asphalt road, which the city eventually put in a couple of years later.
"Part of the history of this neighborhood has been how we gained rightful access to our neighborhood. It was a community effort, totally, and to the city's credit, they eventually helped in the process," Nielson said.
Although there are still some traffic jams on nearby Arastradero Road, the neighborhood is now very safe, resident Greg Simons said. He was born and raised in Palo Alto and moved back to be close to family. He raised his two daughters in Greater Miranda and, like Matlin and Nielson, felt safe having his children roam around the neighborhood and visit other neighbors' houses.
While housing prices have increased, turnover here has been minimal and nothing has alarmed or pushed out residents, Simons said.
"My parents live on Willmar Drive and when a house goes on sale there, there are just multiple bids and it's crazy traffic," Simons said. "And around here, it's not quite as heated."
In general, Nielson thinks the neighborhood should stay relatively the same as it has been for over 50 years. In a stark contrast to many other neighborhoods in Palo Alto, Greater Miranda is not likely to face any pressure to overbuild or challenge infrastructure.
"There won't be much change structurally," Nielson said. "It's pretty much the same neighborhood we moved into." Alicia Mies is an editorial intern at the Palo Alto Weekly. She can be emailed at [email protected]
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Whistle Stop Child Development Center, 3801 Miranda Ave., No. T6B
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: Miranda Avenue, Arroyo Court, Miranda Green and Moana Court
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Don Nielson, 650-941-2429
PARKS (nearby): Terman Park, 655 Arastradero Road; Juana Briones Park, 609 Maybell Ave.
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.; 3801 Miranda Ave. (inside VA hospital)
PRIVATE SCHOOL: Bowman International School, 4000 Terman Drive
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Juana Briones Elementary School, Fletcher Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: El Camino Real, San Antonio Shopping Center