The neighborhood name, Palo Alto Orchards, conjures up pastoral images of when Santa Clara County was the Valley of Heart's Delight and there was nothing but fruitful farmland as far as the eye could see.
On the other hand, the neighborhood's location -- next to perpetually busy Arastradero Road and El Camino Real, bustling with Silicon Valley commuters and businesses -- is far removed from the bucolic days of yore.
Somehow, the small Palo Alto Orchards still manages to boast quiet cul-de-sacs lined with redwood trees and relatively modest single-family homes (plus an apartment building). The neighborhood is no longer full of apricot orchards the way it was when it was first developed in the mid-20th century, but residents still consider it something of an oasis.
"I love that we are walking distance from Juana Briones Park, which is one of Palo Alto's best, in addition to being within walking distance of all of the schools," said 13-year resident and mother of three Casie Walker.
Juana Briones Park, in fact, contains some heritage apricot trees planted to honor the area's past life.
Walker and her husband have sent her two oldest children through nearby Juana Briones Elementary School and onto Terman Middle School. It's a kid-friendly place, she said. Since there isn't much in the way of through traffic, kids can feel comfortable playing outside just as residents did back in the good old days.
"Our neighborhood is full of single-family homes, with a mix of young families and some original owners who have owned the homes since they were built in 1950. Our neighbors have been, without exception, absolutely lovely people. My children always have friends to play and walk to school with," she said.
Current neighborhood association president John Spiller and his family first moved to the neighborhood in 1997, also drawn to the proximity to high-quality local schools within walking distance. They soon discovered that the enclave's location close to several nearby towns gave them a wealth of eating and shopping options, in addition to the shops and eateries along El Camino.
"Being in the southern part of Palo Alto allows us to easily explore the restaurants on California Avenue, the new San Antonio Village and the downtowns of Los Altos and Mountain View. It is just so convenient to everything," he said.
One ongoing issue for residents has been traffic on the Charleston-Arastradero corridor and the resulting controversial traffic-calming measures. Some feel the changes have caused greater congestion in residential areas but others feel the improved safety, especially for cyclists, pedestrians, and students on their way to and from school, is a big success.
"Ingress and egress from Arastradero can be a challenge, although the Arastradero/Charleston new-road alignment is a big improvement," Spiller said.
Palo Alto Orchards' small size -- around 100 homes -- means many folks know and actively engage with one another. They have adapted to high-tech ways of doing so, turning to online message groups to discuss local issues. But old-fashioned neighborhood socials are still popular, too.
"Neighbors enjoy our yearly block parties and are vigorously exchanging views on our Nextdoor website," Spiller said.
"We meet around the block as we walk our dogs and ride bikes with our kids," Walker said. "I have heard some of the original owners say how different it is from when they were raising their kids here, and that is undoubtedly true. But one thing hasn't changed, and that is that our neighborhood is full of wonderful, diverse people who care for one another," she said.
FACTS ABOUT PALO ALTO ORCHARDS
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS: Palo Alto Montessori School, 575 Arastradero Road; Palo Alto Preschool, 4232 El Camino Real; Young Life Christian Pre-School, 687 Arastradero Road
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road
LOCATION: includes McKellar Lane, Suzanne Court, Suzanne Drive, Kelly Way, Lorabelle Court and Arastradero Road
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: John Spiller, firstname.lastname@example.org, 650-483-8815
PARKS: Juana Briones Park, 609 Maybell Ave.; Terman Park, 655 Arastradero Road
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave.
PRIVATE SCHOOL: Bowman International School, 4000 Terman Road
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Juana Briones Elementary School, Terman Middle School, Gunn High School
SHOPPING: El Camino Real, San Antonio Village