As a tight-knit community along the border of Los Altos, the Monroe Park neighborhood, located on the edge of South Palo Alto between Adobe Creek, El Camino Real and Del Medio and Silva avenues, keeps close despite the city's ever-changing urban landscape.
The small neighborhood tucked behind the landmark Dinah's often spends time protecting itself from cut-through traffic caused by new office and housing developments along El Camino Real and San Antonio Road.
The neighborhood has had to learn to be vocal, according to 40-year resident Linnea Wickstrom, because the neighborhood often feels like it's last on the list for community upgrades because of its crossroads location. Right now, residents are lobbying for bike-path improvements.
"(This) neighborhood is a key bike connector to/from Palo Alto, Mountain View and Los Altos," she says. "(We) need additional improvements in bikeways within the neighborhood and in connection to Mountain View."
Although nearby construction is causing a temporary annoyance for residents, there are plenty of reasons other than its proximity to Mountain View and Los Altos that home buyers choose Monroe Park over other Palo Alto neighborhoods.
Fifteen-year resident Deirdre Crommie says the mix of young families and retirees living in homes on large lots on the neighborhood's tree-lined streets is what initially drew her to the community.
"This neighborhood is quiet and very relaxed," she says. "It has a more rural feeling. Residents are engaged in local politics and advocate for this neighborhood. (There is also) easy biking and walking access to shopping and restaurants."
The recent renovations to its neighborhood park and namesake, Monroe Park, and the neighborhood's access to transportation, recreation venues like the Elks Club and the JCC are also a draw, says Crommie, as is the neighborhood's walkability (with a score in the 60s) and easy access to three downtown areas -- California Avenue in Palo Alto, Castro Street in Mountain View and Main Street in Los Altos. She points out, however, that school-aged children are often at a disadvantage and the community occasionally gets overlooked by local government when decisions are made.
"Although our kids are in the Los Altos School District," she says, "they do not get priority access to summer camps in Los Altos. We are a tiny segment of the Los Altos School District, so we have to fight extra hard for our interests, especially when to comes to safe routes to school and drawing boundaries for school attendance. We have a lot of new development surrounding this small neighborhood with the redevelopment of the Palo Alto bowling alley into dense housing, a larger hotel and the new development along San Antonio and El Camino Real. Also, we straddle two communities, Palo Alto and Los Altos, with our interests sometimes ignored by both."
Still the traditional neighborhood block party each summer, and holidays like Halloween, as well as the political savviness of its residents make the small enclave special.
"We are an interesting neighborhood," Crommie said, "as we vote for the Palo Alto City Council and the Los Altos School Board. That keeps us well-informed on many issues and in a unique perspective to understand how two cities work. Yet, living on the border of each city, we can, at times, be marginalized. Thus, we need to work hard as a community to advocate for our park, streets and neighborhood's walkability to schools, and protection from development. We do not take things for granted in this neighborhood."
CHILDCARE AND PRESCHOOLS (NEARBY): Children's Corner, 97 Hillview Ave., Los Altos; Gideon Hausner Jewish Day School, 450 San Antonio Road, Palo Alto; Preschool Family, 4120 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto; Tiny Tots Preschool, 647 N. San Antonio Road, Los Altos
FIRE STATION: No. 5, 600 Arastradero Road, Palo Alto
LIBRARY: Mitchell Park branch, 3700 Middlefield Road, Palo Alto
LOCATION: bounded by Adobe Creek, El Camino Real and Mountain View borders (near Silva Avenue)
NEIGHBORHOOD ASSOCIATION: Monroe Park Neighborhood Association, Linnea Wickstrom, president, firstname.lastname@example.org
PARKS: Monroe Park, Monroe Drive and Miller Avenue; Robles Park, on Park Blvd. between Meadow Drive and Tennessee Lane
POST OFFICE: Cambridge, 265 Cambridge Ave., Palo Alto
PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Los Altos School District -- Santa Rita Elementary School, Egan Junior High School; Mountain View-Los Altos Union High School District -- Los Altos High School; Santa Clara County Office of Education -- Bullis Charter School (K-8)
SHOPPING: San Antonio Shopping Center, Mountain View; California Avenue, Palo Alto